There are few fabrics we’ve fallen head over heels for, but denim is undoubtedly one of them. Easy and comfortable to wear, remarkably tough, and endlessly versatile, denim is one of those rare materials that doesn’t lose its appeal with repeated wear, but only gets better – developing its own custom tones and unique character over time.
And this season, both luxury and high street brands are paying homage, rediscovering the traditional workwear fabric’s potential and producing denim pieces in a myriad of washes and finishes – from raw indigo to washed-out tones, chambray to patchwork, rips to bleached.
If you’ve already mastered the timelessly stylish T-shirt and jeans combination, then here’s a guide to upping your denim game – from taking it upscale to wearing some on your feet.
1. The Denim Jacket
It’s difficult to think of a wardrobe staple that’s harder to style than a denim jacket. Wear one with jeans in a matching colour or wash and it’s all a bit Canadian tuxedo, but team with a pair of smart trousers and the jacket can seem unacceptably sloppy in comparison.
The solution? Keep things contemporary with a pair of slim or skinny jeans, chinos or casual twill trousers in black, grey or lighter neutrals like sand and white.
“We enjoy wearing our denim jackets with jeans but they also work perfectly with chinos,” says Johan Lindstedt, denim designer at Nudie Jeans. “And they’re a perfect piece for layering over lightweight jersey tees, or even under coats in the harsher seasons.”
Combine with a classic crew new tee, Henley top or long-sleeved shirt and throw your jacket over the top for a simple, go-to look that any man can pull off.
- He By Mango Vintage Wash Denim Jacket
- Lee Denim Jacket Rider Slim Fit Epic Blue
- Paul Smith Jeans Denim Jacket
- Asos Denim Jacket In Slim Fit
- He By Mango Medium Wash Denim Jacket
- Allsaints Ridgeway Denim Jacket
- River Island Dark Wash Casual Denim Jacket
- Acne Studios Jam Denim Jacket
- He By Mango Dark Denim Jacket
2. Dressed-Up Jeans
Although classicists won’t ever approve of matching jeans with tailoring, we’re with Tom Ford on this one. The designer teamed jeans with dinner jackets in his spring/summer 2015 collection and the combination looked effortlessly elegant.
Not only can jeans provide a slimmer silhouette than you might get with tailored trousers, they’re also much more comfortable, meaning you can maintain the perfect balance between feeling relaxed and looking refined.
The key to dressing your jeans up is picking the right type – they should be cut slim, in a dark wash and feature minimal distressing. Combine with some leather loafers, a long-sleeved white shirt and a lightweight blazer for an on-point smart-casual outfit that would be ideal for a spring/summer night out or Casual Friday in the office.
- Asos Stretch Slim Jeans In Indigo
- Gap 1969 Slim Fit Jeans Resin Rinse Wash
- He By Mango Slim-fit Navy Tim Jeans
- River Island Dark Wash Dylan Slim Jeans
- Uniqlo Men Slim Fit Straight Stretch Selvedge Jeans
- River Island Black Dylan Slim Jeans
- Reiss Maurice Slim-fit Jeans Black
- Nudie Jeans Tight Long John Slim-fit Rinsed-denim Jeans
- Levis 501 Ct Jeans 501 Ct Slim-fit Jeans
3. Denim Shirts & Tailoring
If you’re the kind of guy who finds most suiting stuffily formal, then adding some denim into the mix might make tailoring all the more appealing for days when dressing up is non-negotiable.
Fit is of paramount importance here, because while a slightly ill-fitting cotton shirt won’t look unforgivably out of place when paired with a suit, a denim shirt that looks sloppy is sure to undo all your hard work.
Opt for a style that fits trim but not tight and make sure the denim is lightweight (chambray options are ideal for summer) so it doesn’t add unwanted bulk to your torso. And remember to tuck it in too.
Colour-wise, pale hues work well with suiting in navy and dark grey, while darker washes are your best bet for teaming with tailoring in lighter neutrals like stone and beige. If you’re into the laid-back, bohemian aesthetic, you might even want to mix a sky blue denim shirt with a black jacket – a look championed by Saint Laurent and DSquared2 on the runways.
Don’t restrict your denim shirt to just suiting either – it looks great teamed with tailored separates, whether worn with or without a tie.
- Asos Shirt In Skinny Fit With Long Sleeve In Bleach Wash Denim
- Asos Skinny Denim Shirt With Long Sleeves In Mid Wash
- Waven Mimir Shirt In 90s Blue
- Reiss Royce Washed Denim Shirt Indigo
- Next Tommy Hilfiger Denim Shirt
- Topman Blue Bleach Denim Long Sleeve Shirt
- Jigsaw Double Denim Slim Shirt Indigo
- Uniqlo Men Denim Long Sleeve Shirt
- Alex Mill Button-down Collar Denim Shirt
4. Double Denim
This combination’s had a bad rap historically, but big-name designers and stylists have been re-imagining it in recent seasons. Although it might seem like a sartorial minefield, nailing double denim is much more manageable once you follow the cardinal rule of contrast.
