Sartorial Love/Hate: Pale Denim


“Oh, this would suit you”, “Grey is NOT your colour” and “this is a classic lifestyle look” are the typical phrases the companion chirrups but on this occasion, I happened to overhear a far less generic remark. “Ok jeans. Now, you need new jeans” to which the ‘ringed bull’ nodded obediently as he surveyed the mass of denim on the racks “but NOT these pale jeans, okay? NEVER buy pale denim ever. Urgh. Awful.”

There was something so assured about this remark, so confident; something which suggested that such an opinion was widely received. Considering the fact that I was wearing a pair of pale (very washed) denim jeans, and that I myself was particularly fond of them, I realised that this was another case of sartorial love/hate.

Other ‘haters’ describe them as chavvy, unattractively eighties and entirely lacking in sophistication; the general opinion from these objectors is that dark denim is in a completely different category – casual but far smarter, less showy and more adaptable. Lovers of pale denim tend to be individualists who find dark denim commonplace and dull, although some of them are simply Eighties nostalgics who pair them with Wayfarers, penny loafers and Duran Duran leather jackets. One interesting respondent informed me that pale denim is not only unusual, but also “the perfect tone for spring and summer.”

Personally, I am a fan of pale denim. I also wear darker denim, and have no aesthetic preference, but consider that the lighter denim I own is simply more appropriate for certain ensembles. I believe the prejudice towards pale denim is part of a general dislike of lighter-toned trousers; you’d be hard pushed to find someone who is comfortable wearing white trousers of any material. The belief is that lighter trousers are  fattening, revealing and generally less flattering as they reflect light better than darker trousers which has the effect of making everything (calf, thigh and all else besides) appear ‘chunkier.’  While true, I believe this has been exaggerated.

If you have no hang ups about this or are of such a slight frame that you consider your spindle-like legs could do with a little ‘fattening’, I find that light denim looks, though Eurotrash and distasteful to some, are quite fetching; wear with a navy blazer, white shirt, a red cotton pocket square, and brown suede Cheaney loafers for a Middle-England-cum-Milanese modern classic.