Watch the Thelma & Louise trailer 25 years after the film was released and it’s pretty clear which of the two women comes out on top. Thelma might get to escape her husband, hold a policemen at gunpoint and snog Brad Pitt, but Louise is the real badass. How you can tell? Her jeans.
Louise wears midblue skintight jeans with a belt, white T-shirt tucked in. They were the kind that young women in 1991 wore as standard – even Thelma has some later on. They had a don’t-mess-with-me take on workwear, rather than the hackneyed rock’n’roll we’re now used to with the inky indigo skinny. In fact, think of them as the skinny indigos of the 90s generation.
As luck would have it – they are also the jeans that might, 25 years later, be the ones to force us out of skinnies once again. It’s time for a conscious uncoupling. The signs have been there for a while. Midblue 90s jeans have replaced the skinny on the twentysomethings of East London, and they’re all over Instagram. Levis 505s are cult for their peachy-bum effect and, of course, an excuse to use the peach emoji in posts. Vogue ran an article in the February issue declaring the end of the skinny jean and the rise of the 505. The deal was sealed by the Vetements jeans that splice two pairs of vintage 501s together and sell the results for £880 . These are the alpha jean this year, worn by fashionable types including Miroslava Duma more than once during fashion week.
Celebrities including Nicole Ritchie, Alexa Chung, Amber Heard and various Kardashians are starting to get the memo. Heard has worn double denim – both pieces in midblue. Danielle Morgan, who works at vintage store Rokit, says the best entry into this world is the 501: “You can’t go wrong,” she says. “They’re versatile and steeped in history – the only choice for a true vintage junkie.” Seeing their opportunity, Levi’s has now relaunched the 505, partly based on the cult of the jeans on Instagram and a shot of Debbie Harry in 1978, where she looks so cool, it’s impossible not to be won over.
It’s not just a womenswear trend – midblue on men is inevitable. For your model, men, see the cast of Everybody Wants Some!! The Richard Linklater comedy has sent out summerlong style ripples and the big takeaway is the high-waisted, straight-leg midblue jean. All the better to wear with Adidas trainers, a tucked-in T-shirt and baseball mitt to bring 1980 sports jock into fashion 2016.
Kari Perkins, the film’s costume designer, says almost all of the clothes in the film were vintage to the time it was set, and jeans were pivotal. “The 501s are so iconic – the vintage ones are cut a little higher and the zip is longer,” she says. “Jeans were changing at that time, and they were more tapered in the late 80s. These ones just said ‘jock’ to me.”
Culture is all very well, of course, but nothing convinces of a trend like the gentle tap of millions of contactless cards on a Saturday afternoon. Both Gap and Topshop report that non-stretch midblue styles – dubbed “girlfriend” at the former, “mom” at the latter – have been popular, and although they still lag behind the skinny, they are catching up.
“What we are finding is that customers will now buy an additional jean style to complement their skinny option,” says Jacqui Markham, Global Design Director at Topshop. “Sales of the mom jean have seen a huge surge when compared to last year.”
Gap, to get behind the new interest in customisation, launched Denim Addict this year and you can now stud, crop, shred and patch a pair of jeans for free at selected stores.
On a visit to the Oxford Street branch recently, it proved intoxicating – with the heady feeling of textile-table art-class experimentation, and lots of jars of different things with which to decorate your denim.
Claire Canning, senior director and head of stores, thinks we now all want to bring something arty to our denim. “It’s great to choose down to the detail of the colour of thread you’d like,” she says. “Patching and studding have had a great response – bringing out the individuality and creativity in us all.” All of this, of course, looks much better on that midblue backdrop.
The midblue jean isn’t just about the colour. It’s the style too; a bit high-waisted, and stiff rather than stretch denim. They reference a sort of retro jean, one that doesn’t necessarily have a decade – it could feasibly run from the 70s to the 90s – but it definitely pre-dates the skinny indigo that has dominated denim since the early 00s.
Jess Morris, the woman behind retro brand Rockins, which is launching a denim range this September, is on a mission to rid the world of “elastic in everything”. None of the Rockins jeans have any stretch in and, if Morris concedes that “they take a bit of wearing in”, it’s worth it. “You get the ‘W’ bum and you’re held in all day,” she says. Midblue fits into the brand’s rock style, especially when worn as jeans-and-jacket. “It’s Status Quo!” says Morris. “You can’t go wrong with a bit of Quo.” While that might be a matter of opinion, midblue’s rise isn’t. It’s coming for those indigos. Get ready for your new look now.