This is Why We’ll Never Kick Our Double Denim Addiction

In its ceaseless quest for fresh ideas, fashion adores the obscure, the forgotten and the extinct. Which is why the current double-denim trend is so troubling. If “total jeans” is shorthand for “working class” (i.e., not minimalist or maximalist but Marxist!), our sudden enthusiasm for it may mean that the proletariat has gone the way of the dodo.

Not convinced? When Chloé picked French party-girl/stylist Natacha Ramsay-Levi to take over the brand, she put out a picture of herself with lank hair, jeans and a frayed jean shirt. She looked like she’d been operating heavy machinery.

Sure, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren dabble in denim-on-denim, but the rest of the fashion world is doubling down on it, too. A.P.C. produced a denim boiler suit. Vetements, Burberry, Yeezy, Off-White, Sacai, Y/Project and Ottolinger all did double dungarees. If next year’s Met Gala looks like a convention of the Third International, it will be because even Christian Dior, that purveyor of the leisure class, has caught the left-wing bug. “Not so long ago, I was wearing an Acne denim shirt, where the colour was light denim and the body was a tiny bit darker, along with vintage jeans, and everyone said, ‘You did denim-on-denim—that’s weird,’” says stylist Sheila Single, who co-founded the magazine honore. Now, it’s the height of chic to dress like a cowboy or a welder.

Designer Nicolas Ghesquière often takes his bows in jeans and a jean jacket. But for the rest of us, the Canadian tuxedo look stuck around only for a nanosecond. It has since shape-shifted from boot-cuts and Western shirts into couturish cuts, treatments and volume. “Denim has come a long way, of course, and it’s not only associated with factory workers anymore,” say Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient of the Berlin-based brand Ottolinger. “People of all social classes wear denim and in all sorts of situations. We like it because of that. It’s timeless and basic. You can always wear denim.”

Y/Project is a brand that does high-society denim. Its jeans morph into thickly folded cancan frills at the shin. Off-White’s total denim look for Fall 2017 is overlaid with rust-coloured shirred tulle so that it looks dirty from afar and dainty up close. “Designers used denim in a new and clever way by changing it into prêt-à-porter,” says Single. “They used it in jackets and pants as a noble fabric, bringing in frills and zips and changing it to something less casual. Because it’s not classic shapes; it’s more modern. Now, it’s ‘haute couture.’”

Even the ordinary wear and tear on jeans has been riffed on. At Sacai, rips and tears were fancied up with zippers. Bösch and Gadient torched and poured acid on their denim: “It’s our own take on the garment and the fashion we do. It’s like discovering something new.”

Jeans used to be a no-brainer: what you threw on to do the laundry. Now, they send a message. It can be unexpectedly high-brow and refined or an ironic comment on the ordinary working man. With post-Brexit and U.S. election soul-searching, the demise of the latter has been the topic of many a dinner-party conversation—and now, it seems, on the runways, too.