[The following post originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com]
At the start of the year, I offered up a men's style guide on my personal blog. After dozens if not hundreds of conversations giving pointers to friends and co-workers (many of whom are highly-paid lawyers, engineers, CEOs, etc.) about not only what to wear but how to wear it, I realized the value in a simple, but informative men's guide. Give a man a fish, and you've fed him for a day; teach him how to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime...
But laying out a list of brands and must-haves isn't too hard for guys. Why? Because guys are pretty damn simple. Only the most style-savvy guy dives into all the different brands, all the different little nuances of how to wear a tie or suspenders or what watch to wear with what types of shoes, etc.
For women, it's a whole different ballgame. Sure, there are some women who don't care anymore than guys; they keep it simple and are never the worst or best dressed in their friend set. There are some women whom seem to think what they have on is perfect for every occasion when that couldn't be further from the truth; they are either the best dressed or the worst dressed as a result.
But, mostly, women understand that the style game has a lot of variation, many degrees of excellence, and multiple forms of success. And sh*t ain't cheap. Plus, most women hang with a group of female friends whom at any given point will a) dress better than them, b) compliment them on an outfit, c) want to borrow what they're wearing or d), want to buy what they're wearing.
So what I want to do here is offer some support. This is going to be a series of posts. A series. I'm going to start with the essentials then move to the nuanced looks.
#1 Essential for every girl. A nice pair of jeans.
I don't care what jewelry you have on, what bra and panty-set you're wearing and how good your mascara looks... good jeans take the cake every time. Even over a black dress, which you wouldn't wear half as much as jeans. This doesn't mean every design student should go into denim, but it does mean there's a big market for jeans and lots of players.
Disclaimer: This is going to take a solid weekend afternoon of shopping/trying on things to check "good pair of jeans" off your list, but I promise it's worth it.
Look, denim shopping for guys is pretty easy because mega companies like Levi's and emerging brands like Baldwin, Naked and Famous, Nudie, Racecar and Tellason cater to us. Tough shit. For women, it may seem like you have to put in more work because there are just so many brands -- from the mainstream Gap 1969 to the pricier, like what you'd find in A.P.C.
So basically I'm encouraging you to start with a retailer rather than a brand (sorry to my designer/brand friends). To do that, here are a few things you need to know before you go:
1) Don't go looking for jeans if you're in a bad mood. If you're having "one of those days" as Monica used to sing, wait until next weekend (that means never go jean-shopping in a rush). And don't go if your boyfriend just broke up with you the night before.
2) Don't go if you don't have $150-to-$250 to spend. Now, I know you probably don't want to spend that on a pair of jeans, but you seriously may fall in love with something. I liken this to going on vacation and being single: If you meet a great guy, then don't use distance as an excuse to not hook up because Lord knows you've probably used proximity as an excuse TO hook up. #realtalk Anyway, back to the programming...
3) Take a good friend... not the best friend you compare yourself to, the one who dresses a little better than you a little more often and DEFINITELY not the one with a better ass than you... no, take the good friend who is always positive, has self-confidence and is OK with being single. Your jean-shopping experience should not be about what your friend says because your friend has a boyfriend and you don't so in some non-male-dominated universe that somehow means you have to listen to her. I have shopped with many a woman, and seen this firsthand so please take my word for it.
My advice is that you skip the brand shopping for now and focus on the fit. Once you find a set of jeans you like -- fit-wise -- you can become a brand whore (no pun intended). In Austin, you can spend an hour one afternoon and go to HEM Jeans to try on their assortment. Don't worry about the prices; of course they're all going to seem expensive. At least until you find that pair... yeah THAT pair. Spend as much as $250 when you do. Knowing what jeans fit you is well worth it.
If that doesn't work, don't get frustrated, just go to the mall and Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom are good department stores to start with because they carry a lot of the top brands like Hudson and J Brand. If those don't work, The Gap and stores like it, have a good reasonably-priced collection.
All in all, I'm not going to tell you what brand of jeans to wear. Every girl has a different waistline, hip curvature, ass, abs, leg length, thighs, calves, ankles, etc. It's up to you to go with your inner voice -- backed by that friend of yours -- when you get into the dressing room.
Be in a good mood, be with a good friend, be in a good place to shop and try things on without pressure (don't do this during back-to-school or holiday-shopping season), and be prepared to pay when you find your match. Unlike boyfriends, however, even when you have that perfect one in hand, you can always add another one to your collection. I guess some women do that with guys, too, but that's a different blog...