Jeans are the most widespread casual pants there are and they match with almost anything — which is why it’s surprising how easy it is to get their jacket counterpart so wrong.
So I wanted to provide a few simple tips for guys who just want a casual, low effort outfit with just a bit of an edge. I think denim jackets fit right into that sweet spot of cool but not trying too hard, and contrary to what some folks think, they’re not just for teenagers.
Understanding how to style a denim jacket is essential and this guide delves into various styling aspects, from avoiding the Canadian tuxedo to choosing the right type of jacket and finding the best boots.
Key Takeaways for Wearing a Denim Jacket for Men:
- Contrasting colors is key: I stick to dark or medium blue, and I like raw denim
- Choose a type 3; they’re the most modern, and it’s the easiest to find a decent fit for most guys.
- Keep the footwear casual; sneakers and boots look the best.
- Comfy tops like t-shirts, henleys, or flannels work best with jean jackets
The Canadian Tuxedo: Can You Wear Blue Denim on Blue Denim?
My advice is to keep the pants contrasting with the jacket. The easiest way to wear a denim jacket is with black jeans since you’re pretty likely to already own a pair. A blue denim jacket with black denim jeans is a great look that reinforces the denim jacket’s rugged charm.
The 3 Denim Jacket Types
- Type 1 and Type 2 can easily look boxy, and are hard to find anyway
- The Type 3 is the best, most popular denim jacket
In 1900, Levi’s introduced the Type 1 denim jacket, initially designed for railroad engineers, cowboys, and miners. This iconic design laid the groundwork for the later development of the Type 2 and Type 3, which eventually gained popularity, adorning the shoulders of celebrities like Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.
There are a few other influential kinds of denim jackets (like Lee’s Storm Rider, Marilyn Monroe’s favorite) but long story short: the Type 3 is the most popular and it’s the type you should get.
The Type 3 is typified by two pockets on the chest, and usually it’ll be a little longer than the other types and have a couple rows of pleats running from the pockets to the waist. Those pleats have a slight slimming effect and the chest pockets make the chest look a little broader. In short: it’s the most flattering type.
The other two types are much rarer — they’re separated by the Type 1 having a single chest pocket and the Type 2 having two under the chest — and they’re usually shorter and looser. Guys who are really into vintage fashion love them but that’s their main demographic; you usually won’t see them on the rack.
The Best Color for a Denim Jacket
- Stick to dark or medium blue
- I like raw denim; it’s not faded, so you get to fade it yourself
The safest and least controversial choice? Believe it or not, it’s blue!
For those just starting out, I recommend getting a blue jacket made of raw denim. Raw denim means it hasn’t been faded or distressed, which means you’ll be able to make your own fades as the months pass.
This is to say that black, white, acid washed or stone washed denim jackets aren’t ideal. Like the Canadian tuxedo they can work, it’s just more effort and we’re here to give you the simplest, easiest path to denim jacket success.
The Faded Denim Jacket
Dark blue is my top recommendation for a denim jacket, as it’s easy for pre-faded denim to look gimmicky or overdone. But it’s true that a faded jacket is the end goal for many raw denim buyers and it can be heard to resist the temptation to buy a jacket that’s saved you all the work of fading it yourself. Some brands do faded (sometimes called washed) denim jackets well.
I like Taylor Stitch’s, but it’s not often available. Other decent options that don’t look like you’re an extra in an 80s music video are Thursday’s Washed Indigo Trucker Jacket, Levi’s Trucker Jacket, and Ralph Lauren’s for a more subtle (and pricy) take.
The Best Denim Jackets
Once guys get really into denim, they’ll have a laundry list of requirements for their apparel, but again, we’re talking denim jacket 101 here. The main thing to remember is a lot of denim jackets have vintage cuts, meaning they’re loose (for work) and short (for high waisted pants).
Most guys don’t wear them like that anymore, and neither do I, so the brands below offer more modern fits that follow the shape of your body and don’t finish at your armpits.
Best Overall: Thursday Boot Co’s Selvedge Raw Denim Trucker
- Price: $180 for selvedge, $120 for conventional
- Offers black, raw, and washed colorways
- Good for guys with longer torsos or prefer modern fits
Made in small batches with denim sourced from the prestigious Kaihara mill in Japan with a classic fit, custom hardware, and meticulous detailing make it a versatile jacket built to stand the test of time.
