As the Brand Style Director of Levi’s, Kaede Matsumoto has an enviable job that takes her around the world, watching how people in various countries style their jeans. Over two decades of experience in visual merchandising, styling, creating window displays and store environment experiences, as well as directing the brand’s print advertisements, have given her an insight into the evolution of denim that few can boast of. Do you wonder if your favourite ripped jeans are appropriate for work? And can you really clean them by running into the sea? Kaede answers these questions, and more.

How would you describe the perfect pair of jeans?

First and foremost, you definitely want them to flatter your body type. If you’re lean and straight like a clothes hanger, wear a slim fit. Avoid it if you’re a bit fuller or have bigger thighs. It’s best to go to the store and work with the sales associate. Trying on multiple pairs is tedious but important. Once you find your fit, stick to it. Try on different sizes too. You might wear a 32 waist trouser, but you may want to size up to 33 inches for jeans. Sometimes, they look cooler when they’re hanging on your hips. Don’t stick to your exact waist. Be open to sizing down as well if that suits your requirement. Also, don’t blindly go by trends. Just because super skinny jeans are in among the younger guys right now, with some body types, they just don’t work. Don’t force it. That judgment comes a bit with age and trial and error.

What are jean trends for this summer? How should one style them?

At Levi’s, the 501 jean is our foundation. Under that, we have options like the CT — a straight leg with a slight taper. That’s a modern fit that appeals to young customers. The classic way to style it for hotter climates is with a loose T-shirt. Get your jeans customized at the store to show some ankle, and team them with anything from flip flops to dress shoes. We also do skinny and slim jeans, and next season, we’re going skinnier to speak to an even younger customer. Another big trend is white denim. Some people are hesitant to try it, but it’s versatile all year.

Is there much of a difference between casual and formal jeans?

I would say it’s about the wash. Casual denims tend to be those with stretch fabric and heavier whiskering. The more rigid washes that are darker and clean are better for formal occasions.

Is it okay to wear jeans to work? What are the rules for it?

It’s absolutely acceptable to wear jeans to work. Go for a cleaner wash and avoid ripped or distressed jeans. Your choice of shoes and tops needs to be cleaner too — I suggest a nice brogue or boot, and a buttoned up, woven shirt with a smart jacket.

Are ripped jeans appropriate for older men?

Of course. It’s really how you pair them. With a T-shirt – perhaps teamed with an unbuttoned shirt – and a pair of trainers, that’s a young look. But for an older consumer, a smart blazer, button-down shirt and a pair of nice brogues are an elevated, nice way to wear ripped or distressed denim.

What’s the deal with madeto- order jeans? Are they worth the investment? 

I think it’s a great proposition. It’s pricey obviously, but you don’t have to get them made from scratch. There are ways to customize existing pairs at the store. Get them tapered or shortened. If you’re getting them made, do your research before you go in to avoid confusion. If you’re spending that kind of money, also spend time deciding what it is you need and whether it’s right for you. Think of what the characteristics of your favourite pair of jeans are, which you would like to recreate. Are they dark, tapered or skinny? Have an idea and then work closely with the tailor.

Ripped jeans
Ripped jeans
Whites
Whites

What is your take on bootcuts?

I think they’re going to be coming back. We’re seeing a lot of them at shows right now, but it’ll be a while before the trend becomes mainstream again. It’s definitely on the horizon, but we’re just getting into skinny jeans, so it’ll be a while. Boot cuts look best with boots, but I’ve also seen them work really well with sneakers.

Is it true that you must never wash your jeans? Also, are those theories about putting them into the deep freezer or running into the sea to clean them true?

Part of that is true, but it has a lot to do with the type of denim you’re dealing with. If you have a really rigid wash that you don’t want to fade over time and want them take on the characteristics of your life, you’re not supposed to wash them. With other jeans that have a stretch and that you wear every day, it’s okay to let them wash cold and air dry once in a while. I personally wash mine after ten wears, but then again, there are pairs that you want to retain the colour, so you avoid washing. If you stain them somewhere, wash just that part.

What is the protocol when it comes to rolling your jeans? 

You can have your jeans tailored short, cut them or just roll or cuff them. In case of the latter, there are no hard and fast rules. In the more traditional way, you do one turn up, about two inches deep. Lately, there’s a trend where guys are doing two rolls of one inch each, which gives it more of a finished look. Other guys choose a careless, messy look that gives it a casual appearance.

What are the different pairs of jeans every man must own?

Everyone must have a pair of slims in a dark rinse, because they’re very versatile – from office to a night out. The other is the weekend jean that’s more casual – looser with a bit of a stretch fit.

How would you compare denim trends in India with those around the world? 

In India, there’s an incredible traditional colour compared to, say, New York, where people tend to gravitate towards neutral. Some regions prefer very skinny jeans – like I saw them in Denmark last season. You see subtle nuances, but all over, denim has become an accepted foundational fabric for all sorts of things. I look at a lot of Nordic brands for inspiration – there’s interesting stuff happening in Stockholm and Copenhagen. The Japanese are making some of the best jeans now. Asia, in general, has incredibly rich history. I’m fascinated to see Asians wear denim because it hasn’t really been ingrained in their culture. I like to see how people are adapting to it and modernizing it.