The Stylish Gent’s Guide To White Jeans

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The Stylish Gent’s Guide To White Jeans

Words by Mr Stephen Doig

18 May 2020

Mr Clark Gable wasn’t a fan of white trousers. While he didn’t cite jeans per se, his issue with the glacial shade on his breeks was the same one that most of us have with them – stains show up oh so prominently. In his case, it was reading the newspaper reviews of one of his movies that caused the problem. “All the headlines came off on my white pants…” he once said. “Nobody bought a paper that day. They just followed around town and read the news on the seat of my pants.”

It’s little surprise that one of the bona fide icons of men’s style in the 20th century would come down on the against side in the white trousers debate. Alongside socks-with-sandals, white jeans in particular sit within the “much maligned” territory of menswear. Which is odd; jeans are a wardrobe everyman, and white is a colour that’s clean, minimalist and generally goes with everything. So, why the bad reputation?

Perhaps there’s an echo of Balearic beats, and too many mornings spent watching the sun rise on the White Isle. Perhaps there’s something of the flashy Italian playboy in them, in his skin-tight denim, creaking loafers and slashed-to-the-navel shirt. Whatever the reason, they come with a hazard warning. So, how do you get white jeans right?

01. Utility

Naysayers suspicious of white denim call out its prissiness; the colour requires its own chauffeur and daren’t sit on anything bar a padded cushion. But it is possible to wear white in a more rugged, workwear-focused way. They’re only jeans, after all. It’s all in the layers: try a denim jacket buttoned up over a shirt, with a utility jacket thrown over, and finally a heavy-duty coat. The shrugged-on ease takes the fussiness out of white jeans, likewise the no nonsense suede boots and throw-everything-in-and-go bag. This is white without the worry about grass stains.

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02. Crisp and neutral

The opposite number to the former, see the full uptown savoir-faire of white jeans. Complement the fresh tone of white jeans with beautifully in sync neutrals; an oatmeal sweater and coat, with nutmeg-shaded suede shoes. It’s a take on white jeans that draws attention to the luxury fabrics and looks unerringly expensive and elevated. He might be taking the Metro, but his glossy interpretation of white jeans is first class all the way.

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03. Preppy redux

We’re not going to delve too deep into rules around white after Labor Day in the US, but there’s one pocket of American dressing in which white rules supreme – the collegiate world of preppy style. It’s the Ivy League go-to, the get-up of Mr Ralph Lauren dreamscapes of the East Coast life, of President John F Kennedy in optimistic white off the coast of Nantucket. Take that classic format, and remix it afresh through subtle tweaks – keep the jeans baggy and the shirt loosely tucked.

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04. Winter whites

Mr Nick Vinson, Wallpaper* magazine’s editor-at-large and MR PORTER Style Council Member, takes a seasonal approach. “Everyone thinks of white jeans as a summer item, but white in winter looks great, too – they look great with knits and darker shades, boots and a turn-up. I’ve been wearing white jeans all seasons round for 20 years now,” he says. His husband, the shoe designer Mr Álvaro González, agrees: “Interesting dark colours really offset white in winter, especially in really luxury fabrics such as vicuña.” It seems glacial tones can also work for sub-zero temperatures.

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05. Graphic whites

“I wear the same thing everyday,” says Mr Michael Kors on his wardrobe formula. “Black jackets, black T-shirts, white jeans. I feel fresh and glamorous and graphic.” Highlighting the boldness of white through stark colour contrast or regimented shapes lends a modernist spin. Try a precise belted military jacket in navy, for instance, or a vivid shirt for a statement look that could have stepped out of a 1988 Berlin nightclub (that’s a good thing).

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The people featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown

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