The perfect pair of jeans

On how to get your hands on the perfect pair of jeans, essential in every wardrobe.

Betsie van der Meer
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On how to get your hands on the perfect pair of jeans, essential in every wardrobe. And so, dear hearts, to a subject very close to my heart. Jeans. They are the workhorse of a wardrobe, the sartorial equivalent of a housekeeper who turns up and does the business, even when she's feeling peaky. Without jeans, what on earth would most of us wear, most of the time? Slacks, that's what. Can you imagine Marlon Brando, James Dean, Brooke Shields, Kate Moss in slacks? Nope. They are jeans heroes every one of them, chiefly because the simple expedient of two tubes of denim, a couple of pockets and a zip is just so brilliantly cool.

As in all things, there is, of course, cool and cool. Cool jeans have the right label (Hudson, J Brand, True Religion, Sass & Bide, Citizen of Humanity, Siwy, dVBs), in the same way that naff jeans don't. You may think, in idle moments when you're not concentrating, that jeans are pretty regulation - they're generally blue and the hem generally stops in the same place. But just consider how many variations there are: skinny, high-waist, low-slung, ripped, bleached, flared, distressed. It constantly amazes me quite how much choice designers manage to squeeze out of a simple idea. There will always be another pair lurking around the corner, ready to pounce and make yesterday's jeans look as appealing as yesterday's breakfast.

In all this, despite the fast turnaround in trends, there is a bottom line. It matters that they fit. Like a dream. Better than a glove. Nothing on earth can maximise your assets so effectively as the perfect pair of jeans ("They are," says Mary Quant, "the greatest invention ever"). So how to lay your hands on that elusive beast? Here's how- 1. Denim rather brilliantly - has unmatched tummy-flattening capabilities. Katharine Hamnett says: "There's an element of corsetry in jeans cutting - it's tough enough to hold you in." A flat-lying waistband sitting just below the navel is generally the most flattering.

2. Generally speaking, bottoms look smaller in a man's cut jean - they have a shorter "top block" (the distance between crotch and waistband), which minimises the area covered. Hipsters have a similar effect. 3. Buy jeans long and wear heels. Adding height is, of course, the fastest way to look leggy if you're not. A heeled boot will diminish the tarty overtone. 4. Only original stitching looks acceptable at your hem, so buy one pair of jeans for flats and another for heels.

5. Women's jeans are traditionally tapered below the knee and roomier at the thigh, which tends to shorten and add bulk to a figure. Instead, choose a straight-leg jean, regardless of what the catwalk decrees this season (the girls on the catwalk are alien beanpoles. Or hadn't you noticed?) 6. If you're 17 and built like an alien beanpole, go for bleached. Otherwise, buy dark indigo: it is most forgiving.

7. Pay close attention to the back pockets, which will alter your shape by leading the eye in a certain direction: Levi's master-stroke on its 501s was to add V-shape stitching, giving the illusion of a smaller derrière. Genius. Or should that be jeanius?