The iconic fashion item that knows no age
If you think blue jeans are just for young people, think again.
Singer Na Hoon-a, nicknamed the “Emperor of Trot,” wore a white tank top and ripped jeans for his online concert last year. He was 73 years old at the time.
Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin of the conglomerate Shinsegae Group, aged 52, is known to be fashion conscious. He is frequently seen wearing jeans, so much so that one of the search terms often used related to him is “Chung Yong-jin jeans.”
Jeans are the world’s best known and easiest-to-wear fashion item. But many middle-aged or older people find themselves intimidated by the idea of wearing jeans. Some throw away their jeans because “they’re for young people.”
But no other fashion item has an identity as distinct as jeans. They have always been and still are an iconic symbol of youth. When styled correctly, jeans can make you look 10 years younger.
Jeans were first created in 1873 by Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss in San Francisco. The two men wanted to make durable trousers for workers in the region’s gold mines. It was the beginning of jeans as we know them.
Initially worn by farmers and cowboys, jeans became the symbol of youth when Hollywood heartthrob James Dean wore them in the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause,” then hippies in the 1960s and rock stars in the 1970s and 80s.
Their classic blue color also contributes to their youthful image.
According to the 2003 book “Color Combination” by the IRI Image & Research Institute Inc., people either strongly like or dislike the color red, but tend to universally like the color blue. The book explains that this is because blue has a positive image symbolizing youth, nature, and trust as well as imagination and creativity, which is what fascinated artists such as Pablo Picasso with the color.
Then what’s the difference between jeans and blue suit pants?
“Creases make all the difference,” says Kang Jin-joo, director of the Personal Image Clinic.
“Suit pants must be ironed for crisp creases. But jeans don’t need creases because it doesn’t matter if they’re rumpled and wrinkled. Such free and easygoing nature is what gives jeans a youthful identity.”
“When you wear jeans, you naturally pair them with casual shirts, belts, shoes and bags,” said brand manager Gwak Jin-il of the 132-year-old jean brand Lee, “which are bound to give you an uplifted and youthful aura overall.” He recommends jean-wearers to match them with a T-shirt and a pair of loafers, but skip the socks.
Fashion defines your style, but confidence can change your image much more than any clothes can.
“Jeans are like rice or bread: It’s familiar to everyone no matter the gender or age, so anyone can wear it,” said fashion entrepreneur and YouTuber Kang Won-sik. “I think that’s why they are forever youthful.”
“Don’t be ashamed even if you have an outdated fashion sense, or if your figure has changed,” 47-year-old Kang suggests. “Have confidence and enjoy customizing denims. Choose jeans that suit your figure and lifestyle. For example, if you keep your wallet in your back pocket, the pocket will stretch to fit the wallet. The fabric in that area will wear away, and the knee and leg area will also fade in color, reflecting your body shape and habits.”
Jeans symbolize youth and actually gives a youthful aura to the wearer. But above all, confidence is key. Don’t pretend to not care about clothes and say all jeans are the same; go on a mission to find the perfect pair of jeans for you. Opening the closet in the morning will feel very different.
What is the right way for middle-aged people to wear jeans? The JoongAng Sunday, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, asked men’s fashion brands Amoupre and Wellmade Com. The brands’ designers shared some tips on how to choose the perfect pair of jeans and wear them fashionably.
According to designer Woo Seok-hyun of Amoupre, pants look best when the hem comes four centimeters (1.6 inches) above the ankle bone. Exposing the ankle bone, which is one of the thinnest parts of the human body, has a slimming effect and can also create an overall casual look. One easy way to achieve this look is folding up the hem of the jeans.
Choosing pants solely based on elasticity for comfort is a bad idea, according to Woo. When trousers are too tight, they overly emphasize the wearer’s silhouette and take away from the stylish charm of the jeans.
“A tapered fit that becomes narrower toward the hem, or straight-leg jeans are the most suitable,” says Woo. “Your bottom will look flat if the back pockets are too big, and your legs will look short if the back pockets are placed too low. Make sure you check for these features.”
Woo added, “skipping belts is the trend nowadays, but if you must wear one, choose one that has a matte finish and a simple design that does not stand out.”
Kim Ji-yeon, chief of the design department at Wellmade Com, says that the waistline should be neither to low nor too high.
“If it’s too short, it will restrict your movement; if it’s too high, it becomes a high-waist fit.”
Kim says that that the waistline should ideally be five centimeters below the belly button, which allows comfortable movement and also elongates the legs. A faded effect around the thigh area of indigo blue jeans has a slimming effect as well.
Matching colors with shirts and shoes is also important. The stylish yet safest bet is matching jeans with an oversized white T-shirt or a bright colored graphic T-shirt. Kim says “white or bright grey shirts are also most basic, and vivid colored socks like pink, yellow or red can make you look 10 years younger.”
BY SEO JEONG-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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