When I was a kid, a Popeye - I'm not sure why it was called that - was an ice cream with an ice-lolly stuck in the top. It was a way of being greedy and getting more out of mum from the Ice Cream Man.
Well, this summer, you better avoid those ice cream and lolly stains in a pair of illustrated jeans from the Dutch fashion brand, Scotch & Soda. Featuring Brutus, or Bluto as we like to call him in the UK, Popeye's main antagonist, he was the bearded and hench bully and is perfect for our continuing hipster times. I can't remember him being a lifeguard, though, but he can rescue us anytime...
It's a small collection featuring a varsity jacket, camp collar shirts, as well as these jeans. And, while you should be leaving plain, bright white jeans to the lads on the next edition of Love Island, these are an exception and a work of art.
Left - Scotch & Soda - Brutus Jeans - £194.95
As American as apple pie and semi-automatic weapons, denim has been somewhat side-lined, in fashion terms, over the past couple of years. In the style doldrums, denim was once the unassailable casual-wear category. 'Skinny', 'Spray On', 'Muscle Fit' or 'Ballet Fit', (I just made the last one up) are firmly out and the fugly Dad/Mum jean is a confusing ‘fashion’ concept to the average punter. Denim doesn’t quite know where it is right now.
Left - A timeless American denim image
So, it is timely that Levi Strauss & Co. launched their public offering onto the New York Stock Exchange, last week. They must know something we don’t.
The 166-year-old company first went public in 1971, but has been private for the last 34 years. The trading price of over $22 per share was well above projections and means the brand has a gross value of $8.7 billion. Before the sale, a figure of $17 per share was estimated.
“I’d say the fact the stock opened so much above the price we listed at suggests a certain amount of confidence in the company, confidence in the business results and confidence in the sustainability of our business,” Chip Bergh, chief executive, told the Financial Times.
Levi’s is the American denim original, and, like all original brands, it has considerable value. It also has huge potential. On its annual revenues of $5.6 billion, in 2018, a year-on-year growth of 14%, just 3% of it came from China. Even in a denim downturn, Levi’s made a profit of $542 million in 2018, (Adjusted EBIT). When the denim market does start to power away again, Levi’s is in one of the strongest positions to reap the benefits, being priced well below designer brands, but above the fast-fashion players.
For the rest of the denim market, it has been a struggle. Over the last 10 years, global jeans sales have climbed at a 3.5% compounded annual growth rate, slower than the entire apparel category, according to the analyst company, Bernstein. Leggings and tracksuits have replaced jeans in people’s wardrobe. Traditional denim just isn’t cool ATM.
In London, department store, Harvey Nichols, announced, last year, that its “Denim Room” would sell other non-denim products such as shirts and more casual clothing items. Once the cow-cash of the department store, the denim room is on the wane, like the category itself.
Last year, the huge American VF (Vanity Fair) Corp. was looking to sell their huge Wrangler and Lee jeanswear brands. They had previously sold premium jeans brand Seven For All Mankind in 2016. But, with no takers, VF Corp. is to spin off its jeanswear business, which includes Wrangler, Lee and Rock & Republic, into a new public company called Kontoor Brands in the first half of 2019. Kontoor Brands will remain in North Carolina, while VF will move the sports apparel and footwear businesses, including The North Face, Timberland and Vans, to its new corporate headquarters to Denver, Colorado.
Right - With skinny jeans gone, the denim industry needs a new trend/style to get consumers excited again. Not sure this style will fill denim manufacturers with much excitement for selling for those extra metres of fabric...
North Carolina was once the heartland of American denim production. Cone Mills White Oak Plant, the last selvedge denim mill in the United States, closed permanently on December 31, 2017. After 112 years in business, International Textile Group, Cone’s parent company, cited the reason as, “Changes in market demand have significantly reduced order volume at the facility as customers have transitioned more of their fabric sourcing outside the U.S.” The switch to cheaper, foreign made denim made this American denim factory unviable. It probably didn’t help that denim’s share of the apparel market and sales were declining. At one point, it was the largest mill in the world and is noteworthy for the “Golden Handshake” deal struck with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1915 to be the exclusive manufacturer of the XX denim used in the brand’s 501 jeans.
It’s not just American jeans brands that are struggling. This month, Diesel USA Inc., the American arm of the Italian Diesel brand filed for bankruptcy in Delaware. They blamed plummeting sales, a botched turnaround, pricey leases and unwavering landlords plus several instances of cyber fraud and theft. The Chapter 11 petition estimates up to $100 million in assets and as much as $50 million in debt. Diesel USA has 380 employees and 28 retail stores. It doesn’t plan to close, it wants a clean sheet in order to open new stores and refit some old ones. “Prior management began employing a real estate strategy that involved substantial investments in its retail stores,” Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Samson said in a court declaration. In an effort to put stores in “premium” locations, it entered into pricey leases, for example, its flagship on Madison Avenue in New York, just as its sales “dropped precipitously,” he said.
Left - US Jeans Sales are starting to see an uptick
On a positive note, it appears that the denim slide has bottomed out and sales are seeing a slight uptick. According to Euromonitor International, American jeans sales, saw a year-on-year 2.2% growth to over $16.5 billion in 2018.
Denim needs Americans and the rest of the world to fall back in love with their jeans. It also needs a style that resonates with consumers and gives them a reason to buy a new pair. Fashion will play its part by offering new styles and ways to incorporate this most American of fabrics. It’s just a case of seeing which options resonate most with consumers. Denim's return is not a case of if, it’s when.
The seeds of denim’s comeback are being sown. Thanks to Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein and his new uptight form of denim, we have a new way to see and wear it.
Left - Wrangler AW18
Bin those skinny jeans and buy yourself a denim shirt with contrasting front pockets, a roll neck and a denim jacket. This is 1970s cowboy in mid-winter.
Right - Calvin Klein AW18
The new AW18 campaign from Wrangler perfectly illustrates this. Brokeback at the top of the mountain, you could say, this all-American, retro look is all about layering relaxed shapes. Denim or corduroy jackets over jeans, check shirts and lightweight roll necks give this cowboy a romantic and wild edge. Think more North Carolina than North Acton.
Just don’t look like it’s your first time at the rodeo!
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - Wrangler AW18
Get more inspiration in the video below. The video reminds me of the 1980s cult in Netflix's Wild Wild Country - here
Regardless of whether you like football or not, they'll be no escaping the World Cup when it starts in Russia shortly. I can't remember how many 'years of hurt' it is now, but, expectations aren't particularly high with regards to the England team. That doesn't mean that I don't care.
Settle down in front of the TV and start shouting, "Come on, England!"
Credits - Cardigan - A Day's March, Shirt - R.M. Williams, Jeans - Paul Smith, Shoes - Base London
With the Russian World Cup coming, or should that be looming?! We're going to get all nostalgic for Panini stickers and short-short football kits. Retro sportswear shows no sign of slowing down in fashion circles and anything branded, or with brand's old logos, is as popular as ever.
Credits - Loafers - Base London, Jeans - Raey, Top - Vintage
Ryan Haynes, Menswear Luxury Buyer, Coggles
“‘All about a clean and simple aesthetic with a slight element of layering. Stick to fresh, primary colours and you can’t go wrong. A wardrobe staple in a classic denim wash which is very versatile.”
Left - Acne Studios - North Slim Jeans Mid Blue - £210
“Really current and cool brand. Sweatshirts are great for layering at this time of year and colour blocking is key.”
Left - Ami - Sweatshirt - £175
“Everyone needs a floral shirt in their wardrobe. Bold, but can be worn both smartly with a blazer or casually for a festival.’
Below -McQ Alexander McQueen - Billy Foral Shirt – £250
“A tan, suede jacket is essential in every man’s wardrobe. Fitting in with the western influence, it is on trend but also timeless in itself.”
Left - Officine Générale - Suede Liam Jacket - £870
“Classics, but the marble sole adds an contemporary and unique twist.”
Below - Axel Arigato - Clean 90 Sneaker - £160
All the pieces are SS18 and exclusive to the newly launched flagship store; Coggles, 52 London Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7EF
Lara Djandji, Menswear Buyer, Harvey Nichols
“From Raf Simons, SS18 saw the re-launch of key pieces from Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album and I can’t get enough of the entire collection – my favourite piece being this jacket - it’s the perfect mix between fashion and music. For real fans, we’ve also bought the cap to complete the full look.”
