The anti-blue jean

KEY IMAGE - JOES

Perhaps no other fabric in history has endured such a torrid love-hate relationship with the fashion world than denim. It all started with jeans, that utilitarian mining pant of Levi Strauss lore. We’ve seen them ripped, zipped, cut off, torn, stone-washed and pre-worn (still trying to figure out that last one) through the glory of James Dean and the unglory of Courtney Love circa ’90s grunge. But never before have we seen them quite like this.

Denim has evolved as a means, not only an end. Jeans have taken a sharp upswing from their former selves – been redefined even, for you leather lovers out there – and in a more sophisticated way. While not even in the same realm as your “mom jeans,” they’re also more fashionably refined than your teen’s jeans.

The year 2013 marks the 140th anniversary of when Strauss patented his legendary trouser, and premium brands are marking the milestone – whether they know it or not – by making blue jeans look anything but. The first giveaway, of course, is the deviation from blue, the indigo dye that dominates the genre.

Joe’s, a consummate favorite, features a coated wine-colored pair for fall that’s ruched and hugs the ankle. (Forget your fear of spilling merlot.) What rag & bone – among others – calls jeans may not even use denim at all. Its beaded Hyde style comes in adorned leather but with all the familiar trimmings like rivets and zip-fly, button closure, belt loops and five-pocket cut. The brands, of course, can be found on shelves at local tony department stores but are so worthy of a city trip to check out their boutiques.

Designers sticking to denim use it more like a canvas, breathing a second and more artful life into their pieces. Blacks, brights, mattes and contrast hues comprise the latest jean color wheel. Muted sateens are soft to the touch and lacquered finishes give a sheer sexy gloss. Exotic prints are hotly on-trend, transporting the pant to distant lands. Bold graphic patterns catch the eye and colorblocking takes the stage with earth tones and monochromes that add a hint of subdued Mondrian.

But fall’s foray into premium denim certainly doesn’t discredit the boot-cut, skinny, patched, cuffed and boyfriend models ladies will always love. Like the crisp white button down, those staples are never going away. But their new runway-worthy counterparts are such an upgraded incarnation they may just replace your more boring business slacks. And with all the secret stretch denim out there, they’re likely to be doubly comfy, too.

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