Thursday Boot Company is known for its amazingly well priced boots that bring the leathers and construction typical of boots over $300 down to $199. They do the same with their denim jackets, offering two options: selvedge and non-selvedge.
Without getting too into the weeds about what selvedge denim is, the term means it’s been woven on antique shuttle looms that make fabric ten times more slowly than the conventional kind. There’s a subculture of guys that prefer it because it’s rarer, more vintage, and takes more skill to make.
Thursday’s is sourced from Kaihara mill in Japan, home of the world’s best selvedge. Don’t really care? Get the non-selvedge jackets, they’re $60 cheaper. I love that you get this option.
Whichever one you pick you’re getting a great deal, and you get the choice of black, washed, or raw. These jackets are longer than your average denim jacket too, so guys who aren’t into vintage fashion and just want a city-friendly denim jacket can wear them with ease..
Best USA-Made: Tellason’s Jean Jacket
- American-made, providing a sense of authenticity and quality
- Slightly looser fit than vintage brands
Tellason is a great option for denim enthusiasts looking for American-made jackets. This jacket isn’t too short but it’s also a little looser than some vintage trucker jackets, which might be a better fit for your style.
It’s made from a solid 14 oz. non-selvedge sanforized Cone Mills denim, which feels both durable and comfortable. This jacket features two exterior side pockets, two chest pockets, and even two interior pockets, which is super handy.
It’s not selvedge, so it’s made on projectile looms that can produce more fabric. That’s why it’s less expensive without compromising on quality, and made in the USA.
Best Value Heavyweight Jacket: Unbranded’s UB970 22oz Big Slub
- Price: $196
- 22oz thickness
- Great value for money
Unbranded is a sister brand of Naked & Famous, perhaps North America’s most successful selvedge denim brand. Unbranded spends nothing on marketing and makes their products in Macau, but they’re on those vintage shuttle looms denimheads love and the value is second to none.
That’s why we knew they deserved a spot in this article; we’re not aiming at guys who will spend over $400 on an Iron Heart jacket. You don’t want to go nuts here, but you might be curious about extra heavy denim for your jacket, and Unbranded’s is great quality and the best price you’ll find for this kind of thickness.
[Read More: A Look at Naked & Famous’s Heaviest Jeans on Earth]
The Best Pants for a Denim Jacket
- Black jeans are perfect
- Canvas pants are ideal for non-denim
- Fatigues and chinos are also solid bets
When it comes to pairing denim jackets and pants, understanding the types of fabrics and how they interact is useful. Like we said, you’re most likely to have black jeans on hand (or at your nearest store) so that’s the easiest suggestion.
When branching outside of jeans, we really like canvas. Denim is a kind of twill, a complex weave that has diagonal lines (or “wales”) running through it. It’s perfectly complemented by canvas, which is a plain weave that has more of a crosshatched look.
The key is to keep things casual — you don’t want to wear a jean jacket anywhere you couldn’t wear jeans.
Chinos are twill so they’re third on our list, but they’re solid choices so long as you make sure to not dress them up too much with, say, the smart button down people often wear chinos with in business casual settings.
Finally, fatigues are a classic casual pant with military origins (like chinos) that are very informal (and not denim) so they pair well with a denim jacket. The key is to keep things casual — you don’t want to wear a jean jacket anywhere you couldn’t wear jeans.
Best Shoes and Boots to Pair with Your Denim Jacket
- Keep the footwear casual
- Any sneaker is fine
- Stick to chunky boots like moc toes or work boots
When pairing the right footwear with your denim jacket, go for casual — and don’t try to wear a pair of loafers or anything. It doesn’t really matter if you opt for sneakers for a more casual look or boots for a rugged appeal, as long as you’re keeping the pants and shirt as casual as everything else we’ve mentioned. Denim jackets are great for making casual look more put together — but it still has to be casual.
Best Sneakers for Denim Jacket
- Iconic design with versatile styling
- Limited cushioning for extended wear
Zero problem with wearing the world’s most beloved sneakers, the Chuck Taylor All Star. (Though I prefer the Chuck 70, it’s tougher.). They’re cheap, timeless, and iconic, and stylish.
