On arriving in Amsterdam, once you’ve conquered the initial fear of death-by-bicycle, you might start to notice a trend among the local style scene. Denim. Everywhere.
You’re in a deep blue sea of spray-on skinny jeans, distressed vintage 501s, chambray shirts, acid wash denim jackets, 90s mom jeans, button-front skirts, frayed cut-off shorts, patchwork denim coats, and my personal favourite: denim culottes.
Denim capital of the world
It turns out that the average Amsterdammer owns six pairs of jeans and wears them four to five times a week. The city’s active lifestyle plays no small part in this scenario. With more bikes than people and weather that is temperamental at best, it makes sense that Amsterdam has embraced that indigo-coloured cotton with such devotion.
Amsterdam locals have ‘smart casual’ down to an art form, and you will be instantly impressed by the ease of their outfits; sneakers go with everything and makeup is a simple sweep of a brow pencil.
It could also be attributed to Amsterdam’s density of creative industries like architecture, art, design and advertising where corporate dress codes are more relaxed, if in place at all.
Interestingly, the world’s highest concentration of denim brands exist in this small city, and many of the biggest global labels have chosen to base their headquarters here. Tommy Hilfiger, a brand founded on its American-ness, sits alongside Vondelpark. Levi’s Vintage Clothing of denim empire and jeans inventor, Levi Strauss & Co, has also been relocated to the heart of Amsterdam.
In recent years Dutch denim brands have gained traction on the global scene. One of the most iconic is G-Star Raw, which specialises in unwashed, untreated (raw) denim. The company was founded in 1989 by Jos van Tilburg, and after several successful collaborations, Pharrell Williams became co-owner in 2016. With a reputation for the unexpected, the brand has ventured into designing furniture, vehicles, and even has its own canal boat, the RAW ferry.
Another upscale jeans brand to watch is Denham, designed by Jason Denham (yes, his real name) who began his career with Pepe Jeans in London. Collections for men, women and children are designed from the picturesque Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. Denham’s philosophy is about progressive design, while remaining true to the traditional craft. The jeans pay particular attention to fit and are exceptionally flattering.
The denim obsession shows no sign of slowing, and Amsterdam has rightly earned its title as jean capital of Europe, if not the world. To keep it, House of Denim was established as a platform to promote craftsmanship and sustainability within the denim industry. The organisation hosts Denim Days: an event where cotton mills, manufacturers, brands, designers and marketers come together to share ideas.
You can even make denim your career by enrolling at what could be the world’s first ever jean school! This fashion academy exclusively for jeans teaches the entire process from design to pattern-making, through to sampling, production and sales.
In Amsterdam, there is no concept of “just wearing jeans,” and that’s just another thing to love about it.