Well as you may have guessed from the picture above, I have something a little different for you today – Mr MC is making his modelling debut on Midlifechic… for one post only. When John Lewis & Partners wondered out loud if we might do a his and hers jeans try-on I wasn’t sure how he’d react but he was thrilled by the thought of being at the other side of the lens for a change. His only stipulation was that he was too busy to look at anything himself – “just choose it,” he said, “and I’ll wear it.” So here we go, today’s post is all about the best jeans cuts for midlifers – SS22 denim try-on.
Finding the best jeans cuts for midlifers
Jeans are a key element in both of our wardrobes; as I’ve been having a huge clearout I’ve assessed that in all truth I spend at least 65% of my time in them and for him it’s 95% – basically whenever he isn’t in gym or karate gear. So I find it’s always worth focusing on the right cut and investing in quality, sustainable washes and denim – you can always spot middling jeans by the fabric and the finish, it really stands out. Over the years I’ve defined what I like but it was hard to know where to begin with him. I had an instinct of course but then I spotted Dylan Jones writing in The Times about the best jeans to buy for men and as always, he was on point:
“The fundamental error that men of a certain age make when buying jeans is trying to look fashionable. Big mistake. In fact huge mistake… because nothing semaphores fashion anxiety more than buying a fashionable pair of jeans… If you want to avoid looking like a crazy old dad in his crazy old dad jeans you want to buy jeans that are as well made and quietly elegant as possible while also being incredibly simple.”
So my instinct for simple jeans was right and really it made sense for my own try-on too. The other important thing to consider of course is your build. Both of us are working with sturdy rather than willowy architecture on our lower halves – my rear was meant for sitting on stools milking dairy cows, his build evolved from generations of Geordie miners. His dad was forever saying, “if ah’ve gi’en ye nowt else son ah’ve gi’en ye a fine set o’ limmers,” and the end result is that we both need cuts that skim rather than cling.
My own perennial favourites – slim-straight cut jeans
The hardest working jeans in my wardrobe are ultra-simple and they go with absolutely everything. I discovered them the very first time I worked with JL&P on a jeans post in 2016. To this day I wear them more than any others in my wardrobe and they’re still going strong. They’re the slim-straight Silverlakes and just to underpin what I’m saying, here’s a little exchange in the comments between a couple of readers just over a week ago
You see them so very often on here that there was no point in me ordering samples as part of this post but here’s one of a thousand shots of my now six-year old pair in action:
But this post is meant to be about new discoveries so let’s move on to simple cuts that are ‘well made and quietly elegant’ as Dylan Jones suggested. After all it’s far better to have one or two pairs of great jeans in your wardrobe than ten pairs of fashionable ones that never feel quite right.
The best jeans cuts for midlifers – SS22 denim try-on
501s – the ultimate straight cut classics
We’re beginning here with a rather nervous looking Mr MC who was rapidly realising that it isn’t as easy to be in front of the camera as it might look. Here he’s wearing a pair of classic Levi 501s which are a slightly wider cut at the ankle than he’s used to – but that works quite well for his calves. They’re an absolute straight cut so the most fashionable end of simple right now.
Because he so rarely wears anything other than black, JL&P very kindly lent him the jacket and t-shirt to wear with them too. The jacket is a felted wool blend and I fell in love with the texture instantly; it’s a bit pricey but a long-lasting addition to any wardrobe. You can’t quite see from this photo but I selected a textured t-shirt to go with it too which is always more flattering and harder wearing than a plain cotton tee.
The ‘quietly elegant’ angle on these jeans is the Marlon wash which lifts them away from standard denim, it’s a dark blue with a very slight sheen to it. These jeans could easily be worn with a shirt for a meeting or dressed up for a night out. As they’re made from heavy, classic cotton denim with no elastane, we found it was worth going up a size for comfort.
And here I am in 501s too. I already have a pair of these in a light wash and you saw me wearing them a lot last summer. I prefer a darker wash for spring, autumn and winter though because I wear darker tops most of the time so it makes my outfits more tonal. This is a great shade with subtle whiskering at the sides of the fly to break up the expanse of the hips and gentle fading at the front of the thighs for the same effect.
