The biggest styles from the greatest denim brands
Words: Nhlanhla Masemola | Images: Aart Verrips
What’s the number one sign of a hallmark? Staying power. And the one thing that thankfully never goes out of fashion is denim – a forever favourite. But even with its enduring everyday appeal, finding the denim that works for you and your wardrobe, be it jeans or jackets, can be exhausting. The hunt is worth it, though, when you land on a timeless piece from a brand that’s mastered quality and style. The brands that evolve over time and take a customer’s taste and needs into consideration while remaining unique and authentic over time are the ones that garner the top spots as denim icons. So which ones make the cut? We’ve rounded up our top four picks of the most influential names in denimland and the fits that capture their star-quality best.
THE BRAND: LEVI’S
THE FIT: 501
Classic denim jeans have gone through a rollercoaster of innovation since inception and today’s jeans are vastly different from 19th-century denim canvas overalls. Levi’s pretty much single-handedly shaped much of what we know of denim clothing by introducing the use of ingenious copper rivets, reinforced pockets and button flies. Their most iconic pair of jeans? The legendary 501. It’s arguably one of the best-known denim styles and 147 years later, the straight-fit jean is still a style staple. Simple, classic and unconcerned with trends, the 501 carries an unrivalled cool that looks good on anyone.
THE BRAND: DIESEL
THE FIT: THOMMER
Although still a relatively new kid on the block since its release in 2017, Diesel’s Thommer is a burgeoning icon in the making. The slim jean feature excellent design and several of its shades have helped to establish the brand as a sought-after designer label. Early Diesel jeans were renowned for a vintage aesthetic, looking worn-in from the moment they were bought. True to the brand’s roots, the slick Thommer showcases this nostalgic charisma to a tee. Its design makes it a super-wearable, slim-leg style and the detailing on its back pockets and signature narrowed hem make the pair easily recognisable. They’re a great go-to that look good with just about anything you throw at them.
THE BRAND: G-STAR RAW
THE FITS: 5620 ELWOOD + 3301
G-Star RAW is particularly well-known for specialising in unwashed and untreated raw denim. The brand’s most recent milestone in 2016 saw them partner with Pharrell Williams, who’s now a co-owner of the brand. There are many reasons why G-Star RAW remains so popular, one of which is for innovative styles such as the 5620 Elwood. The 3D Denim was first introduced by head designer Pierre Morisset, who wanted to recreate the look of jeans worn by a passing motorcyclist. Before this, jeans had been treated as 2D garments. Another pair that sets the brand apart is the 3301: a classic five-pocket jean that represents the cleanest style in the G-Star denim range. Its name comes from the colour code and fabric of G-Star RAW’s first raw denim fabric, introduced in 1996.
THE BRAND: WRANGLER
THE FIT: 124MJ
Ah, Wrangler. With its roots stretching as far back as the 1900s, the brand was born in 1947 to serve the American cowboy market. Within two decades, the cultural revolution of the 60s had changed the world and Wrangler had risen with it. What started as practical utility wear, designed to withstand hard labour, soon became the uniform of the youth movement of the era. Wrangler was known for creating denim for rodeo legends, ranch hands and rock stars. With a rugged and practical approach to denim, the 124MJ jacket became the archetypal denim jacket, thanks to its growing popularity among the likes of Steve McQueen and John Lennon. It’s W decorative stitching on the breast pockets and the fact that this was the brand’s second denim jacket after the 11MJ in 1948 make the 124MJ a classic for the ages.