When that off-duty model walks by in skinny jeans, the movement of your eyes to her butt is magnetic. Make no mistake: She's up-and-downing you, too. And, turns out, the ladies have too many opinions about your jeans to keep silent. "There is nothing sexier than a man who knows how to casually dress well," says Jenny Ricker, a celebrity male stylist whose clients include Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zac Efron. "Suits are great but more inaccessible than a great knit and jeans."
From stone-washed to raw, there's enough denim terminology out there to swallow you whole. Let's keep it simple. "Jeans are the kind of thing that should feel great the minute you put them on," says Lauren Solomon, image and style expert. Hear it straight from women themselves to see what they're digging and what they're begging you to ditch. (And for more style tips and wearable trends, sign up for the Style Siren newsletter.)
Mistake: Unnaturally distressed
Distressed can be good, when worn on a Saturday afternoon with roughed up sneakers and a simple T-shirt. Too many times, distressed jeans run on the other end of the spectrum. Steer clear of jeans that look too manipulated--holes and fading in spots that seem unnatural lose the worn-in-for-10-years allure.
The Fix: "A man in a rugged pair of jeans has always been--and always will be--the epitome of sexy," Ricker says. Women swoon for a guy in a laidback worn-in pair that looks like he's been aging them to perfection. The difference between factory-made faux distressing and real, authentic tears has gotten tough to pinpoint, Ricker admits. Rely on brands that do it well--AG has patented their natural-looking abrasion process--or just wear the hell out of them the old-fashioned way. "Here's my philosophy about distressed denim," Ricker says. "Why pay when you can get it for free?" On the other hand, if you'd like your dark denim to stay dark, here's How to Make Your Jeans Last Longer.
Mistake: Contrast stitching
A dead giveaway that your go-to jeans are Jersey Shore-inspired? The stitching. It's often overlooked, but a crucial detail you need to take into account to bring down the cheese factor. "I'm OK with yellow gold because it echoes the old Levi's look," Solomon says. Cut it when the stitching stands out. If you're aiming to incorporate a style element that pops, try it with your shoelaces, your watch, your striped socks--not on what holds your jeans together.
The Fix: Next time you're at the jean table, go for stitching that blends in with the wash of the denim--in black or navy--so it's barely noticeable. It'll look clean and smart, just waiting to be paired with a blazer for date night.
Mistake: Fancy pockets
Don't make her cringe when she steals a look at your butt. "Please, no designs on the butt pockets," says Aliza, a medical student in Miami. They're distracting and reminiscent of days when Ed Hardy ruled. "If you have to ask if the jeans look overly embellished or too distressed, then you have your answer," Ricker says. Graphic pockets had more than their 15 minutes of fame in the boy band era, but it's time to toss 'em.
The Fix: Upgrade your jean drawer with understated pockets. The less happening back there, the better. "Don't put the bling on your butt," Solomon says. "The jean is supposed to be the silent, sexy support system." It's the lack of details that let the jeans reign as the go-anywhere staple. (And we do mean anywhere. Here's How You Can Pull Off Jeans at Work.)
Mistake: Baggy butt
While we're talking backsides, take the fit into account. "I love it when the jeans fit nicely around the butt," says Meghan, a financial analyst in Chicago. "Everyone talks about girls' butts, but not the guys'. I like to see what they're working with." Consider your comfort. You want them to hug, but with enough slack that you won't worry about popping the seam. "I don't want to see the outline of your underwear," Solomon says. "They should feel good, but they shouldn't be so low rise that you're afraid to sit down or so tight that your belly hangs over."
The Fix: Though stores have adopted confusing denim terminology, the best thing to come out of the complications is the ability to find a fit that actually suits you. "Just look in the rearview mirror and see that the jean actually hugs your backside," Solomon advises. Be careful not to take it too tight that you leave nothing to the imagination.
Mistake: Wrong shoes
OK, OK, not technically what she thinks of your jeans, but you've also got to think about how you wear your jeans. Denim is inherently casual, thanks to its workwear, California gold rush roots. But there's a fine line between throwing them on with sneakers you wear to bum around in to run errands in and the ones you wear to hit the treadmill.
The Fix: These days, with more lax office dress codes, denim can be worn with a variety of kicks--dressed down in sneakers or classed up with a pair of lace ups. If you're keeping things casual, wear them with sneakers, ones with a flat sole, instead of your cushioned running shoes. "The shoes that you actually use for sport do not qualify," Solomon says. "Ones that have an active appeal? That's a different story. Those you can wear."
A new study found that people do judge others based solely on their footwear. Discover What Your Shoes Say about You.
Mistake: Too loose
"I hate baggy jeans," says Katherine, an advertising account executive in New York City. "They just look so '90s, or like he's trying to cover up his enormous legs." When your hard-earned body is getting lost in fabric, she's questioning the reason. "Try on 10 different styles and find the one that works for you," Solomon says.
The Fix: Don't worry--not all girls like the skinny jean trend. Aim for no more than one inch of excess fabric in the legs. "The trend now is clean, effortless denim, but not slouchy," Ricker says. "You want them to fit, but not crazy tight. Think Ricky Martin's jeans in the early '00s or Justin Beiber today, and run the other way." Do you really have to head to a tailor? Look for these 3 Signs Your Jeans Need Altering.
Mistake: Frayed at the bottom
If your jeans are dragging along the sidewalk, be warned: They're also bringing down your style game. "A woman likes a man's jeans to look like he's had a long day and a lot of experiences in them," Ricker says. "But not too much experience." If yours have seen more than a few college keggers--and have the holes to prove it--it's time for an upgrade.
The Fix: Getting them tailored will not only make you look more put-together, but will keep them from tearing, thereby extending their life. The jeans should skim the floor when you're barefoot, and the bottom of the hem should hit an inch above the ground when you have shoes on, like in this image. If they're still too long, try a small cuff for a casual, rumpled look. "Just make sure the cuff is small--no more than 2/5 inches wide," Ricker says.
Mistake: Grandpa wash
The correlation between light color and dad jeans is alarmingly direct. They'll age you, because yes, there was a time when light jeans were cool. Thankfully denim has evolved right along with Mark Wahlberg's career.
The Fix: If you want to switch it up, bring in some color. "I really like colored jeans on guys, even on more athletic bodies," says Carolyn, an accountant in Chicago. But if you're springing for one pair, make them dark ones that can span a variety of events--from the laid-back dive bar to a nice dinner out. "One pair of rocking, sexy, dressy jeans is going to take you everywhere you need to go," Solomon says. "You're going to get so many compliments on them that you're never going to want to take them off. Get two of those and burn the rest."
Want more insight on what women say about your clothes behind your back? We asked a group of women--and filmed it. Here's How She Would Dress You.
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