There are a few different options available for 501s but I prefer this straight cut cropped style because it’s just the right length for wearing with boots or trainers. I find the ’90s’ cut too long for the look I want. Again because of the lack of elastane I had to forget about vanity sizing and go up two sizes for a comfortable fit – ’twas ever thus with 501s and the great thing is that they go up to a 24 UK dress size here if you need to keep playing around with them.
The jumper was on loan too – one of the new season turtle necks that I featured last week. Because it’s a loose fit I sized down to a 10 so that the balance worked for my body shape.
And here’s a photo of us twinning in our 501s – I suspect that the 90s cut for women would fall more like Mr MC’s do than the cropped ones I chose. He was laughing because I’d put so much time into choosing his outfits that I’d barely thought about mine and my teeth were chattering – why didn’t I ask to borrow a couple of coats?!
The best jeans cuts for midlifers – classics with a twist
Levi’s 502 tapered cut
Moving on, I was intrigued to see what the difference would be between a Levi’s 501 and a 502. The answer is that the 502s are similar but have a more tapered cut from the knee down. They’re a little bit more expensive than the 501s but a much smarter look. Again the particular dye that I chose elevated them from an ordinary mid-blue wash, these are a deep indigo denim and I’m not surprised that they consistently get 5 star reviews.
The low pocket placement at the back is particularly flattering and of course they come with the classic Levi’s stitching used to reinforce the jeans and add highlights at just the right points. Again there’s no elastane so he sized up for comfort. Both of us really loved this pair and they persuaded Mr MC that he could perhaps branch out from black!
The sweatshirt is from the fabulous, ethical British manufacturer Community Clothing. It’s already sold out in the navy but I’ve linked it to other colours available. It’s great that JL&P are supporting wonderful brands like this who are keeping manufacturing alive and rebuilding communities in the heart of some of our old industrial cities.
The boyfriend cut
For my second pair I chose one of JL&P’s own boyfriend cuts that I already knew were a winner because I shot them in the classic dark wash last autumn here
This season they’ve expanded the range with a new detail, the on-trend ‘feature button fly’ which is always a great visual trick, slimming the midriff by breaking up the width visually. I decided to augment it with what Instagrammers are calling French-girl style – this season’s look of a simple, fluffy cardigan worn as a jumper.
Boyfriend jeans with feature button fly (cardigan and boots my own)
These jeans are instantly comfortable to wear – they have 2% elastane and the denim is soft because it’s a blend of organic cotton and recycled polyester. In fact they’re so relaxed that I went down a size so that they work with the neater look that I prefer – that’s how to manage a boyfriend cut if you’re aiming for relaxed style without too much bagginess. Like most of JL&P’s own brands jeans the denim is classified as ‘low impact’ so they’re eco, they fit to your curves like a glove and they last forever.
Boyfriend jeans with feature button fly (cardigan and boots my own)
The last thing I’ll point out is the flattering fading on the thighs. With the extra volume at the hips and thighs that a boyfriend cut has they give a more casual look than the Silverlakes, great if you’re looking for a weekend pair with a little added detail.
Me: Boyfriend jeans with feature button fly (cardigan and boots my own)
The best jeans cuts for midlifers – “jeans and a nice top”
And for the last outfits we’re out in the bitter cold again, this time in Leeds with the youngest and his whizzy photo skills. This look’s for night time because we all need to remember how to dress up and go out again after two years of spending our evenings in PJs and slippers. As I’ve said this is Mr MC’s comfort zone – like most creatives he’s never happier than when he’s dressed head to toe in black.
Slim cut jeans
So, starting with the jeans, there were two styles that we wanted to try but the first from new range Nudie vanished in front of our eyes. There are some sizes back in stock now and more to follow but you’ll need to be quick. Why? Because Nudie jeans are a pair for life – they come with free repairs forever, regardless of where you buy them. There are two repair centres in London and more are opening up around the UK. Nudie are made in Stockholm from organic cotton and they promise that ‘no nasties’ are used in their manufacture. You can find the Nudie range at JL&P here.
In the meantime JL&P had plenty of other high quality black jeans to offer and these are the ones we settled on. A slim cut, they’re made from a recycled cotton blend and come in a number of different lengths and sizes. They have 10% stretch so they fit beautifully and are apparently as comfortable to wear as track pants. In fact as soon as we’d finished taking these photos we noticed the youngest quietly trying them on and sighing when he saw the label, dreaming of better dressed days.
