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Jean therapy: The power of denim

Whether it's stonewashed and skintight or indigo and edgy, denim is the staple ingredient in the modern male wardrobe. This season there are bold new ways to wear it, says Harriet Walker

From film and rock stars to cowboys, there isn't a man alive who doesn't understand the power of denim.

This simple twill weft has made its mark on stage, screen and stallions in a way that other casualwear fibres can only dream of. Whether sturdy stonewash, indie indigo, preppy slacks or edgy acid wash, it's directional and diverse enough to suit every sartorial whim and occasion. But where to start?

"It's up to you how you style it," says Adam Kelly, menswear buyer at Selfridges, of this season's most ubiquitous fabric. "Some like lived-in denim that looks like it has been in their wardrobe for many a season; for others, the tailored straight leg is key. The cheeky roll-up has been fighting its way above the ankle this summer, and the rock 'n' roll skinny just doesn't fade away."

Jeans may not be a new presence on the fashion block, but it has been a long time since it was acceptable to do the "double denim" look. It's tricky to master unless you're a waif-like, adolescent hipster with a pageboy haircut. But in for a penny, in for a pound: there's so much denim around this season that you may as well pile it on. Mismatch shades and washes, and remember that proportion is key: if your jeans are skinny, your shirt should be loose, and vice versa. And don't tuck it in, for fear of looking – in the words of one male pundit in the office – like "a weird, old music teacher".

"Levis 1947 501s are truly iconic," adds Kelly, "and the coolest cut right now is probably the Raf by Raf Simons carrot leg." The carrot – which bags at the hips and tapers down the leg – can look extreme, but try cult Swedish brand Acne's subtler version, and the new denim line 1971 at Reiss, which also offers shapelier skinny styles.

Retro jackets and the new generation of denim pea coats can add verve to an outfit, and Gap's gilet takes denim in a sportier direction. Finally, whatever you choose, don't be fooled by accessories: even Justin Timberlake looked terrible in a denim trilby.