Let’s face it—shopping for a new pair of jeans can be daunting, which is why we’re declaring this week Denim Week on Who What Wear UK. For the next seven days, we will be equipping you with all the info you could possibly need so you will be excited to start your hunt for your next pair (or pairs) of jeans.
I spend at least half of my week wearing jeans, but I usually rotate between the same two pairs (in case you're wondering, that's a pair of J Brand Selena cropped bootcut jeans and Weekday straight-leg jeans). Having said that, I have a drawer with at least 16 pairs in it (including one pair of J Brand flares I've kept from when I was 17 that haven't fit since I hit my 20s). Clearly I'm in need of a denim cull, but before embarking on such a daunting journey, I decided to turn to London's denim experts to discover how many pairs you really need, plus the key styles you should always keep on standby, even if you're a little bit bored with them right now.
These three women are quite possibly the biggest denim geeks in the UK, so they own a lot of denim (spoiler alert—I spoke to one designer with a cool 100 pairs in her collection). Together they've tried on almost all the denim out there, and so despite their huge collections, they know how to build the ultimate capsule denim wardrobe. Scroll below to discover how many pairs of jeans you should own, according to London's denim experts.
Amy Bannerman, fashion director of Cosmopolitan and the person behind the denim Instagram account The Jeanius, has tried on more jeans than you could imagine. At the last count, she notched up 68 pairs. But how many pairs does she believe every wardrobe actually needs?
"For a sane person with no weight fluctuations, I'd say have four to five pairs that you really love," she tells me. These should include a pair of black skinny jeans [Frame is her favourite], flares or cropped flares [she advises buying these from AG], a girlfriend or boyfriend jean [for these, head to M.i.h], a pair of Re/Done straight skinnies and finally a pair of straight indigo cigarette jeans [from Donna Ida or Lee]."
I have a lot of questions about owning 68 pairs of jeans (do you need your own walk-in denim wardrobe?), but the key question is that if she could only have one pair, which would they be? "My Re/Done slim high-rise with Amy stitched into the bum in case I forget what my name is. I practically sleep in them," she says.
Donna Ida launched her first denim boutique in Chelsea in 2006, and in 2013 she launched her own line of denim, IDA, earning her the nickname the Jean Queen of London. "I own fewer pairs than you'd think," she tells me. "I'd say around 20 pairs because I like to keep a nice tight edit. I have core basics like the IDA Rizzo the Ankle Skinny in Blackest and then fashion pieces I'm more likely to rotate. I've actually been wearing our new IDA Boy Dazzler Boyfriend Jeans for 10 days in a row. I use Vestiaire Collective to sell old-season jeans and try to operate a one-in-one-out policy, which is easier said than done."
So how many pairs of jeans does she reckon everyone needs in their wardrobe? "Denim represents the core of modern wardrobes, making up that base layer on which you add everything else," Donna says. "Jeans are hardwearing and versatile, so you might only need few key pairs in your wardrobe. In that sense, it's the most important piece, so it's well worth investing in quality denim, which should be fitted perfectly to your shape.
"An ideal denim wardrobe would have skinny jeans, like the IDA Rizzo Ankle Skinny, which suits most body shapes with a high rise to give a chic silhouette and is versatile to be worn with heels or flats. I'd recommend a pair in a black, a mid blue, a dark blue and a white wash to make up the staple pieces in your wardrobe. Think of denim as a neutral that you can wear with anything. If you prefer your jeans a little less skinny, look to the IDA Jeanie the Cigarette for a classic slim leg."
If you thought Amy's 68-piece collection was colossal, wait until you hear from my next denim expert, Erin Fridja from Clapton-based denim boutique Bad Denim. "I probably have about 20 that I wear. If you count all the vintage and reference samples I have, maybe around 100." But for those of us who don't make a living from jeans, Erin had this to say: "A solid eight pairs, of different shapes, weights, rises and shades should tick all the boxes."
She thinks that everyone should own two pairs of straight-leg vintage jeans, preferably Levi's 501s in a light and dark shade. Additionally, she recommends having two shades of slim leg or skinny jeans as your "basic, basic jeans." Then she thinks you should own a one-piece denim suit, either dungarees or a onesie, something "wide, easy and slouchy," and two pairs of fashion, structural jeans, such as "a high-waisted crop wide leg or a tapered exposed–button fly pair—jeans that are the focus of the look that you update seasonally." As for her all-time favourite pair, Erin notes: "That's hard; it does change. At the moment, I'm living in my Eve Olympia overalls."