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The great denim dilemma, solved: we trawled the high street for the best jeans so you don’t have to

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Stylist’s fashion editor Lucy Reber tries on all the jeans on the high street – so you don’t have to.

Photography: Sarah Brimley

If there’s one thing that is always in style, it’s denim. With its roots in tough workwear, it’s the hardest working fabric in fashion, the ultimate tool to add cool to an outfit. But it doesn’t come without its issues... 

There are a plethora of different cuts to navigate. And within each cut, endless nuances of shape and fabric, which turns everything on its head once again. Who hasn’t stood in a badly lit changing room with a pile of jeans all ‘claiming’ to be straight leg, only for them to all look wildly different when on? I certainly have (there may have been tears).

And then there’s body shapes. Whatever your shape or height it can be difficult to find the perfect pair. For me, it’s usually the jeans gaping at the small of my back (not chic), and picking a pair that ticks all the boxes is a challenge. 



When presented with a sartorial issue this big, it’s tempting to throw money at the problem. But who wants to spend £200 on designer pairs in every colour? Which is where the high street comes in, whose denim collections are going from strength to strength. 

So how do you find the perfect pair? I’d usually advise trying on LOADS to see what looks good. But this season, I’ve done the hard work for you – trying on over 100 pairs of jeans across the high street to test for fit, fabric and style, in the quest to find the best pairs out there.

First, let’s talk about cuts and what you’re looking for. There are four key styles that work hardest in your wardrobe. These are:

If only our changing room selfies looked quite this composed

If only our changing room selfies looked quite this composed

Skinny cut

Depending on the fabric, a pair of skinny jeans can see you from weekend to work with the addition of a sleeveless blazer, silk shirt and statement flat. The clue to the fit is in the name – these should sit close to the body from top to bottom. Cropped at the ankle is most flattering.

Cropped

Showing off your ankles is a key look at the moment. You can opt for slim-fit flared styles, frayed edges or wide culottes. The jeans should fall to just above the ankle so that they are distinctly cropped, but not in pedal pusher territory. Make these styles weather-appropriate by wearing with long-line ankle boots and a chunky knit.

Wide leg

These bold jeans are the new take on the Seventies flared styles that have been popular over the past few seasons. Choose from tailored, boyfriend or mom shapes, just as long as the legs are wide. They can sit on the ankle, but no higher. Keep your top half slim to balance your silhouette.

Straight fit

The straight leg jean is having a resurgence. Its pared-back simplicity feels modern again and can be styled smart, like a skinny jean, but is less restrictive. These should fit around the waist, hips and thighs and then fall straight down from the knee. Wear with a deconstructed shirt and box-fresh white trainers for a crisp modern look.



I have personally trawled the high street to bring you an edit of the five best pieces out there for each cut. Armed with this guide the world of denim is your oyster. Go forth and shop.

Skinny cut

Cropped

Wide leg

Straight fit

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