Best Leather Sneakers for Denim Jacket
- Price: $245
- A dozen colors to choose from
- Pro: High-quality craftsmanship and materials
- Con: Higher price point compared to other casual sneakers
If you’re looking to go more upscale, pairing Koio sneakers with a denim jacket is one of my favorite looks. Started in 2015 by Chris Wichert and Johannes Quodt, Koio is a perfect balance between the nearly-$500 Common Projects and Asian-made fallapart sneakers like Adidas. The attention to detail and craftsmanship are evident the moment you slip them on.
These sneakers are genuinely Italian, from the sourcing of the leather to the shoebox itself. This commitment to local production and a local supply chain ensures top-notch quality control and also supports fair labor practices and worker wellbeing. The Koio Capri is the prototypical minimalist sneaker, sleek and low profile on the famous Margom rubber sole. It’s also stitched rather than simply glued, reinforcing stress points and (practically) preventing the sole from coming away like Chucks always do at the toe break.
Best Boots for Denim Jacket
Red Wing Moc Toe
- Price: $309
- Pro: Durable construction with a timeless design, American-made
- Con: Tough break in, tough price
Boots are obviously a complex topic but to keep things simple, once again: you want casual boots. There are a ton of them that look great with a jean jacket but the most firmly casual boot for casual wear is the moc toe boot.
Most any brand works, and it’s worth noting Thursday makes a slimmer but still rugged moc toe that’s better for slimmer jeans. Still, the king of the casual moc is Minnesota’s Red Wing Heritage and their Classic Moc. It was my first boot, my first resole, and it deserves its status as an all-time great. While they’re pricy, you won’t find a better deal for a resoleable boot that’s made in America. I’ve reviewed them, compared them, and even chatted with the CEO of their Japanese office.
Best Shirts to Pair with Your Denim Jacket
- T-shirt, henley, or flannel works best with denim jackets
Once more for those in the back: keep it casual. T-shirt (or long sleeved tee) is great, henleys are my personal go-to, and if you want a button-up you should stop at the “flannel” level of formal. (Which is to say: the least formal button-up shirt.)
Feel free to wear a hoodie as well. I prefer to only wear hoodies with sneakers, but moc toe boots pair well enough.
A final point on a shirt: without getting too deep into the weeds of color matching, you want your overall outfits to have an earthy color palette or a cooler color palette.
So earthy could be like khaki pants and brown boots or green pants and orange boots. Warmer colors.
Or you can go in the direction of cooler colors, like grayscale: gray, black, blue, and white. (Blue and white can cross over to either palette.)
There’s a real oversimplification, but I get generally, you want to go with either earthy all the way over or cooler colors all the way over, as opposed to mixing and matching, say, brown and black.
(Yes, some guys do that just fine. We’re trying to give you foolproof, easy-to-follow guidelines here though.)
That wound up a little long, but all the choices basically come down to: make the jacket contrast with the pants and keep the outfit casual.
There’s an entire world of high end denim that you may wind up tumbling into once you’ve slaked your thirst for a denim jacket, and then you might want to get more daring with your outfits.
But we like to keep things as uncomplicated as possible, and we really don’t like to assume the average guy is happy to spend his entire paycheck on Japanese selvedge.
So we’re confident that the tips in this guide have helped you nail your look.
What's a cropped denim jacket?
A cropped denim jacket has a very short torso. For men, if you don't want a cropped look, go with a Type 3 and check the measurements.
What denim jacket looks good with white jeans?
A pair of white jeans pairs well with any denim jacket, whether it's raw indigo or more faded.
Can you dress up in a jean jacket?
Don't wear jean jackets anywhere you can't wear jeans. Keep the outfit casual.
Is there a jean jacket that works as a winter coat?
Fleece-lined denim jackets work great for colder weather. The best denim jacket for really cold weather is Freenote's RJ2, which is lined with shearling.
What's the difference between a light wash and a dark wash?
A light wash means it's faded. This is done by treating it with chemicals, and washing it several times, sometimes with stones to soften the fabric. Dark wash has been softened, but it's much less faded.
What's a good jean jacket for summertime?
In the summer, dress in a lighter weight denim jacket that's described as 12 ounces or less.
What's a good jean jacket for spring?
In the spring, dress in a lighter weight jean jacket that's described as 12 ounces or less. Some prefer washed denim that's been faded for a more summery look.