Janet Sung is the creative director and founder of Denim Refinery, an e-boutique and style site where customers can send in their denim to be customized with industry treatments such as waxing, distressing, or even laser printing. Along with this service, Denim Refinery also offers a carefully curated selection of classic vintage denim that has been gently "refined" while still preserving the original aesthetic. This collection is also carried at stores around the country, like Totokaelo, Kick Pleat, Frances May, and Concrete & Water. Through simple styling, Sung strives to maintain a timeless aesthetic for the brand, encouraging her customers to regard vintage as an equivalent to contemporary wear.
The hunt for vintage jeans is an activity that can be as intimidating as it is rewarding. Fortunately, with so many vintage shops that have cropped up everywhere, the search has been made so much easier, both online and in-store. The experience of finding your right fit is a very specific one, but once you’ve locked it down, you can easily shop for future pairs.
Scroll down for three very helpful shopping tips!
Slightly rare and therefore highly coveted, the perfect pair of authentic pre-worn jeans is one of the most satisfying vintage scores. Levi's, Wrangler, Rustler, and Lee are key brands to look out for. Start your search by looking for washes you're drawn to. Perhaps you want an iconic lighter wash circa Drew Barrymore in the '90s. Or maybe a deep indigo, workwear-inspired pair with subtle whiskering is the one that fits the job. Looking for a pair with a high rise? Distressed or clean? Whatever style you’ve got your eye on, stick to it so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the options out there.
In the experience I’ve had curating vintage jeans for Denim Refinery, the one realization I come to again and again is how subjective a sizing system really is. Where a brand today dictates you’re a size 26, a pair of Levi’s from the '70s says I’m actually a size 29 or even 30. If you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar, one practical thing to do is start ignoring that size listed on the back leather tag. Instead, start visually gauging pairs that will fit you; eyeball a pair of jeans in the store you think looks about right (with practice, this should become easier), and hold the waist around your own neck. If it meets up end to end, it will fit. If there’s a little bit of overlap, it's too big—or could work as a boyfriend fit. If both ends don’t come together, it’s too small. You get the picture. The circumference of your neck is an accurate assessment of half your waist, so this method can help you guesstimate whether or not that pair will fit (and also save you a little time from having to try on a million pairs).
For those of you who already know how to shop for your dream vintage denim online, congratulations! For those who don’t, always shop at sites that list the actual measurements of the garment rather than going off the labeled size. Here is a handy size guide to help you find your size using a pair of jeans you already own. Our listings include accurate measurements that you can compare your own to. Follow this and you’re set. Happy shopping!
Denim Refinery The Perfect Selvage 501 Levi’s Jeans ($275)
Denim Refinery The Heavy Whiskered Knee Patch Levi’s Jeans ($187)
Denim Refinery The Light Wash Abraded Moto Levi 501 Jeans ($215)
Denim Refinery The High Waisted Light Wash Levi’s Jeans ($198)
Denim Refinery The Double Distressed 501 Jeans ($198)
Are you on the hunt for vintage denim? Did you find these tips helpful? Let us know in the comments below!