Ready to Wear: The vogue for distressed denims is galling

Last week my friend B said to me, "I'm so sick of rips in jeans on anyone older than 16. I'm talking fake Balmain." She has a point.

The vogue for “distressed” denims (to use the technical term) – as indeed touted by newly revitalised French label Balmain for the first time in January last year and a snip at upwards of £1,000 – is fairly galling, and apparently never-ending. In the mid to late Nineties it was simple: we had Levi’s Vintage Clothing, duly creased, torn and faded to evoke a hard day’s work on the railroad and that was ridiculous enough. Now, though, it’s almost impossible to buy a pair of jeans that isn’t torn – be that shredded or just snipped.

Of course, Balmain designer Christophe Decarnin has made a highly successful career out of exorbitantly priced, preternaturally glamorous utility wear, crafted in upscale fabrics and deconstructed to within an inch of its existence. Take this season’s scarred, army-green, sequinned linen T-shirt, selling for a cool £10,775 as just one example. The bling-free version, which is not unlike a man’s vest and has more holes than a slice of Emmental, is a comparatively reasonable £860. (I can’t believe I just wrote that!) This one, then, looks set to run and run.

Of course, Decarnin is by no means the first designer to show an interest in clothing that is deliberately aged. In the 1980s – and today’s Balmain is heavily indebted to the Eighties – the counter-aesthetic to the strong-shouldered, vibrantly coloured, body-conscious looks turned out by Mugler, Montana et al was that of both Comme des Garçons and Martin Margiela which undercut any obvious status by appearing deliberately lived in – and this despite an equally prohibitive price tag. There was, however, rather more to it. Both designers went on to reinvent the classic staples of modern women’s wear – and indeed the man’s wardrobe too – on a more profound level than that, and have deservedly earned their place as fashion deities.

As for me, I have – sheepishly – to admit that my favourite jeans do in fact have two very small tears in them although, I hasten to add, I’d like them even more if they were rip-free.

“Are you going to stop talking to me now?” I ask B.

“I’ll let it slip,” says she. Which is nice.

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