The short answer is no. Most dictionaries will define jeans as casual-wear trousers made from denim or other sturdy cotton fabric. Hence, canvas jeans, for example, are a possible iteration of jeans. Further, almost no jeans are made with 100% cotton denim any more—especially in women’s jeans, what we are still calling denim now has about 5% spandex in it, meaning it’s not technically denim, anyway.
There is a more nuanced answer, as there usually is, and we are going to explore it: Historically, jeans needed to be made from indigo-dyed denim, have reinforcing rivets at the pockets and fly, and have five-pocket styling. To contemporary fashion retailers and consumers, the defining features of jeans are sturdy, predominately-cotton twill fabric that falls under the heading of denim, and at least the appearance of two curved inset front pockets and two patch pockets on the rear. Slash pockets, such as those usually found on women’s Chinos, means you’re looking at denim trousers that aren’t really jeans. An absence of any pockets means the pants in front of you probably count as jeggings. The important thing to take away from all this is that it is a positive, exciting development in fashion!
The styles of denim pants now falling under the general heading of “jeans” is actually a thrilling turn of events for people who love clothing! Colorful jeans in shades of rose, olive and lavender (among many others) have trended for years. The introduction of stretch has made many a derrière look as cute as possible. Lighter weight cotton twills mean that you can wear your jeans for most of the year, expanding your wardrobe to its maximum versatility.
We’re also living in a Golden Age of denim, if we embrace the new colors and types being used. Right now, you can find trouser-cut pants in denim, just right for dressier occasions or office wear, as well as old-fashioned jean shorts (though they are cut much better than what we wore in the 80s). The sky really is the limit! Whether you like jeggings, skinny jeans, slim cut jeans, ankle jeans, straight-cut jeans, boot-cut jeans or wide-leg jeans, they are ALL available on the retail market right now! You can choose sophisticated dark washes that still smell of traditional indigo, medium washes for a casual feel, or pre-distressed jeans with loads of personality to show off your style and flair. If you can dream it, you can have it.
As our society becomes more and more casual, jeans are accepted in more venues than ever before. Even some law firms and financial institutions are going to casual wear in the office—not business casual, either. The days of khakis and Polos are ebbing as more and more people go to work in jeans or other casual pants, with shirts and tops that are more about style than adhering to a dress code. The question is, how can you, personally, rethink your relationship to jeans and maximize your wardrobe with your favorite style of jeans?
Consider an experiment. Select a new pair of jeans in your preferred style, in a dark, dressy wash. The next five times you think of wearing dark-colored dress pants, unless it’s literally to funeral services or a job interview, wear those dark-wash jeans. Pair them with heels or smoking slippers, wear them with a women’s blouse and blazer or a glitzy top, wear them with pearls or rhinestones. Just see how it feels. You may find that you feel more comfortable and more confident than ever before, because the greatest thing jeans do for their wearer is to simply melt from our conscience. It’s a no-fuss piece that looks and feels great so you can concentrate on more important things.
Whether you want jeans that are a traditional indigo-dyed denim with five-pocket styling or are ready to accept a wider definition of “jeans,” think about the role jeans play in your life and your wardrobe, and look for new ways to incorporate all varieties of jeans into your everyday looks. It’s fun, it’s fresh and we think the time is now!