"It's an evolution of the '70s trend we saw for spring and summer," says Michele Manz, creative director of premium denim purveyor 7 for All Mankind. "We've seen the popularity of iconic '70s styles, like the bell bottom or high-waist, and now animal-print denim, first seen on '70s glam rockers like the New York Dolls and David Bowie. In the '80s, metal bands mixed animal patterns with leather and skinny jeans to update the look. Animal prints let you show off the rocker inside you."
7 for All Mankind offers a relatively subdued version, with a somewhat blurred-out and faded Gwenevere black-and-gray snake print gummy denim ($189). It also has a navy blue-and-black featherweight ($215) that adds a slight bit of texture and pattern without being in your face.
These styles can be worn much as one would wear regular blue or black jeans, since the print is light and the texture barely there. An equally patterned top or blouse isn't the ideal partner because it will look like one big blur. Instead, wear these with a thick, striped pattern that is chunkier and bolder than what's happening on the pants. That way, there's a separation of the prints, and the pairing looks deliberate and confident rather than like an endless run of random graphics.
To keep things more classic, and maybe less complicated, stick with slightly bumped-up basics. Try a solid orange or yellow sweater, instead of toying with more print. The combination will look fresh and upbeat.
The leopard-print Stiletto jeans from Current/Elliott ($198) are already a big hit among celebrities, and they're bound to show up on trend-conscious girls everywhere. The print here is more obvious but done in a faded, worn-in way that keeps them pretty versatile.
Consider the way Sarah Jessica Parker styled hers during a recent trip to China. She dolled them up with a dramatic blush-colored jacket and dainty heels for an edgy Audrey Hepburn type of look.
The jeans would also look great with a worn-in gray T-shirt and sandals for running around town or — to continue that '60s gamin look — a classic black crew-neck sweater and a pair of ballet flats would do the trick.
The Gap 1969 also has a lighter pair that's similar to the Current/Elliott jeans, but in an even more washed-out fabric. The white and light-gray jeans from the Gap ($69) have a subtle leopard-spot print that gives traditional white jeans an edge and makes them a bit more appropriate for going into fall.
For those daring enough to really take a walk on the wild side, there are several pairs surfacing for the season that shout "rock star."
J. Brand's shiny gold-and-black snakeskin printed pants ($242) and Bleulab's silver snakeskin leggings ($225) are sexy, edgy and should be paired with a worn-in black T-shirt, simple jewelry and a pair of motorcycle boots or sleek black ankle booties to stay in line with the rocker feeling without going overboard. The contrasting colors in the pattern plus the shine of the fabric are already doing a lot. Play with texture when styling these pants and refrain from adding add more color or edgy details — no spikes, studs or ostentatious embellishment.
Paige Denim is doing an abstract snake print that comes in a cool silvery shade ($269). These jeans can look really rocker if paired with an old band T-shirt or leather jacket, or they can stay subdued and clean if worn with a casual white button-down and worn-in black biker boots. Either way, the jeans are the focal point for once, instead of serving in their usual supporting role.
For the cooler months, Joe's Jeans has a plush version of the trend with velvet leopard-print pants ($189). Because of the fabric, the color is more saturated and overall the look is more dramatic and dressier. Here's where you can break out the ivory-hued silk blouse and tailored blazer or tux jacket. Like the metallic style, these have a rocker edge but can also skew more sophisticated and elegant. Just keep the accessories to simple gold pieces.
And if you decide to carry a leopard print bag for the season, make sure to swap it out for something sleek and black when wearing these or any animal-print pants.