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The Fashion Memo

How to wear straight-leg jeans

L-R: Chioma Nnadi, Camille Charrière and Darja Barannik

As an enduring classic, the best straight-leg jeans are a must in any denim wardrobe. But how to wear them? Here’s your expert guide to finding the perfect fit and finish – and giving them sartorial flair


Favored by everyone from New York-based Londoner and fashion news director Chioma Nnadi to the relentlessly stylish Camillie Charrière, straight-leg jeans continue to reign supreme, not least for their sheer versatility: from trenches and sneakers to blazers and summer boots, there’s no look these pants can’t elevate. Sacrificing elastane in favor of rigid denim might sound sartorially risky, but once you find your perfect fit, you’ll realize that these leg-lengthening throwback styles are incredibly flattering. Our top tips? Forgo low-rise cuts for mid or high waists, and opt for a close fit around your butt and thighs to ensure the perfect slim fit on the leg – if you go too loose at the top, you’ll end up with a baggier boyfriend shape. As for your hems, fashion’s love of the ’90s is still blossoming, so go for an ankle-grazing or full-length leg.

To save you suffering from choice paralysis, we asked five of the best denim designers, from five of the most covetable labels – E.L.V. Denim, Mother, Totême, Khaite and Goldsign – how they get maximum mileage from their straight-leg jeans. Over to you, Anna Foster, Lela Becker, Elin Kling, Catherine Holstein and Karen Phelps…

I love our two-tone jeans, which I see as classic but with a twist. I tend to pair them with a simple white shirt or tee, tucked in, and velvet loafers during the day. However, in the evening, I’ll often throw on a blazer and a pair of heels to elevate the look. When it gets cold out, I pair them with a cropped turtleneck sweater, tucked in to knee-length boots and styled with a classic trench.
Founder and Creative Director, E.L.V. Denim
Rigid, straight-leg jeans in a worn-out wash have become my go-to. I love to style them with ankle boots and a vintage sweatshirt for a laid-back, California feel. However, I always layer on jewelry to dress it up a touch. After dark, I’ll switch to a light sweater and finish with a blazer for a relaxed evening look.
President & co-founder, Mother
Straight-leg jeans in a mid-blue wash teamed with chic flats and a classic trench coat make for the perfect uniform. Come evening, simply slip on a form-fitting ribbed top and add a prim top-handle bag; you’ll be ready for wherever the night takes you.
Elin Kling
Creative Director and co-founder, Totême
My go-to combination is a black bodysuit or a featherweight cashmere sweater, worn with ankle boots and a skinny belt. If it’s warm out, you can’t go wrong with a classic white shirt; undo a few extra buttons when the sun goes down.
Catherine Holstein
Creative Director, Khaite
My current go-to jean is a straight-leg style in white, worn with a white T-shirt, a camel tuxedo jacket and an oversized overcoat. After dark, I’ll usually opt for black jeans paired with a simple structured top, and finish my outfit with statement earrings and trophy sandals.
Karen Phelps
Creative Director, Goldsign

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown