Should You Wear Jeans with a Jacket?
Original article in Gentleman's Gazette by Sven Raphael Schneider
Have you ever asked yourselves, should I wear a jacket with jeans? Is it too formal? Is it just right?
In this guide, we talk about nothing but jeans, blazers and suit jackets; when you can wear them, when you should avoid them, and anything else you want to know about those combinations.
When Should You Wear A Jacket With Denim?
Many men today wear it yet it goes against traditional style rules because jeans used to be strictly blue-collar workwear.
Today, men’s style is a lot more casual than it used to be 50 or 60 years ago and jeans are probably the number one worn pants by men. As everything gets more casual, of course, a lot of men try to wear jeans with anything else they have in their wardrobe, particularly suit separates because that’s what they sometimes have to wear to work.
In an attempt to dress up their jeans or to dress down their suit, they simply combine the two but it rarely works and it hardly ever looks advantageous unless you follow a few clear-cut rules.
The issue of suit jackets with jeans is that it is a clash of formalities. Typically, it’s a combination seen worn by middle managers who want to seem approachable yet be a cut above their subordinates. It’s definitely a fine line to walk but dressing purposefully and thoughtfully is the key here.
How To Pull Of The Jacket & Jeans Look
1. Pair Your Blazer Or Sport Coat With Your Dressiest Jeans.
That means no holes and no used look. Also, it’s really important that you have enough contrast between your sport coat and your jeans. If you have a dark washed denim with a dark navy blazer, it’s not enough contrast and it looks odd because it’s similar yet it’s not a suit and it’s just weird.
So in general, a medium dark wash or something slightly lighter is best. It’s essential that your jeans don’t puddle and are hemmed to the exact right length.
In terms of cut, a straight leg or maybe something that slightly tapered works best. Definitely avoid really baggy cuts as well as a bootcut. Also, don’t cuff or pin roll your jeans because that’s simply too casual.
Branch out and go with jackets that have different colors as well as patterns and materials because that’s more contrasting or interesting, but also more casual and it works better with jeans. Good features include notched lapels because peak lapels would be too formal. You can also have patch pockets because they’re more formal than jetted pockets or flat pockets.
In terms of patterns, you can go with little houndstooth pattern, maybe a small micro check or a classic Prince of Wales check.When it comes to material compositions, 100% wool is okay but to make it more casual, add cotton and linen blends. Sometimes, wool linen or wool cotton blends or sometimes also a little bit of silk or cashmere for a softer hand and touch.
In terms of jacket colors, you can go with lighter shades of blue, maybe a royal blue, or even a lighter blue. Overchecks could be in red or an orange because that’s a little more casual. In the winter, brown tones are great especially as a Glen check with dark brown and off-white or maybe a herringbone jacket in a medium brown.With all those lighter colors, one pair of dark washed denim really works best because it provides a contrast and it’s a classic jeans color. The personal favorite of mine is the color green, it goes really well with dark washed denim. Also, definitely avoid white or off-white jackets because the denim will color off on it and the contrast is too strong.
Long-sleeve dress shirts are good but ideally, you should avoid the most formal variations in solid white because they’re just too businesslike. Instead, maybe you go with an off-white or a green shirt, maybe something with a rougher texture, and maybe skip ironing to create a more casual look.
Alternatively, you can also go with button-down collars because they are more casual and check shirts, as well as little houndstooth shirts because they’re also more casual than solids. If you want something like a solid, I suggest an oxford fabric with a two-tone, maybe light blue and white because it’s durable and more casual. No matter what shirt you choose, always tuck it in because an untucked shirt with a sport coat or a suit jacket simply looks odd.
4. Wear The Right Shoes.
Wear the combination of jeans and sport coat with the right kind of shoes. Black Oxfords are way too formal and not appropriate here. At the same time, boat shoes are too informal and should likewise be avoided.
Ideally, go with brown tones or burgundy and oxblood. If you want to be a little more experimental, you can think about olive green, gray or maybe navy. In terms of styles, a classic derby shoe is good.
Alternatively, you could opt for loafers, either tassel loafers or penny loafers, both work. Other good options are monk straps with some broguing and a wingtip or those more fashion-forward double monks in burgundy. If you want to go with oxfords, go with brogues, either half brogues or full brogues, because that’s casual enough to wear with jeans and it ties the ensemble together with your sport coat. Other good options include chukka boots or Chelsea boots.
In terms of leather texture, suede is really great to combine with jeans and a sport coat. Why? Simply because it’s a little more casual. It’s less serious and as such, it ties together those two elements of different formalities.
1. Never Combine Business Jackets With Denim Jeans.
Avoid black business suit jackets or pinstripe jackets with dark blue jeans; it just looks weird and odd. As discussed before, while some suit jackets can be worn with jeans especially if they’re more casual, any kind of business suit should not be combined with jeans, that includes solid navy jackets or maybe solid gray jackets but also any kind of stripe, pinstripe, rope stripe or chalk stripe. They won’t look good with jeans.
2. Skip DB business jackets.
Double-breasted is typically more formal. It has peak lapels and as such, it is even more formal than a single-breasted blazer with patch pockets. Hence, avoid those. However, in recent years, double-breasted jackets have become a lot more popular especially at Pitti Uomo. And if you have something that has a nice linen blend maybe with the Prince of Wales pattern and lighter colors, you can definitely combine them with jeans.
3. Never wear a t-shirt with jeans underneath a jacket.
It’s a clash of formalities. Either you wear just a t-shirt and some jeans and you skip the jacket altogether or you opt for the jacket but you go with a casual dress shirt or a blend of polo shirt and dress shirt that I mentioned before.
4. Never wear any kind of black shoes.
It simply looks out of place. Black is fine for formal business suits and office wear but not when you wear it with jeans. Instead go with browns, tan tones, burgundy tones, greens or anything else but not black.
5. Skip any form of neckwear.
Jeans with a jacket are not ideal if you want to wear a tie, a bow tie or maybe an ascot simply because it would be too formal and a clash. So if you opt for the combination of jacket and jeans, forego your tie and your neckwear. Instead, go with a pocket square or maybe a boutonniere because that creates a visual interest and it just creates a more polished look.
6. Do not wear a formal dress shirt with a jacket and jeans.
That means, double cuffs with cufflinks because that’s too formal for regular cotton denim. Likewise, a solid white shirt is not appropriate. A light blue might work.
Maybe go with a different texture, a different weave that is more open so it breathes better and you’re more comfortable during the summer. Striped shirts can work especially if you have bolder stripes, wider or larger scale stripes, or maybe stripes in a different color. At the same time, the whole ensemble has to work together.
7. Don’t wear jeans and a sport coat if you don’t know the dress code.
Why? Well, if you’re not sure about a dress code it always pays to dress one notch up. In that case, it would mean wearing your blazer with a pair of chinos rather than your jeans. Alternatively, if you think that’s over-the-top, you can skip the jacket and just go with a casual dress shirt and a pair of slacks, either chinos or jeans, depending on what you think is right for the occasion.
By the way, during the colder months of the year, a tweed jacket works really well with jeans simply because it’s more casual by definition. It has a coarser weave, it has warmer earth tones, and so it’s a great jacket that is usually single breasted and has notch lapels which makes it again less formal and therefore, perfectly suited for jeans.
That being said, there are tons of other jackets which are less formal and therefore equally as well suited to jeans as a tweed jacket. Some of them include a Panama jacket which is more of a summer jacket and a Harrington jacket.
You can definitely wear a jacket with jeans; just make sure it’s casual enough and not your typical business suit. When it comes to footwear, brown shoes are your friend and make sure it’s not too casual but also not too formal.