Jean queen: The new denim rules

Still trying to find the perfect pair of jeans? Annmarie O’Connor has done the work for you. Here are her new denim rules.

Jean queen: The new denim rules

Still trying to find the perfect pair of jeans? Annmarie O’Connor has done the work for you. Here are her new denim rules.

Imagine the following scenario. You decide to go jean shopping and discover an epic denim bar with its own menu of cuts, washes, lengths and colours. You scan hundreds upon hundreds of pairs all meticulously labelled and categorised according to their unique selling points. Suddenly, what seems like a simple exercise feels as logical as Advanced Calculus on a hangover.

Brain freeze dictates a swift exit; so, you head home and continue your mission online. Only this time, the square root of Pi has multiplied to include a host of countless variables. Now you can either look like a high-rise extreme distressed mom or a slim bleached boyfriend with busted knees — your pick. So, you don’t. You’ve got a pair of leggings in the house somewhere — that ought to do.

Sounds familiar? In a retail world of infinite choice, the search for the Holy Grail of denim is up there with enduring a root canal minus the anaesthetic. The struggle, my friends, is real.

In a bid to save further time, sanity and solvency (one pair of jeans is reportedly sold every minute but how many do we actually wear?), I’ve navigated the murky high street waters to bring you the most up-to-date denim data you’ll need this season. Jean-ius!


‘Row’ sky blue jeans, Weekday, €50
‘Row’ sky blue jeans, Weekday, €50

Well, pass me my tin hat and call it a conspiracy theory but I do believe the fashion world is trying its best to kill off the skinny jean.

Since early adaptors at Vogue issued the fateful decree in 2016, many of us have been working through the stages of grief, especially denial. With vintage rigid straight-leg replacements increasingly filling the vacuum, some of us have skipped straight to stage 4 depression.

Rigid styles are, well, rigid, allowing no wiggle room for life’s lumps or bumps. Luckily, brands have since ameliorated the silhouette by easing the stiffness of the denim with a modicum of stretch (yes, ma’am!) to be more of an equal opportunity employer.

For an easy win, look to labels like Levi’s whose commodious ‘Ribcage’ (€68 @ Zalando) style is populating Instagram; and the sustainable Swedes at Weekday known for their comfy organic cotton ‘Row’ (€50) jeans - friendly on the figure and the environment.


Barrel leg jeans, Whistles, €119
Barrel leg jeans, Whistles, €119

Don’t let the name fool you. When it comes to the trending barrel jean, the keg leg allusion is just an illusion.

As styles go, it’s surprisingly flattering on most shapes. Still on the fence? Check out British high street brand Whistles’ website to peruse their 18 different colours and sizes (from €119) of their titular sell-out style.

So, what’s the deal? It’s high-rise, easy leg and slight ankle crop means no tell-tale waist gapes or unsightly fabric buckling around the crotch area; and, let’s face it, everyone loves a bit of ankle. For those who prefer something less cylindrical, a tapered mid-rise is your friend. Try the softer than soft pairs at COS (€79) which mimic a slight boyfriend fit while still holding their shape.

Insider tip: opt for a size smaller, as these fellas stretch.


Bimba y Lola wide-leg jeans, offer a roomy space. €160
Bimba y Lola wide-leg jeans, offer a roomy space. €160

Once the remit of ravers, girl bands and skate punks, `90s wide-leg styles are experiencing a redux.

This time around, the look is less street, more urbane as evidenced by Diane Keaton’s Instagram post @dianekeaton. Wearing a voluminous pair by Maison Margiela (now sold-out) with her trademark polo neck and bowler cap, the actress-producer-writer-director-Annie-Hall-goddess (sorry, fangirl moment) extols the virtues of their versatility, claiming, ‘I’ve never received more compliments on anything I’ve ever worn in my entire life.’ #notanad

If the MM brand is out of budget (€675 approx), Spanish retailer Bimba y Lola offer up an equally roomy alternative at €160; while Topshop’s tempered homage (tailored lines, cropped leg) come in at a wallet-friendly €50. Spoiler alert: petite and tall gals, look away now. Fabric puddles and flood hems never a good look made. My sincere apologies.


Straight rinsed organic cotton ecru jeans, Arket, €59
Straight rinsed organic cotton ecru jeans, Arket, €59

When it comes to white denim, subtext is everything. One person’s ‘boarding a private jet to Necker Island’ can be another’s ‘Liz Hurley circa 2000 cosplay’.

It’s a fine line; one that involves nude no-VPL knickers and a dislike of coffee, red wine or other offending liquids. Given the season that’s in it, we’re all likely to cross it, if only to indulge the possibility that the summer of 2018 might make a reappearance.

Should you be opting for lighter washes in the hope of brighter days, a few ground rules apply.

Swap the Celtic Tiger low-rise, skinny leg combo for a high-rise and easy leg sweet spot as offered at Gap (€59.95); a soft organic cotton from our Nordic friends at Arket (€59); or a relaxed button-fly pair from Zara with contrast stitching (€19.95) for downtime dressing.

Top tip? Try shades of ecru and cream to soften the glare from post-winter Irish skin.


We’ve got the jean-ius diagnosis for your denim woes.

PEAR/HOURGLASS: High- or mid-rise styles with a contoured waistband that’s cut on a curve are a boon for the gaping waist/bigger thigh lament.

APPLE: Mid-rise stretch styles with waistbands cut on a straight line will prevent uncomfortable muffin tops or tell-tale tummy marks.

COLUMN: Try low-rise styles in lighter washes to create curves.

FLAT BUM: Pocket placement is key. Jeans with smaller pockets that are higher up create the illusion of a bum lift. Pockets that are centred near the fullest part of your bum or angled slightly inwards helps create shape.

LUMPS AND BUMPS: Look for premium stretch fabric or with a percentage of Lycra or Spandex — which acts as a second skin girdle, creating smooth lines especially around the thigh area where some jeans can buckle and cause ripples.

BIG CALVES: Skinny jeans getting you down? Swap the ripple effect for a friendlier straight leg with stretch for a similar, more svelte silhouette.


Bimba y Lola –

COS – Wicklow Street 01-6111080;

Gap – Opera Lane 021-4278230;

Topshop – Opera Lane SC 021-4278268;

Weekday –

Whistles – Brown Thomas 021-4805555;

Zalando –

Zara – Mahon Point SC – 021-4972320;

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