By Allison Daniels
If I told you some of the most beloved, chic, and versatile items in your closet were invented in 16th century Europe as heavy-duty work-wear for manual laborers, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But that’s precisely where the story of denim begins.
First popularized as a fashion item in 1930s Hollywood Westerns, denim was transformed into a symbol of counterculture with the now iconic images of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause, then took a celebrated turn to high fashion and big profits in the ‘80s when a young Brooke Shields controversially uttered Calvin Klein‘s ad copy, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins”.
For more details on the pop culture evolution of the jean, check out my past blog, “Fashion’s Most Enduring Icon.”
After bleaching and ripping, cropping and bedazzling, there’s not a whole lot of ground denim hasn’t covered. But the most recent trend in jean modification is not one of embellishment, embroidery, or adornment. It takes the simplest, most time-honored styles – boot cut, skinny, straight-leg – and refreshes them with striking washes of color: Bold indigo, fire engine red, and jungle green are some of my favorite iterations of the look.
You might be hesitant to shell out the same amount of cash for a pair of neon jeans as you would a traditional dark blue wash. But let me give you two reasons that shouldn’t keep you from trying this look on for size:
One: with color-blocking and the resurgence of brights, colors have the versatility to function as neutrals in your wardrobe, and they look stellar when paired with opposite shades (think fuschia and mint).
Two: there are colored denim options available in every price range – from $20 to $200.
Now that I’ve set your minds at ease, let’s get shopping!
In the title image above, some ladies who often find themselves in the spotlight offer a wide sampling of the ways to wear colored denim. While Ashley Greene, Khloe Kardashian, and Malin Akerman let their rainbow-bright pants remain the focal point, Maria Menounos pairs hers with pale yellow flats for a complementary pop of color, and Ashlee Simpson coordinates her striped tee with cranberry-hued denim.
Each girl rocks the trend her own way. Malin keeps hers classy with patent pumps and a statement necklace; Khloe makes a bold statement with flashy shearling stilettos; Ashley is downtown chic with flat riding boots; Maria goes playful with light spring colors; while Ashlee Simpson keeps her bohemian-grunge aesthetic with an oversized tee and aviators.
This is an incredibly versatile look. Take it from day to night by changing your flats to heels and adding a statement piece or bold makeup. Take your cues from the photos below.
Now let’s talk about how to incorporate colored denim into your wardrobe.
The simplest way to wear it is with neutrals. Take a page from Hayden Panettiere’s book and pair your bold jeans with any combination of black and white, for a chic update. It’s really difficult to mess this one up. Any combination of white, black, grey, and khaki will look impeccably trendy when paired with a pop of color. For day, jewelry is optional. A chunky necklace or bracelet will add interest, but going minimal on accessories like Hayden keeps the look crisp and clean.
If you’re feeling playful, you might want to pair your bright new denim with another pop of color. This is totally doable! Just remember to pair complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel, like red and green) or analogous colors (adjacent on the color wheel, like pink and red). Yes, you read that right: you can wear pink and red together.
Check out fashion risk-taker Sarah Jessica Parker rocking this Prabal Gurung ensemble. Okay, so it’s not denim – but the principle still applies. If you want to rock an eye-catching combo like this, it’s best to keep the pieces solid to avoid looking like a walking carnival. SJP opts for solid white shoes to temper her bold ensemble, but black or nude would do the job just as well.
So there you have two different ways to style the bright denim look. Remember to keep accessories minimal for day and add some bling when the sun goes down. But no matter the time of day, keep your colors complementary, add a dash of neutral, and you’re golden (or yellow, or fuschia)!