23 New Ways to Wear Denim in 2024

The Beatles weren’t particularly known for their blue jeans—the suits and boots and haircuts loom larger in the popular imagination. But they did contribute a few poetic lines to denim’s rich cultural history. Ringo Starr shares with me one example in particular, when the Fab Four strolled across Abbey Road. Ringo, John, and a shoeless Paul wore suits, while George brought up the rear in a dark denim shirt and groovy flared jeans. The composition was impromptu. “That’s what we put on that day,” the Beatles rhythm man says with a shrug. “Paul looked like he was looking for a job,” he says, laughing. But denim–clad George? “George,” he says, “was just cool.”

What was true then is still true now: The perfect pair of blue jeans is the epitome of cool. It is a style and symbol that transcends time and all of the things that divide us. “When it comes to denim, now we’re all seeing eye to eye,” says Hall of Fame hooper Dwyane Wade. “She can rock it. He can rock it. They can rock it.” Wade and Starr are two of more than 20 international denim aficionados GQ recently gathered together in a photo studio in Los Angeles. Everybody was asked to bring their own favorite jeans, and they brought plenty of their own stories, too, about the intense emotional connections we have to these workaday garments.

Past Lives leading man Teo Yoo recalls how as a German-born Korean kid living in Cologne, he was captivated by denim-filled spaghetti Westerns on television. (Talk about a cross-cultural mash-up.) “In South Africa, denim is everything,” says amapiano pop star Tyla, who keenly understands denim’s universal coming–of-age connection. “I remember being young, I would beg my parents for 501s.”

Supermodel Winnie Harlow is from Toronto and has been rocking Canadian tuxedos for her entire life. “I’m a denim enthusiast,” she says. Turnstile bassist Franz Lyons enthusiastically destroys his denim: “You get one fresh pair, you wear ’em until dust and then you cop another one,” he says, sporting a pair of patched-up denim double-knees. “I did almost all the repairs myself until two years ago, and then I needed somebody that was nice with the machine.”

Atlanta rap superstar Gunna tells me he’s been trying his hand at making his own jeans. Why? His favorite pair of distressed designer denim went missing on a recent trip. “I loved those jeans,” he says. “I tried to find them, I tried to go buy ’em again. I couldn’t find them, so I was just like, I’m going to make me some jeans like them, because they were fire. What else are you going to do?”

What emerged in the studio is a portrait of the wide world of denim, a fabric that’s both classic and always ripe for reinvention, that’s both universal and deeply personal. Looking at the pale vintage Tom Ford–era Gucci jeans Starr wore for his portrait, he says he’s reminded of the indigo uniform of his youth, when he was a boy in Liverpool wearing jeans to the factory and the Cavern Club. “Well, now it’s fashionable,” he says. “So I’ve got to go back to the closet and get the old ones out.”

Dwyane Wade

Hall of Fame hooper and entrepreneur

Vintage Levi’s from Front General Store. T-shirt by Calvin Klein. Boots by Boot Star. Hat, stylist’s own. Bracelet by Miansai.

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