by Brian Lipton

The entire MR team is proud to present our February 2023 print edition. Haven’t gotten your copy, yet? Feel free to page through a digital copy at Issuu, and we’ll continue to post the individual stories on If you haven’t been getting MR in print, be sure that you are on our mailing list for future issues by completing this form.

AS THE WORLD SLOWLY but surely begins to return to life as it was before Covid arrived in March 2020, with men both returning to offices on a more regular schedule and going out to social events and restaurants, athleisure wear can no longer be everyone’s daily uniform. Still, many men are discovering there’s far less need for tailored clothing or even “business casual” pants such as khakis than in the previous decade. Instead, men are making room in their closets for denim. Lots of denim.
Top image: 34 Heritage
“Clean, work-appropriate and event-appropriate styles are what’s resonating with our customer at the moment,” says Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director for Bloomingdale’s “We’ve seen a downtrend in excessive destruction and in ripped styles that were popular in years past. The customer is looking for more elevated styles that pair well back to overshirts, bombers, or soft tailored jackets for the office.”

“I’ve been hearing a lot of people say 2023 is going to be denim’s big year, and I believe that’s going to be the case,” says Daniel Mann, president of Jack of Spades. “We cater to men in the 35 to 55 age range, and they’re definitely favoring denim.”

“Denim is popping up everywhere; we saw new iterations at September’s fashion weeks, as well as in recent awards shows,” notes Sedgwick Cole, Global Director of Men’s Design for Lee Jeans. “Shoppers are both leaning towards nostalgia and looking for comfort by coming back to denim.”

Cult of Individuality

“Denim is the foundation of American fashion, so it’s not surprising that everyone from rock stars to the average guy wants it to be part of their wardrobes,” says Ron Poisson, creative director and co-founder of Cult of Individuality.

Adds Mark D’Angelo, vice president of men’s sales for Liverpool Jeans, whose product retails from $98 to $119, “Denim has finally become a staple in every man’s closet. Whether worn with a blazer, a hoodie, or a sweater, it’s now part of their everyday lives. That’s one big reason we’ve seen growth in our brand from 25 to 40 percent year over year for the past five years.”

“The reality is that most denim customers, especially younger ones, are looking for denim at more accessible prices, which is why our average jean is about $100,” says Zihaad Wells, creative director of True Religion. “We don’t live in the age where the ordinary guy spends $500 on a pair of jeans. We want to be accessible, yet we also want people to buy our product and feel special. And we seem to be succeeding.”


Nonetheless, the denim trend can be seen at every price point and in every strata of society, including high-end designer fashion. “The spring runway shows were filled with interpretations of denim from brands like Prada, Givenchy, Casablanca, Junya Watanabe as well as newer players like Nahmias and Rhude; the fabric took on greater prominence in many collections,” says Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. “The luxury menswear market also embraced the fabrication with brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Zegna, and Canali showing elevated casual and softly tailored denim jackets and jeans.”

Denim offerings are also a growing portion of the business for 34 Heritage, whose denim retails for around $200. “Denim is definitely uptrending in terms of what our retail partners are asking for,” says VP Sales Richard Binder. “This season, denim accounts for 48 percent of our business.”

Out With The Old, In With The Blue

One major reason the denim business is booming — and is expected to grow even further — is that men are no longer simply recycling the jeans that were already in their closets. Fits, fabrications, and colors are all evolving, and the man who wants to keep up with the times isn’t satisfied with the same-old, same-old.

“We’re seeing that five pocket jean models are leaning more toward a straight fit, a shift from the skinny, more tightly fitting denim that most recently dominated the market,” says Pask.


Adds Neil Rosenthal, co-owner of e-tailer, “I’ve been in menswear for over 40 years, I’ve seen it all. It’s nice to now see a leveling off, of sorts, in denim fit. The consumer is far less interested in jeans that are ul- tra-baggy or, more recently, excessively tight. I believe this evolution out of the super-skinny trend and into a somewhat looser but still tailored look will serve every body type well.”

“Skinny is slowing down and straight fits are becoming more and more popular,” notes Berkowitz. “At the true trend end of the spectrum, the silhouette change gets even fuller, either with a true wide leg or with a full block on the top that tapers slightly.”

Comfort Is Key

Victor Lytvinenko of Raleigh Denim Workshop says, “Many of our customers seem to want a little more room in the thigh and a little more comfort overall than they have in the past, so we’re responding to that. But the fit we’re most excited about has a higher rise and a wider leg, which is attracting interest from our more fashion-forward customers.”

“We’ve found that our athletic fit is definitely our best-seller,” says Sean Connelly, Vice President of Men’s Merchandising & Sales for Devil-Dog Dungarees. “Our customer likes to have a little more room in the seat and thigh areas, as well as a more relaxed leg opening.”

Binder and Caymaz modeling popular 34 Heritage styles.

“Stretch is the key ingredient for our denim and remains the core of our business,” says Binder. “Those merchants who believe in our stretch denim have greatly increased their buys over the past several seasons. Their consumers are going for the comfort and fit of stretch.”

Says Jack of Spades’ Daniel Mann: “Except for some of the youngest customers, men seem to want jeans that are more relaxed and laid-back. They don’t want anything too tight.”

“We’re basically reducing our number of fits and focusing on the slimmer fit that our customers have always been attracted to,” says Poisson. “But we’re bringing back some looser fits here and there.”

This desire for comfort means that stretch is here to stay, although for some, it could play a less important role than in previous seasons, “Stretch jeans remain bigger, in terms of sales, than a more traditional fit,” agrees Gary Flynn, president and co-owner of M. Dumas and Sons in Charleston, South Carolina. “But not every guy is looking for stretch anymore. The more mature guy wants to come back to a pure denim feel – all cotton with no elastic. They say they want a jean that feels like a jean.”

Am I Blue?

Dark blue remains the most popular color for denim and 2023 will see more manufacturers offering blue selvedge jeans, including Raleigh Denim Workshop, Liverpool, and Devil-Dog Dungarees. “For spring, we’re releasing a limited edition selvedge jean. There are only 75 pairs in honor of our 75th anniversary,” says Connelly. “It’s the first time we’re trying a jean without stretch, although it will fit like our slim/straight jean.”

“Basic blue remains the core color of our denim business,” says 34 Heritage’s Senior Sales Manager Ugur Caymaz, adding that the company has also seen an uptick in sales of black jeans.

“Our customers want the familiar blue denim, although in a lot of different washes. Black pants are also selling well,” says True Religion’s Wells.

Color My World

Still, customers are beginning to expand their wardrobes — and experiment with other shades.

Raleigh Denim

“There’s a bit of a push for light-colored and more washed-out denim – like some of the washes you saw 30 years ago,” says Flynn. “Starting last fall, we got a lot of requests for light blue for Spring 2023.”

“Colored denim now accounts for about 20 percent of our business, which includes many styles in earth tones, greens, and greys,” notes Liverpool’s D’Angelo.

“We’re doing lots of coated denim, which gives the jeans not just a great look, but a feel of durability,” says Poisson, “For fall, we’re trending darker, including burgundies, pines, and blacks.”

“Denim continues to be the one necessary staple in every man’s wardrobe, which is why I’m happy to see more variety in fabrication, fit, color, and washes,” says Beth Zinman, co-owner of Shopexecutive. com. “All of this is proof of just how essential a great pair of multi-purpose jeans are to the average guy.”

And to the retailer’s bottom line!