It's in the jeans: why the denim jacket is 2018's new power dressing
From Gigi Hadid’s ‘shrobed’ version to Vetements and Levi’s Frankenjacket, the humble jean jacket will be ubiquitous
You can tell a lot about a decade by its most overused words. The noughties had “bling bling”, which evolved into the slightly more refined but essentially similar “fabulous”.
The nineties were all about irony, though we didn’t really know what it was, so we said “as if!” and “whatever!” a lot.
Though this decade started out belonging to the term “hipster”, we now uphold “authentic” as the ultimate accolade.
In the age of authenticity, the denim jacket is the new power dressing. Expect to see a jean jacket everywhere in 2018.
Authenticity, being a balance of keeping it real and keeping it cool, reveres denim more than cashmere. Denim is as grounded as it is steeped in heritage; as utilitarian as it is complex. (Do not get a denim geek on to the subject of selvedge versus wide loom unless you have time for an extended chat.)
But 2018 will not be about jeans. As we enter the endgame of this decade, the hunt for authenticity is shifting to the less obvious. So to win next year, you will need a denim jacket.
At the most recent New York fashion week, there were classic boxy denim jackets at Calvin Klein, Tibi and Adam Selman. Every hip label has a hot take on the jean jacket: Vetements has collaborated with Levi’s for a chopped and remade Frankenjacket that brings the same deconstruction vibe that made Vetements’ patchwork jeans an out-of-the-box fashion hit back in 2016. Virgil Abloh’s Off-White version is sawn off at mid-ribcage level and fastened with an outsize white zip.
Paul Newman in Hud, Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman: there is a rugged, road-tripping American glamour to a denim jacket, which is reflected in the new-era Calvin Klein styling of wearing one over a fitted polo neck. (Selena Gomez, American sweetheart, nails this look off-duty.)
Rihanna “shrobes” hers, thanks to the trompe-l’œil seams on her Balenciaga swing denim jacket, which lend an effect of being fitted around the ribcage but shruggable off bare shoulders, for that mink-coat-at-the-opera silhouette. Gigi Hadid also shoulder-robes hers.
And while everyone is on the bandwagon now, Kanye West has been rocking a jean jacket for years. For the Met Gala in 2016, Olivier Rousteing created a custom Balmain denim jacket for the rapper which took longer to make than his wife’s dress.
Kim Kardashian’s gown might have been created from the mirror shards of disco balls, but “the hardest thing was Kanye’s jacket”, Rousteing told GQ. “We had to bleach the denim and then embroider it with all the stones and pearls. I felt like this was a different kind of process that we’re not used to doing in couture.”
In one crucial way, jeans paved the way for the return of the denim jacket. As stretch denim gave way to rigid, the heavy, boxy feel of a jean jacket – which had been off-putting to a generation who wore hoodies – started to become a badge of fashion honour.
As the athleisure star wanes, the denim jacket is the new hoodie. They tap into the trend for “nowstalgia” that sees millennials referencing times only just gone by.
For digital natives, what isn’t catalogued on Google Images never happened, which makes Edwardian tailoring or Victorian embroidery a tough sell to this market. Britney Spears in double denim in Crossroads, on the other hand? That’s iconic.
A word on terminology. The trucker jacket is the Levi’s denim jacket, born in 1967. You can recognise it by the diagonal seams, which form a narrow inverted triangle below each breast pocket. (Anything else is a jean jacket, but not a trucker.) This might seem petty, but when fashion gets fussy about terminology, its invariably a sign that this is what people will be talking about. To the list of words you’ll be hearing next year: listen out for the trucker.
Three other trends for 2018
Pantone declared ultra violet the colour of 2018. Lilac was all over the spring catwalks, most notably at Gucci and Marni. The difference is the name, which conjures up a sort of otherworldliness and nods towards branding. Highland Spring, NatWest and the pope have deployed shades of purple to memorable effect. It’s also the colour of amethysts (crystals often appear in Vogue), a favourite shade of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was often worn by Hillary Clinton (which also suggests it is the unofficial colour of centrists) and reminds us of Prince. Something for everyone.
The cowgirl – or boy – feels like an uncomfortable source for inspiration given its history, but fashion continues regardless, and from Balmain to Nina Ricci to Ellery, this “finish” will probably rule the high street in 2018. Vogue describes it as sensual and swooshing, although that largely depends on the fabric (they were mainly talking about tassels). However it’s worn, when viewed through the hemline index, it conjures up all sorts of uncertainty.
Sportswear as daywear will remain a dominant trend in 2018, though this time it’s less about posh tracksuits and more about specific sports. Golfwear (see Rihanna’s Fenty label) is one option, although rugby shirts will probably be the key, unisex trend. Acne’s unisex line has a rugby dress/shirt depending on height, Tommy Hilfiger has something pleasingly nostalgic, Koche has a pricier version for womenswear, and H&M has one for £30. Part reworking of nostalgia and part cultural tourism, it nods just as much to a mockery of a certain class and schooling as it does to the luxe sportswear takeover.