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By Design

Welcome to the Dark Ages

September 05, 1996|MIMI AVINS

For a long time, the best jean was an old one--weathered, washed, softened by time. Jeans with a rich past showed their age in worn spots where a slice of skin flashed through a curtain of shredded white threads.

Sandblasting, stone- and acid-washing were eventually invented, processes for the impatient in which chemicals and mechanical abuse created a texture that used to be a byproduct of hard living. Aged jeans bore the romance of experience. No self-respecting cowboy would discard a perfectly good pair of Levi's just because they'd faded. Anyone who would felt like a wimp.

In the sort of about-face that keeps fashion-watchers guessing, the newest jeans look, well, new. Dark indigo denim surfaced in the Chanel spring collection a year ago, very stiff and city slick. Karl Lagerfeld's trend scouts had their ears to the ground. They introduced the designer version because the street style was already on the horizon.

As the deep blue colors have spread throughout the marketplace, they've been applied to the staples of classic American sportswear. There are peacoats, bell-bottoms, baggies and low riders, jean jackets and snap-front shirts in deep tones. Like faded blue, dark denim is a neutral that harmonizes with brown as naturally as black or bright colors. It turns preppy with an oxford-cloth shirt, James Dean rebellious with a smoky turtleneck.

A yen for dark denim provides an excuse to check out some of the new jeans collections for men and women, as well as old favorites. Todd Oldham cut the coolest hip-huggers, Mossimo's button-fly stovepipe jean begs to be cuffed, Calvin Klein came up with a mysteriously inky color, Polo Jeans Co. by Ralph Lauren offers a cropped boot cut. And light, dark or in between, there'll always be Levi's.

* Styling by Lauren Beck

* Hair and makeup by Lori Jean Swanson for Cloutier

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