Teaming denims in different washes helps define the individual elements of your ensemble so that you don’t look like an amorphous blue blob. Try, for example, a bleached denim jacket with raw indigo jeans, a dark denim blazer with a lighter-tone chambray shirt underneath, or a blue denim shirt with white denim cut-offs. Whether it’s dark with light or thick with thin, contrast is key.
Another tip is to add a couple of denim-effect T-shirts, vests, shirts or sweatshirts to your wardrobe, as these mid-layers will help you instantly expand the range of double – or even triple – denim looks that you can build, without sacrificing comfort in the heat.
- Asos Sweatshirt With Denim Front
- Hilfiger Denim T-shirt In Crew Neck
- Hilfiger Denim Hoodie With Flag Logo
- Ag Jeans Button-down Shirt
- Denim Mix T-shirt
- Reiss Mexico Denim Effect T-shirt Indigo
- J.crew Wallace & Barnes Denim-effect Cotton-terry Hoodie
- F&f Marl Vest
- Paul & Shark Linen Denim Shirt
5. White Jeans
Most guys will probably think one of two things when asked to consider white jeans. The first is something along the lines of: “Why the hell would I wear something that makes me look like someone auditioning for a mid-nineties boy band?” And the second is probably: “Cool, but there’s no way they’d work on me.”
Not so, gentlemen. White jeans are not only just as easy to wear as their indigo brothers, they’re also trending. Plus, they will bring a simple block-colour T-shirt to life in a way that darker denim never could.
“For the brave, I suggest white jeans with a simple white cotton T-shirt – it’s a fantastic summer look,” says Lindstedt. “Alternatively, team with a light blue or chambray shirt and toughen up with a leather biker jacket for an equally strong outfit.”
What’s essential is that you get the fit right (slim, with the hem sitting just above your shoe) and keep them spotless. Also worth remembering if you’re pinrolling these is that white only looks good against exposed skin that’s got a little colour, whether it’s out of a bottle or natural.
If your skin tone is anywhere from olive to black, you can try teaming your white jeans with tonal pieces – e.g. an off-white short-sleeved shirt/T-shirt and suede loafers in stone – for an on-point white-on-white look.
If, on the other hand, you’re on the paler end of the spectrum, it’s best to make white jeans the focal point of your outfit and add some colour in the form of rich, warm shades like tan, emerald green and navy.
And as fashionable as they are at the moment, avoid bright white sneakers with these jeans – you should be looking to create a contrast with your footwear.
- Allsaints Illini Pistol Jeans
- Dr Denim Jeans Snap Super Skinny Fit Clean White
- Asos Stretch Slim Jeans In White
- He By Mango Slim-fit White Alex Jeans
- Edwin Ed-80 Jeans In Red Listed White
- Reiss 1971 Wallace Slim-fit Jeans White
- River Island White Dylan Slim Jeans
- Polo Ralph Lauren Slim-fit Denim Jeans
- Levis 501 Ct Jeans 501 Ct Slim-fit Jeans
6. Denim Accessories
Aced all of the above? Then perfect your game by adding some denim accessories into the mix. Ray-Ban’s new denim wayfarers, the result of two solid years of research and development, make for a good first port of call. Featuring denim layered onto the iconic lightweight frame, they’re sure to lend any look a unique touch of texture.
Given that it’s such a hard-wearing fabric, denim is a top pick for bags too – try American Apparel’s gym bags or A.P.C’s sleek backpacks for an inexpensive and investment option, respectively.
Several brands have also been experimenting with denim across shoes and trainers, giving them a more textured appearance that will, again, age beautifully over time. Toms classic espadrilles have appeared in denim this season, while the industry’s trainer silhouette of the moment, the Adidas Stan Smith, has also been reproduced in the rugged material.
Meanwhile, brands from Vans to Gucci have reinvented signature styles with indigo denim panels, which create an unexpectedly striking effect when worn with non-denim outfits (think chinos with a blazer and Oxford shirt). Just be sure to always use sparingly, as large denim patches can look more country and western, than unconventionally stylish.
- Herschel Supply Co Glenwood Strapback Cap
- Ray-ban Wayfarer Denim Sunglasses 0rb2140
- A.p.c. Mens Denim Backpack
- Adidas Adidas Originals Stan Smith Denim
- Herschel Kenny Blue Denim Wallet
- Gucci Denim Sneakers
- River Island Blue Denim Braces
- Lock & Co Hatters Denim Flat Cap
- Next Vans Denim Bishop
6 Easy Ways To Wear Denim This Season
Smart ideas for pulling off your wardrobe’s most rugged fabric
Image: Scotch & Soda Amsterdams Blauw