Photograph courtesy Flickr/Scarecrow58
CALIFORNIA’S LONG LOVE AFFAIR with denim began in San Francisco in the 1870s, when Levi’s put prospectors in pants made of sturdy twilled cotton reinforced with rivets. A century later, utilitarian staple became chic status symbol when designers like Adriano Goldschmied—who cofounded Italy’s best-known jeans company, Diesel—migrated to L.A. and launched namesake lines. Since then new players have cropped up every month to curry favor with the denim heads who obsess about the label du jour. To the rest of us, fit, fabric, and tailoring matter more. Barneys New York in Beverly Hills and Fred Segal in Santa Monica offer a diversity of styles, but for minute variations in cut and detailing and for guidance in wading through the thicket of choices, these shops are best.
Old-School Cool There’s a reason die-hard Japanese jean fanatics shop at LEVI’S . Outside of the San Francisco flagship, more styles and washes of the company’s Vintage Collection and Capital E premium line are available here than at any Levi’s retailer in the United States. The sales staff are encyclopedias of denim lore who can school you in the virtues of $500 “vault pieces,” such as a perfect replica of Levi’s original 1873 overalls woven on artisanal shuttle looms and single-stitched by hand. Rafters-high displays of dungarees include classic Red Tab 501 and 505 men’s jeans (always in stock) and core lines for women that are both fashionable (stovepipe styles, including the 521) and forgiving (mid-rise cuts, like the 552). » 316 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-246-9044
Dungaree Den At American Rag Cie’s cavernous WORLD DENIM BAR , dark wood paneling and dim lights conjure a speakeasy vibe. That’s appropriate, since sorting through the selection —more than 70 international brands for men and women, each stocked in three to five cuts, styles, and washes—presents a kind of illicit thrill. Some lines, like Japan’s Evisu and Hysteric Glamour, are cult favorites with fashionistas; others, such as Ralph Lauren’s rugged RRL and organic Loomstate, appeal to niche tastes. No one in town carries a wider selection of little-known boutique brands. » 160 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323- 935-3154
Back to Basics JEANY is the Westside’s most comprehensive— and friendliest—denim outpost. Natural light filtering in through a bank of windows bathes tabletop displays of more than 30 premium labels, most of them local. Jeany’s bread-and-butter labels for men and women, like the best-selling L.A. brand Kasil, have a fl attering fit and unembellished style. Exceptions include the show-stopping pairs from Venice-based Proportion of Blu, which combine Japanese-woven denim with goldand platinum-plated rivets. Store manager Chi Phan will alter any purchase while you wait, free of charge. » 1302 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, 310-255-0808
Laid-back Legs Two-and-a-half-year-old STACEY TODD DENIM is the Valley's premier purveyor of dungarees, selling about three dozen brands, from trusty American (Wrangler) to trendy European (Superfine, Acne), as well as local labels that specialize in classic cuts with a stylish edge (Chip & Pepper, Genetic Denim, and Goldsign, Goldschmied's latest line). The casual atmosphere—dogs are welcome—matches the minimally adorned offerings, including Ksubi’s $265 pegged "Lean Bean" and a $322 Sling & Stones pair made of organic fair-trade cotton. Most are designed to flatter a variety of body types and feature pocket details meant to deflect attention from the rear. » 13019A Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-981-7159