White jeans. You either love them or hate them. You either associate May with dusting off your white Levi’s or you think they are tacky, unwearable, fattening, impractical and you want nothing to do with them.
It’s possible to have a foot in both camps (I’ve gone backwards and forwards with white jeans over the years), but as of now, I am back in the committed fan camp. Definitely. Bear with me and I’ll explain why.
First, a word for the committed refuseniks out there: put everything you think you know about white jeans to one side. We’re talking about a different look this spring and summer. What’s happened to white jeans is a bit like what happened to leopard print.
A year ago you thought leopard print and you thought of stretch mini skirts and bar-maid blouses. Now leopard print is the slick, chic choice.
The same goes for white jeans. You’re used to picturing them sausage-skin tight and skinny, with pocket linings and lumps and bumps on show, or low-cut and flared, worn over sky-high wedges. Or ripped at the knees on the Croisette at Cannes.
Well, there’s every style of white jeans out there if you want them, including ankle-gripping. But the white jeans on every fashion-conscious woman’s wish list are altogether different.
They’re higher-waisted, thicker (because the last thing you want your jeans to be is see-through) and slightly looser in the leg. You want them snug-fitted on the hips and bottom, but otherwise the look is lean, elegant and grown-up — more Jackie Onassis than Jennifer Lopez.
Now for all the reasons why white jeans are a good investment.
First, they’re flattering. It’s tight white jeans that make you look fat. The right ones, well cut and not too skimpy, will not add pounds and should be just as flattering as regular indigo denim.
Choose a mid-weight denim with a fraction of stretch. That’s most flattering. Topshop’s off white editor jeans (£49, topshop.com) fit the bill, or try Zara’s straight cropped jeans (£29.99, zara.com)
They’re not just for high summer. These jeans don’t have to be brilliant white, which can feel too glaring for a spring day. Topshop’s editor jeans and Zara’s jeans look white, but are called ‘off white’ because they lack that Daz brightness — which makes them a bit easier to wear. Don’t be tempted into cream territory, though; that’s much less versatile and fresh.
Second: the style is a classic. The higher waist and looser leg means you can wear these the way you’d wear black trousers. Forget saving them for holidays and teaming them with a sparkly mini kaftan. These white jeans are for wearing with a blazer and a crisp shirt, or a khaki jacket and T shirt.
They look great with a trench, perfect with a navy sweater, good with leather or sheepskin and extra smart with an off-white top and an ivory blazer.
White jeans go with pretty much everything, including white and black. And white jeans and a black velvet or satin top is one of those trans-seasonal party looks that never seems to date.
White jeans have built-in daring. You get cool points just for putting them on. But beware going the Breton top and plimsolls route. That’s become a bit of a yummy mummy cliché.
Cropped and straight-legged is the most versatile style (try Levi’s cropped 501s (£85, levi.com) but you could also go for a wide leg style like Zara’s marine jeans (£29.99, zara.com) or even cropped with a kick flare from And Other Stories (£59, stories.com).
Apart from a high waist, frayed hems are the detail that makes white jeans look spot-on for spring. They’re a bit pricier, but the fashion editor’s favourite are DL1961’s Hepburn kick flares with frayed hems (£150, dl1961.com).
And lastly, they’re not crazily impractical. White does show the dirt, no question. You probably need to wash them every time you wear them, but that’s no reason to put you off. You wash your white shirt every time you wear it, so that’s just white jeans phobia talking — and we’re well past that.