Denim: an innately versatile and timeless fabric, dominating dress codes of runways and street-style stars for decades. A good, flattering pair of jeans is a woman’s best friend; a trusty, fail-safe item to always return to when in sartorial doubt. But one denim phenomenon that has divided fashion lovers and trend-spotters since its inception is the polarising question of whether we should or shouldn’t double up on our denim.
A fashion phenomenon associated with the 70s and 80s, as seen on Blondie front-woman Debbie Harry and sported by Charlie’s Angels, the origins of double denim root back to the 1950s. Also known as the Canadian Tuxedo, a phrase coined after Bing Crosby’s head-to-toe denim ensemble had him denied entry to a hotel in 1951 for failing to confirm to acceptable dress codes, double denim was donned by 50s stars from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis, whose non-conformist style caught on thanks to her iconic embodiment of 50s sexuality and his global fanbase and popularity. Fast forward to 1978 and Debbie Harry, whose fearless punk-rock style gained her style icon status, made an on-stage appearance marrying different shades of denim. Drew Barrymore’s washed-out blue, laid-back denim-on-denim 1991 look was emblematic of the 90s grunge era, in distressed jeans and an oversized jacket that screamed androgyny.
If we had to pinpoint the moment when double denim became considered no-go style territory, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake at the 2001 AMAs instantly springs to mind. An ode to double denim would be incomplete without reminiscing on their appearance in matching denim ensembles that took the Western-inspired look a little too far with denim patchwork and JT’s cowboy hat – all kinds of wrong, but iconic nonetheless. Once considered a fashion faux pas, the double denim trend is seeing a revival that designers and celebrities aren’t hesitating to jump onto. After all, borderline bad taste is in, with ‘ugly’, slightly ironic and boundary-pushing trends such as sporty sandals, cycling shorts and Paris Hilton-style one shoulder-tanks all making an impression on the fashion landscape in recent years.
It’s a comeback people still seem sceptical about – Google search ‘double denim’, and one of the first questions to pop up is “Is double denim allowed?”, as if some sort of out of bounds, contraband concept to live in fear of. The runways are saying otherwise, however, with HTT denim looks featuring on the catwalks at Tom Ford, Miu Miu and Fendi among others in recent years, pushing the boundaries by going one step further with triple or even quadruple denim. Its versatility and laid-back sophistication lend it to emulation by A-listers such as Gigi Hadid, who has been known to double up on denim on numerous occasions, and whose double-denim dress code for her 24th birthday party saw celebrities from Hailee Steinfeld to Ashley Graham make their appearance donning the controversial trend. Bella Hadid went beyond with triple denim, layering a denim shirt over a reconstructed corset and jeans, a look slightly nostalgic of Britney’s questionable 2001 attire.
Double denim radiates a feel that’s at once chic, polished and laid-back, and can be styled to fit any occasion, with chunky trainers, statement heels and ankle books all working harmoniously with an all-denim ensemble. Shades of scarlet red or injections of metallic accents in the form of bags, shoes or jewellery thrive next to icy blue and indigo hues. The classic jeans and denim jacket combination emits an NYC street-style vibe, while a pairing of a button-down shirt and jeans gives off a Western feel. Alternatively, layer denim pieces over a striped tee for an effortless French-girl style à la Diane Kruger.
However it’s styled, embracing double-denim in its daringly versatile glory and marrying denim hues has made for one of the most enduring trends of the fashion landscape in recent years, despite its disputed status as verging on bad taste.
By Ruby McAuliffe
Artwork by Sasha Green