The Allure of Denim By Alanna Lynott

Jeans are the ultimate Hollywood staple – simple, classic and a symbol of the American Dream. Alanna Lynott talks to Chloe Lonsdale, founder of MiH Jeans to find out more.

Denim has remained a fashionable material for decades and a practical one for centuries. There’s something magical about slipping on that perfect pair of jeans – indeed, to find the perfect pair is to find fashion’s holy grail.

For popularity, universal appeal and sheer versatility, jeans are unrivalled. Despite rather inauspicious origins, everyone from workmen to celebrities wear jeans; they’re worn on building sites, in classrooms, in offices and on red carpets across the globe.

The material itself was invented in Nimes, France, sometime before the 1700s. This serge de Nimes (shortened later to just de Nimes) was a sturdy fabric, ideal for workmen and labourers, and it was from this that both the material and the name were born. The word ‘‘jeans’’ came later, from Genes, the French name for Genoa, where denim trousers were made.

However, the true father of modern jeans is undisputedly Levi Strauss. A Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, he recognised a need for a robust material and his invention quickly became popular with the rough and tough American settlers. In the late 1800s, a man named Jacob Davis invented copper rivets to reinforce men’s work trousers; the two teamed up and the jean was born.

The USA has long since continued to embody the spirit of the jean. Chloe Lonsdale, founder of MiH jeans, believes it was in 1950s America that denim found its allure. Think of James Dean in his rumpled jeans and leather jacket, smoking a cigarette through a lopsided smile or Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire in jeans and a spray-on T-shirt. “There has always been something sexy about a woman wearing a man’s clothes,” says Chloe, so it wasn’t long before starlets like Marilyn Monroe were borrowing their boyfriend’s jeans and women in their droves followed suit.

Unfortunately, not all of us are lucky enough to look like Marilyn Monroe and many have given up on finding the perfect pair of jeans, daunted by the horror of trying on endless pairs in badly-lit changing rooms. Chloe believes the problem begins with today’s retail experience, as “too often women aren’t presented with what fits them, they’re presented with what’s in fashion, and that may not work for them. There are very few places that really talk to women as to what styles will suit them.”

Chloe has been wearing the same style of jeans for most of her adult life (the MiH London jean) and believes “denim’s not about fashion” (in fact she believes this so firmly she doesn’t even consider herself to be working in the fashion industry), “it’s about finding the fit for you and sticking with it for life.”

Of course, once you’ve found the perfect fit, you have to get the colour right. A good tip is to go with a darker wash if you’re curvier, while boyish figures can experiment with lighter looks. Chloe advises that “regardless of the fashion, if you find what suits you, you’ll always look good.”