Aïda gives her Zara skinnies a 2023 spin, teaming them with a relaxed-fit blazer and pointed flats.
Let's cut to the chase: If skinny jeans make you feel constricted and uncomfortable, they don't belong in your wardrobe. It's that simple. Yes, skinny jeans are supposed to hug the body. Yes, they're better when made of sturdy denim rather than a flimsy jegging-like material. But should they leave you fearing the compression of your vital organs? I think we all know the answer.
Despite skinnies being around for decades, it's surprisingly difficult to find a pair that strikes the perfect balance. Many of the skin-tight jeans out there are so stretchy that they start sagging in awkward places after just a few wears, and others are so rigid they feel like a straight jacket for your legs. What you really want is a considered blend of cotton and elastane; a composition that offers enough give that you can happily wear them all day, combined with the durability of genuine denim.
Aniyah wears a pair of lightwash skinny jeans from Levi's.
It might sound like a tall order, but after years of analysing high-street fashion and luxury collections, the Who What Wear team has amassed a wealth of denim-related knowledge. So, I reached out to our editors to get the low-down on the best skinny jeans money can buy. Find out which brands have made the cut below, then shop this season's standout skinnies.
SHOP THE BEST SKINNY JEANS:
Our very own editor Poppy Nash is particularly impressed by Zara's skinny jeans offering. “Zara's denim is like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it and I for one love it. I've shopped at Zara for years and along with dresses and shoes, denim is one of the categories I know always delivers. Sure, the sizing can be totally off, and on plenty (read: every) of occasions I've headed into a Zara fitting room with everything from a S to an XL in the hope that the buttons do up, but if I take my own advice and ignore the labels, I actually always come out with some really great jeans. Right now, the brand has tons of skinny styles, including a black, high-rise pair under £30 that I'd wear with a relaxed blazer and knee-high boots all season long.”
Personally, I turn to Mango above all other brands for affordable and long-lasting denim. I still own a pair of black skinny jeans that I bought when I first moved to Edinburgh five years ago—despite wearing them constantly, they look almost as good as new, and I still pull them out when I'm building a sleek evening outfit. Dark denim is great for that. Mango's selection is also more inclusive than most on the high street; the majority of cuts come in sizes 4–26. With jeans this good, it's a relief that they're available to a range of body types.
Frame's Le High skinny jean is a cult hit, characterised by its super snug fit and stretchy denim. The indigo washes feel particularly expensive, easy to slot into both relaxed daytime looks and evening ensembles. Thanks to the tight fit around the ankle, this jean pairs well with the current flat shoe craze—consider a dainty ballet flat or Mary Jane to give this classic a Parisian spin. Frame makes other slim-fit jeans, too, including the raw-hem Le Skinny and the slightly straighter-leg Le Italien.
Levi's is the OG denim brand, and the Californian label has stayed relevant for good reason. You've no doubt heard of the iconic 501s (you may even own a pair), but Levi's skinny jeans are just as durable and flattering. Choose from ultra high-waisted cuts and sculpting silhouettes, or one of the unique designs with cool detailing like a split hem or contrast stitching.
“I'm not usually a skinny jeans girl, but the Spare Mid style from Weekday has me in a bit of a chokehold,” says Rebecca Rhys-Evans, our branded content editor. “The ultra black shade is ideal for effortless day to night dressing—I'll wear them with an oversized white shirt and ballet flats for the office, then change into some sparkly kitten heels and add lipstick for dinner. The mid height on the waist is perfect for pairing with a shirt, I tuck about 70% of it into the waistband and always wear a belt to create a billowing, almost 1980s silhouette that feels very Princess Diana. It's understated, easy and so chic.”
If you're committed to the skinny look and are ready to invest in a hard-wearing pair, turn to Paige's Hoxton jeans. At around the £250 mark, they're not cheap, but you can be confident you'll be wearing them for years to come. The high waist sits right around the belly button, perfect for tucking in shirts and knitwear without feeling suffocated. While the simplicity of the Hoxton will always have my heart, right now I have my eye on the new Bombshell jeans, which feature an exposed button fly. I'm sold.