Into the blue: Why denim never goes out of fashion

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Denim isn't just for jeans – designers have made shirts, jackets and ties out of the blue stuff. And this season, even 'double denim' can be cool, says Lee Holmes

There's a reason why denim never seems to go out of fashion.

It's among the most versatile and practical fabrics, beloved in its time by soldiers, railway workers and, of course, since the mid-1950s, by any fashion follower worth his or her credentials.

Given fashion's current utilitarian mood it is not entirely surprising that, both in the upper echelons of designer menswear and on the high street, denim is having an extended moment in the sun. Brands including Alexander McQueen, Margaret Howell, D&G, Topman and, of course, Gap, have made denim ubiquitous and it is no longer restricted to jeans. Denim shirts, jackets, bags, plimsolls and even decidedly natty denim bow ties are all being worn by the metropolitan male with pride. More unnervingly, perhaps, double denim – to the unitiated this describes the sporting of two denim garments at one time – has found its way out of the fashion Siberia where it has languished since the Nineties.

While it may please those with their taste levels locked into some kind of Eighties time warp to wear one shade of denim head-to-toe, this is best avoided for all those over the age of 20 who can remember that decade the first time around. That is, of course, unless you actively want to look like a member of a Bros tribute band. Grolsch bottle tops as accessories anyone?

More recently, celebrities including, notably, David Beckham have made a surprising success of the double denim look. At best, it has a certain rugged, determinedly manly appeal – no actual chopping of logs or mending of heavy machinery required. However, just because Golden Balls pulls it off with a considerable panache, the rest of us might do well to follow a few key (golden?) rules.

In general, the secret is to vary the shades of denim worn at any one time. For example, shorts should be lighter than shirts, or vice versa. Mixing coloured denim with the original variety also works well: try grey with blue. Anyone who has been to Uniqlo recently will know that the fabric comes in every hue under the sun, so there are few limitations here.

For any double denim doubters out there, go classic by breaking denim up with neutral T-shirts and shirts. Wearing a white T-shirt under a tailored denim jacket and with jeans looks effortlessly rebellious – think James Dean. Or, try wearing a denim shirt with chinos, topped off with a denim bag. And finally, while we're on the subject of accessories, consider investing in a denim belt or pair of shoes. Don't wear them both at the same time, however, and under no circumstances go all matchy-matchy and team either with a pair of jeans.

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