Is there a more appealingly nonchalant wardrobe staple than frayed jeans? The pinnacle of off-duty dressing, distressed denim has a history of subtle rebellion. The coolest cultural groups, from '50s Teddy boys to '90s grunge kids, have worn frayed-hem jeans since their very inception, allowing today's adopters wearers to tap into the sense of insouciance threaded into them.
Raw denim has also been rife on the runways and the streets for several seasons now, serving up plenty of inspiration for wearing these relaxed wardrobe staples.
Ah, '70s styling: the gift that keeps on giving. As the decade of Studio 54, lava lamps and voluminous hair remains in vogue, fashion has finally cast off its singular obsession with skinnies in favor of their wide-legged counterparts.
Ticking off a sequence of trends, denim specialist Mother has produced a range of flared, cropped, stepped and frayed jeans. Actress Emma Roberts wore hers with a retro-look Alexa Chung for AG silk polka-dot shirt and Sunday Somewhere cat-eye shades, blending a touch of the '50s with her '90s-style pants. For summer, Mother has produced stepped and frayed jean shorts so you can still nod to the trend without overheating behind the barbecue.
Marques Almeida has been leaving the edges of its clothing raw and ragged since 2011, and their denim for Spring '17 was no different. Their stonewashed, frayed-bottom jeans were oversized and gathered at the ankle. With their ruffled edges, these bring a sense of romantic movement to an outfit. Offset the dreamy aesthetic by pairing yours with structured ankle boots, like those by Dorateymur shoes, with heels that are almost triangular in shape.
You could spend hours unpicking your own hems (super-bloggers like Garance Doré and Leandra Medine have shared DIY tutorials on this) but ain't nobody got time for that. Instead, look to labels like Faustine Steinmetz, which are employing deconstructive techniques to forge innovative frayed jeans. The Paris-based brand repurposes vintage denim, unraveling the material and looming it back together by hand to create eco-friendly collections of jeans and skirts.
Vetements also uses hand-me-down denim – of a higher quality than those low-rise bootcuts you were wearing in your tweens, we'd imagine – having constructed those two-tone pants from two pairs of vintage jeans. True to the label’s style, the ultra-recognizable stepped and frayed hems of its designs came about accidentally and were kept that way.
A testament to the jeans’ popularity, Vetements re-released its first collection just six seasons after the label first debuted, including that iconic design. The jeans were still the brand’s bestselling item.
Denim is inherently low-key, but both Alexa Chung and fashion blogger Pernille Teisbaek have worn their Vetements jeans with smarter garments to create a preppy but feminine look.
Chung has been seen sporting hers with a Saint Laurent blazer over her cami from her own Marks & Spencer Archive fashion line and ebony-hued patent Valentino Mary Janes with black socks. Teisbaek donned hers with a sleeveless turtleneck sweater over a sequined top, grey ribbed socks and black patent Gucci platforms with horse-bit detailing and an ankle strap.
Teisbaek also tends to wear her frayed denim with bell-sleeved shirts tucked in, the ankle-cropped lengths showing off high-shine ankle boots or sandals. The lesson? Embrace opposites. If your jeans are slim, slip into chunky shoes. If they’re oversized, consider streamlining your footwear.
Amsterdam-based blogger Linda Tol showed how to don an easy-going ensemble worthy of the street-style photographer’s lens at Milan Fashion Week Fall ‘16. Her frayed denim was jagged, the bottom of her jeans cut into a zigzag pattern with the raw edges splaying over her calves. The pants had a hip-hop aesthetic, defying the trend’s normcore foundations. They were wider than wide – bigger than your high-school sweetheart's skater pants – with a slouchy silhouette and drawstring waistband.
When Julia Sarr-Jamois steps out in an item, it's a surefire sign it is or will be an important trend. The i-D Senior fashion editor wore her mom jeans with a stepped, frayed hem and Gucci loafers – having a renaissance right now – and a sweatshirt for a look as slouchy as Tol's. The shrunken cat-eye sunglasses lent the outfit a kooky appeal.
Go for backless loafers with your frayed jeans like Sarr-Jamois, or team with Nicholas Kirkwood's glossy Beya shoes, featuring oversized structured bows, for an even quirkier finish.