The latest utility jeans may be practical but - face it - your dear old denims have had their day, ousted by youthful combat pants. But not for long...
IT'S NOT BEEN a good season for street style. First we were told trainers were over, then piercing lost its credibility on last week's South Bank Show self-mutilation special. Now we hear denim is dead. The poor fashion department at the Face have nothing left to photograph. But it's the mental anguish suffered by the jean-clad masses that concerns Style Police. To be told denim is uncool is like discovering your best friend's a Jehovah's Witness. Devastating.

Let's look at this season's proportions. Jeans worn between kitten heels and a delicate twinset? Nul points. Prada's pink satin flatties and denim pedal-pushers? We're getting warmer. Combat pants have been the jeans of a generation. But kids are getting bored of them, and, anyway, the rest of us knew we looked like sad Edinas in them. So denim should technically be ready for a comeback. Style Police is going to don the glossy nylon turban of Mystic Meg and predict: denim will dominate Autumn/Winter 1998. But not as we know it.

"The classic brands are struggling," says Diesel's PR Jethro Marshall. "They died a death with the rise of combats. But we've also seen an opposition to synthetics and plastic-fantastic jeans that have dominated the high street. We are going back to the 'functionality' of jean with an added fashion kick. The big story for men is the workwear-inspired, classic five-pocket jean. For women it's the dip-dyed jean merging from white through indigo to classic blue."

Jeans licensed under a designer's name - be they Armani, D&G or Valentino - are only worn in provincial nightclubs or on polo fields by Tim Nice- But Dim. But designers are discovering denim with varying degrees of success. Calvin Klein is relaunching his classic Calvin jean for men and women. Versace Jeans Couture has followed Diesel toward the unisex workwear shape. Gucci took a style tip from Samantha Fox, and ripped their men's jeans under the left buttock. It can only be to show off their gossamer- sheer underwear. Helmut Lang and Versace have both presented the paint- splashed jean. Need we comment? None is quite right for now.

There is always a must-have pair for the connoisseur. This season it is the Denime label at Browns Focus (from pounds 175 to pounds 365). Browns Focus buyer Robert Finnigan says, "Each pair is hand-dyed and made by one technician. They are vacuum packed, and the highest quality jean you can buy." These are the words of a denim evangelist.

Vintage denim, red over-dye and the classic loose fit, is the checklist for men's jeans. The big question this season is the turn-up. Cult Japanese label Evisu have taken the heavy-duty, double-riveted painter pants with utility pockets and added turn-ups. Ditto Diesel. G-Star's Raw Denim collection is a homage to Elvis in Jailhouse Rock: jeans with six-inch turn-ups twinned with jackets and serial-numbered baseball caps. So that's the boys sorted.

And for women? Tamara Fulton, fashion editor of Arena Homme Plus, says: "Women don't look their best in jeans. Remember, they were made for men. For our Spring/Summer issue, we shot a Fifties-inspired, no-frills denim story. It looks right." And for women this Spring? Sorry we can't be more specific.