Left - Raf Simons - New Order Oversized Denim Jacket - £1135
“Amiri’s exceptional quality and craftsmanship of each pair of jeans makes it easy and chic to wear them everywhere – from a flight to a night out.”
Left - Amiri - Broken Black Distressed Skinny Jeans - £645
“I love this iconic Dries Van Noten look – it’s so effortless yet still elegant and can easily be worn with the signature boxed shoulder coat to transition between seasons.”
Below - Dries van Noten - Reedley Checked Wool Coat - £1010, Carlton Printed Ramie Shirt - £565, Patrini Checked Wool Trousers - £390
“I love this vintage inspired jacket by Dior. Designed by Kris Van Assche, it references the punk and rave designs of the 70s and 80s, but also makes anyone looks instantly cool.”
Bottom - Dior Homme - Jacket - £490
We haven’t had a big fabric trend in menswear for a while now. Gone are the days when colours or fabrics would become ubiquitous for that season and every store and brand would toe the same line. But, there are exceptions, and corduroy is having a good stab at bringing itself back.
Lead by Prada, corduroy, in all its brushed softness, is perfect when coming in the reds and rusts of autumn. A tactile fabric, corduroy is hardwearing and can flit between casual and smart in all its bookish charm.
I love the fact the Germans called corduroy “Manchester” which was the home of “Cottonopolis” and a major manufacturer of corduroy for many years.
Left - Prada Menswear AW17
Corduroy can add bulk so be carefully when choosing a shape or style. For something cooler and more casual look for jeans jackets with matching trousers. I really like what the Spanish brand Lois are doing.
Below - Good News - Rhubarb Tan High - £60
Left - Lois Jeans - Jumbo Cord Brown Corduroy Jacket - £95, Dallas Jumbo Brown Corduroy Trousers - £65 from Stuarts London
Below - Vetements - Darted-Knee Cotton-Corduroy Trousers - £1200 from matchesfashion.com
Left - Drake’s - Single-Breasted Green Cotton Cord Jacket - £595, Green Cotton Cord Suit Trousers - £255
Below - Junya Watanabe - Cotton-Corduroy Baseball Cap - £130 from matchesfashion.com
Left- Prada - Slim-Fit Leather-Trimmed Cotton-Corduroy Suit Jacket - £1805 from MRPORTER.COM
Left - Jigsaw - Garment Dye Corduroy Button Down Shirt - £79
Below - ASOS - Tapered Cord Trousers In Rust - £30
Left - Marks & Spencer - Straight Fit Corduroy Trousers With Stretch - £35
Jeans are in flux. Okay, that is a bit dramatic, but upstaged by the style and comfort of tracksuit bottoms and the fact that many jeans styles have become way too tight and skinny, it’s time for a new direction.
The ‘Dad Jean’ is deliberately ill-fitting and unflattering and looks surprising fresh. Liberating and, so-bad-they’re-good type of thing, you need the most ill-fitting shape, in the worst wash you can find. You can thank me later!
Okay, these may take a while to get used to, but, ask yourself, how long did it take until you committed to your first pair of skinny jeans?
Think Kurt Cobain.
Left & Far Left - Topman - Blue Cropped Wide Leg Fit Jeans - £40
Weekday - Drift Loose Cropped Jeans Lagoon Blue Wash - £40 from ASOS
River Island - Light Blue Wash Cody Loose Fit Raw Edge Jeans - £45
Who knew Obama was the king of the dad jean?!
Pronounced ‘Loh-wev-eh’, Loewe, is Spain's premier luxury label. Designed by Northern Irish designer, JW Anderson, it is producing some of the most directional and top quality menswear ATM.
This season was inspired by the beach: shells, rope and boats decorated tops, jackets and accessories. Gold leaf on denim brings to mind the warmth of a summer sunset. This shell tote is stunning and a real standout piece. Who said life was a beach?!
Credits - Clothes - Loewe from Matchesfashion.com, Bag - Loewe from Matchesfashion.com, Trainers - Tim Little X Grenson, Fragrance - Bentley Momentum, Cooling Balancing Oil Concentrate - Aveda
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
Video & more images below