I now have half an eye open for a woman’s version of this jacket. I love the way it has a quilted body to keep you warm but jersey sleeves so that it doesn’t have a bulky silhouette. It’s much more chic than a gilet but it has the same principle behind it. He was keeping warm and toasty so you can’t see much of the t-shirt but it’s modal rather than cotton so again just an elevated version of a basic that makes any outfit look so much better.
Barrel cut jeans
I, on the other hand, was shivering again. We were in minus temperatures and I think you can see it in my face here. However I’m keen to show you these jeans because they’re my favourite shape for going out…
Barrel jeans; Blouse and boots my own
… in fact you saw me discovering them in blue in a JL&P styling session before Christmas where my mind was blown by the possibilities of a whole new jeans look. I bought them immediately.
They’re barrel cut jeans and I absolutely love them, they’re my preferred alternative to a wide cut. They have volume all the way down but the way that the seam is cut to twist forward at the bottom (as you can see in the picture above) makes the front panel taper forwards, visually outlining your leg’s bone structure and so despite the width they flatter your body. I do sometimes wear them with stompy boots but for me they work best with a low heel for contrast so I tend to keep them for client meetings or going out.
This gives you an idea of the cut from the side. They’re made from heavy, non-stretch denim and they fit like a corset – but in a flattering rather than an uncomfortable way. I was originally advised by the stylist to go up two sizes to a 30 and it was the right decision for each pair. I’m really looking forward to wearing them with sandals and a t-shirt in spring and summer because that’s when the contrast with the volume of the leg will really come in. For now though they’re great with a short jumper or anything that tucks in. Whenever I wear them for a night out I feel cool – and that’s a great mood booster.
Me: Barrel jeans; Blouse and boots my own
And I was feeling cool to the point of frozen now so it was time to wrap up our first joint project. By this stage, because of the youngest’s professional looking camera equipment people were stopping to watch and Mr MC was having the time of his life…
Me: Barrel jeans; Blouse and boots my own
…you never know – he might be back! And while we’re on that subject, as a mother of sons I want to say thank you to John Lewis & Partners for commissioning an ordinary man to wear their jeans alongside an ordinary woman. We often talk about the pressure that women feel to look extraordinary but overlook the fact that the same goes on for men – and young men in particular. Projects like this help to break through the almost superhuman stereotypes that they’re bombarded with every day (not that I’m implying that you’re anything other than superhuman in my eyes Mr MC!).
Me: Barrel jeans; Blouse and boots my own
The best jeans cuts for midlifers – what to do next
If you’re considering new jeans but you’re not sure where to start, I find that if you have both a slim and a straight cut in your wardrobe you have ‘suits all occasions’ style. Once you have that covered you can then think about whether you want something more casual for weekends in which case I’d go for a boyfriend cut. However if you want something smarter think about a barrel cut. Then of course you have flares and wide legs too – John Lewis & Partners have a guide to all of their different jeans cuts for women here and a guide for men here. Just remember that initial advice to buy jeans that are as well made and quietly elegant as possible while also being incredibly simple – and you won’t go wrong.
We had a lovely anniversary break in Yorkshire last week and took all of these these photos as we travelled around. Hopefully I’ll find time to tell you about it soon because it was a really good itinerary for a simple few days away in the UK. Next Friday though I’ll be doing my preloved clothes sale and raising funds for the Trussell Trust food banks. There have been difficult decisions to make this time because I like everything in my dressing room but I only have one body so there aren’t enough days in the year for me to wear everything I’m given. There’s a lot because I haven’t done one since the early days of lockdown but hopefully you might be able to find something you like and help others at the same time. The following week we’ll be hurtling into new season with three posts – a Monday one, a Thursday one and a Friday one so please remember to keep an eye open – or subscribe for notifications further down.
I hope you’re all ok in the storm – I’m in the office on my own today because Mr MC and co are out on site. I thought it was going to stay to the south of us but it arrived after lunch; Ted’s shivering by my feet and refusing to go for a walk… which is absolutely fine by me! So I wish you a cosy evening wrapped up safe and warm – and the Midlifechic sale will open next Friday at about 5pm – see you then.
Disclosure: “The best jeans cuts for midlifers – SS22 denim try-on” was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as always they left all styling, words and pictures to me.”
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