Timeless, durable, worn, weathered, clean, cool, signature in prints and patterns of adopted distress. The denim jacket is a modern staple in any cosmopolitan closet, and for those who haven’t dived into denim’s outerwear mainstay, a steady primer on the looming question: how to buy and style?
The total appeal of a denim jacket is its versatility and resilience. Pick the perfect first piece and it will be an above-the-waist staple.
First things first: fit.
The perfect denim jacket should fit like a shirt while structure and stock of denim lends levels of layering versatility well-beyond its limited title as just a “jacket.”
The right jacket should fit cozy in the shoulder –– snug, not suffocating, short-stocked, nor shoulder-padded. Word to the wise, default to a downsize: if you’re a large, go medium, etc. Denim carries weight by natural design, so you’re not losing any of the aesthetic if you move down a size. The tighter fit lends more to a formed silhouette, and the slightly-slimmer frame opens up possibilities for a wool overcoat for colder climates or even one-off unseasonably cool night.
A genuine fitting denim jacket should cut right at the hip –– too high, and you’re courting a crop-top, too low, and you’ve got an ill-fitting overcoat. Keep in mind denim’s natural wear-and-tear structure-shifting capacity, as well; a denim fit is never truly finalized, so think about fabric shrink and fade before you commit to buy.
Color is key
Especially with denim, the tone is definitive when it comes to establishing your own bona fide style. Black, white, charcoal, stonewashed, dark indigo, traditional vintage fade… Use tint to compliment your wardrobe: both existing and idealized. Choose a color that accentuates and emphasizes the style you have, the style you want, and ideally the existing hybrid. You’ll know it’s the right shade when you can see it paired with quite possibly every piece in your apparel arsenal.
The denim color palette is all but panoramic in the modern fashion climate, so stick to the standards to make your statement: indigo, black / charcoal, white / cream. If “Indigo” sounds overly-specific: take fifteen seconds to consider the million shades of “denim.”
Signature jean blue is a go-to standard if you’re making a first denim jacket purchase. It bears the fabrics timeless natural color, and will reflect more organic wear patterns to develop with your own evolving sense of style.
The jet black chroma boasts a bold break from traditional indigo, and enhances the diesel feel of denim’s stock. Noir tones emphasize a muted strength, but fade well over time into the understated rogue appeal of a lighter charcoal.
White denim works well any time of year (climate withstanding), despite, and partially due-to, dated fashion norms. Los Angeles is known for its perpetual “72 and Sunny,” which lends an ideal year-round backdrop for cream and white denim. Getting just the necessary cut and color for lighter denim takes time, so test the sea legs with a few classic indigo pieces, and maybe a denim noir, before pressing the necessity of a white denim jacket.
Once you’ve got the form and fade set, try a few custom modifications for style. Double-cuff the wrist, pop the collar for a bit of lift, rework the button standard. The denim jacket works just as well as a sartorial centerpiece as it does wardrobe wingman, so add accessories that play off of the jacket’s rugged appeal.
Soften the edge with a cashmere scarf or underlayer V-Neck sweater. Magnify the muted rebellion aesthetic with silver-rimmed aviators. Latch a designer chain on the leather wallet and give the beltline a mellow-metal feel, and more low-key build on the bold. True versatility knows no bounds.
How to Wear
Hers: Denim jackets made their way into women’s style culture on the sleek shoulders of the 60s British Mod scene. Slim-fit, clean lines, understated cool, definitive gender-neutrality. Think subtle severity and double-down pitch noir black denim. Time grants transformation, and women’s fashion is no stranger to change: just about any look is a viable avenue so long as the fit is deft. Focus on clean lines and structure (think rugged not ragged), work with the specific denim hue that works best for you, and from there the aesthetic possibilities are as open, or limited, as the scenes you frequent.
His: Resilient, seasoned, structured with room to move, the men’s denim jacket exudes considered independence. The piece is made to layer, and should be worn with a focus on the supporting wardrobe elements. However you layer a denim jacket, the fit should boast your figure –– whether a slender John Lennon, stocky Steve McQueen, or somewhere in-between. The perfect denim jacket should fit as well over a simple t-shirt as it does underneath a neat blazer –– when in doubt, downsize. Snug at the shoulder, cuts off just at the hip, definitive color to span the rest of your style arsenal, and the rest is up to the landscape.
How to Pair
Hers: Break from the standard and pair your dark-wash denim jacket with a simple silk cami dress. Make it a look with a light long-sleeve layer in between or coated denim beneath, minimalist stone statement pieces, a leather belt to bring it together, and mid-calf black gladiator sandals to finish. Add a cross-body bag for storage, style, and to give the jacket pockets a rescue from premature wear-and-tear. Boho Americana from a minimalist lens is signature Los Angeles, a perfect style to make your own.
His: Bring denim to the contemporary boardroom and pair a jet black denim jacket with a smart blazer, try charcoal wool to enhance the contrast and null the assumed clash. Wear a white button down to maintain elemental simplicity within the layering. Tie or no-tie? Depends on how you sort the buttons. Don’t force extra fabric if you’re keeping the layers closed: you must breathe. Let the clothes speak, but cool comfort and a neat fit should be priority. Go with raw denim slim-fit slacks, and charcoal suede boots. Add a proper timepiece to make a statement with the wrist-wear, and you’ve got the makings of a corporate coup by way of the wardrobe.
Neutral Standard: A timeless no-fail signature pairing for a denim jacket, worthy of amateurs and aficionados alike, is a contemporary take on the Mod aesthetic. Dark-wash denim jacket, sailor stripe boxy tee, slim-fit denim jeans, and a simple loafer or Chelsea boot to finish. Add a scarf for a neat addition to the minimal slate.
With that, welcome to the weathered world of denim jackets: set, sorted, ready to sort-and-style that perfect first.