Who’s Afraid of Double Denim?


Leave it to the Parisians to ace the “Canadian tuxedo.” Taking to Instagram recently with a series of street-style posts, the French photographer Ludovic Pieterson (@thestylearchivist) posted a reel titled “How people style total denim in Paris” and proved beyond any reasonable doubt that a style last in favor during the Rolling Stones’ “Voodoo Lounge” tour was back.

Fashion savants, of course, have been proclaiming the return of “double denim” for some time, predicting, with the bland assurance of carnival fortune tellers, that the future lies ahead. Yet, suddenly, in look after look, there was the proof: full denim outfits worn with theme-and-variation twists on a classic get-up comprising a denim trucker jacket and bluejeans, captured by Mr. Pieterson in seemingly every possible wash, permutation and silhouette.

Surely the best of these belonged to an anonymous man caught striding around a corner on the Right Bank, smack in the middle of the city’s old financial district, wearing aviator shades, an indigo four-pocket jacket that hit right at the waistline and some mid-blue jeans so crisp they could probably stand on their own. With the denim he wore a sharp white spread-collar shirt and a neatly knotted necktie. Possibly it was a Gallic touch too much that he had accessorized the look with a baguette tucked under one arm.

The next time naysayers cluck that the suit is dead, his is the image I’ll point to, with the admonishment that, four centuries into its evolution, the foolproof combination of jacket and trousers in matching fabrics seems as vital as ever.

One thing that time and recent events have altered is our relationship to the formality of traditional suiting and, for that matter, to formality itself. “Effortless is the new take on ‘I don’t care,’” the stylist Mark Avery said one recent morning from London. “Purposeful but casual,” he added, is the logical alternative to the schlumpiness of hoodies and sweats that dominated the early pandemic years.

Hollywood insiders know Mr. Avery as Ryan Gosling’s stylist, the guy that dressed the “Barbie” star in a pink silk suit and creased black Stetson for the Oscars. He is also someone who has worn double denim for decades, a horseless cowboy who serves as a walking advertisement for a style he first fell in love with watching old Westerns on TV.

In London for the filming of “Project Hail Mary,” Mr. Gosling’s new film about an astronaut rocketed into the galaxy in an effort to save an endangered Earth, Mr. Avery had taken his eye-catching style for a jet-lagged walk along Portobello Road, dressed like Gene Autry. Not everyone could pull off the battered cowboy hat Mr. Avery sported. As for the double denim suit, “it’s pretty much a foolproof formula anyone can wear,” he said.

Celebrities seem to think so, judging by sightings of people as stylistically unalike as Pamela Anderson, Julianne Moore and Gigi Hadid — all dressed in head-to-toe denim. Designers, too, have grabbed onto the look, with double denims all but ubiquitous on runways at Louis Vuitton, Victoria Beckham, Willy Chavarria and even Chanel.

“What I love is that double denim does the same thing a suit does,” Mr. Avery said. “Even when you do it in denim, it creates this vibe of being put together and intentional.”

There is something else, Samuel Hine, a fashion writer at GQ, said about double denim: With its roots in workwear, it is unambiguously American in its origins and stands as a corrective to a lot of the giddier and sometimes unwearable stuff designers crank out. At least in part it is an acknowledgment — tacit at Chanel, explicit at Louis Vuitton — of values aligned with the needs of new consumers. “Simple utilitarian clothing is connecting in a meaningful way,” Mr. Hines said.

And, like any suit, it is essentially a recipe. “The great thing about double denim,” Mr. Hine said, “is that you don’t have to overthink it.”

That is almost true. Given the light years it will take for the horror of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s appearance at the American Music Awards in 2001 wearing coordinated head-to-toe stonewashed denims to fade from memory, it is clear that, if not styled smartly, double denim can easily veer into cosplay or, worse yet, dadcore.

“There was always a stigma about double denim,’’ said James Scully, a former modeling agent who opened Jamestown Hudson, a multibrand retail store in Hudson, N.Y., early this month. “We sold a ton of denim jackets and trousers in our first two days,” he said, referring to labels like RTH, RRL, Samuel Zelig, Transnomadica and Officine Générale. “Obviously, you can go to more places in double denim than you can in a tracksuit or sweats.”

Was anything ever worse than the sweats trend? Not for Jess Cuevas, a creative director in Los Angeles who has worked with Willy Chavarria and who styled Madonna’s “Celebration” tour. “For me, double denim is a classic,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s giant jackets with giant pants, tiny jackets with big pants, the oversize and creased 501s that are a staple in Chicano culture. You can’t go wrong.”

In the lexicon of style, double denim is a constant, the designer Todd Snyder noted last week over lunch in Manhattan. “I’ve always loved denim-on-denim, even when it was out.” Anyway, the arbitrariness of “in” and “out” distinctions seems out of step in an era when designers and consumers draw freely from a decontextualized slipstream of Pinterest imagery. “Anything styled the right way is right,’’ Mr. Snyder said.

How does he style it? “The classic Canadian tuxedo is straight-leg five-point jeans with a trucker jacket,” Mr. Snyder said. “A belt is a must to keep it from looking like a costume.”

Todd Snyder aficionados know that the designer is a fan of rigid denim, which “gives you more of an authentic, Japanese vintage dealer vibe,” he said. Bleached denim, too, is a favorite, provided it’s paired with a second element in the same wash.

And proportion is key. “Maybe you have oversize jeans with a paper-bag waist,” he said. “Wear that with a chore coat or contrast it with a tightfitting trucker.”

Finally, it’s the footwear that finishes the look. “The one thing you don’t want to do is wear double denim with cowboy boots,” Mr. Snyder said. “You can’t be so literal. Add sneakers, a blucher or a desert boot instead.”





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