How To Buy A Men’s Jean Jacket – Man’s Guide To Denim Jackets

levis mens jean jacketsThe jean jacket has been around for a long time.

In the last few years it’s become a popular fashion trend – especially when layered.

But the hipsters didn’t invent this classic pieces of menswear.

Heck, I remember having a jean jacket as a kid growing up in Midland, Texas.

My jean jacket was tough as nails and  something I never worried about tearing when I had to feed the horses or throw bales of hay.

 

Americans a prone to thinking of denim as their own uniquely national fabric, but its origins are in Renaissance Europe.

Nimes, France and Genoa, Italy both claim to have originated the fabric. Both also claim to be a namesake — in theory, Nimes gives us “de Nimes,” or “from Nimes,” which became “denim,” while the sturdy blue cloth from Genoa became known by traders as “bleu de Genes,” giving us “blue jeans.”

There are even paintings from Italy in the mid-1600s that show denim jeans, skirts, and jackets much like the ones we know today!

Much like the marketing-encouraged legend that gold-mining “49ers” wore Levis (the company wouldn’t start making its denim overalls for another 20 years after the end of the California gold rush), you can take those stories with a grain of salt.

For a quick video overview of the Jean Jacket – click here.

It’s safe to say, then, that no modern brand or fashion label can claim credit for “inventing” the jean jacket.

If anything, denim jackets are ubiquitous.

Everyone has made them at one point or another. From Levis to Gucci to Abercrombie & Fitch, they’ve always been on the racks.

 Functional – Timeless – Attractive

These things are what make the Jean Jacket a classic wardrobe item every man should consider.

 

Reasons to Buy a Denim Jacket

levis mens jean jacketWhy all that universal popularity? Does anyone really need jean jackets, apart from cowboys and greasers? If you’re on the fence, it’s worth keeping these advantages of the jean jacket in mind:

Three-Season Wear

The big advantage of a jean jacket — and much of the reason for its enduring popularity — is that it’s useful for most of the year.

Much like a pair of jeans,  a denim jacket is light enough to wear on a warm spring day but warm enough to get you through the coolest parts of fall. About the only times you won’t want to wear one are the height of summer and the very coldest parts of winter.

Weights can vary, of course, and the addition of lining fabrics makes a jean jacket warmer but less versatile. (It can also add a visually interesting contrast — most lined jackets have a pattern on the inner surface.) But in general, denim jackets fall under the header of “three-season” wear, good for much of the year.

Beat ‘Em Up Coats

Denim’s big selling point has always been its low-maintenance toughness. You can beat it up in a way that you can’t treat more delicate fabrics.

Assuming your jacket is 100% cotton denim, you can wad a jean jacket up without worrying about wrinkles. It won’t rip easily, and if you’re buying from a manufacturer like Levi’s that reinforces stress points with rivets the lifespan gets even longer.

Heavier weights are obviously going to be tougher, and good fit with no too-tight straining spots ensures both comfort and durability. But in general, a denim coat is going to be as tough or tougher than similar coats made from a finer weave.

wragler tough wear jean jacketCasual Style

Denim has gotten dressier over the last few decades, but you’ll still always be casual in a jean jacket.

That’s part of the appeal — throwing on a denim jacket puts some distance between you and “the suits.” It’s an excellent casual substitute for a blazer or a sports jacket when you feel that either of those would seem a little too stuffy.

It’s also a good way to add a collar and some buttons to a plain T-shirt — in that case, it’s actually dressing the outfit up a little, and giving your face and figure a better frame than a shirt on its own.

Additionally, a well-fitted denim jacket has the same slimming effect of a good sports jacket. If you’ve got one with a little bit of taper to the waist, it gives you a more flattering silhouette than a big, boxy coat. Most manufacturers taper their men’s jackets, and you can seek out “slim fit” options if you want a more dramatic narrowing.

So yes, jean jackets have long been the symbol of cowboys, truckers, rock stars, and other informal, rough-and-tumble men — and that’s part of why it’s nice to wear one from time to time.

Even if you’re not a trucker or a rock star yourself, your fashion can still nod to that independent spirit.

 

How to Wear Your Denim – Jean Jacket Style

Some men don’t hold back from a jean jacket because they don’t like the style, or can’t think of a reason to wear one, but rather because they see it as a difficult piece to wear.

And it’s a valid concern — there are lots of ways to look really stupid in a jean jacket! Some men have achieved truly, spectacularly dumb looks in theirs.

But for the most part, if you dress with a little common sense, you can make a jean jacket work as easily as any other wardrobe piece:

Fit: Snug and Straight

The best way to look good in your jean jacket is to get one that fits well in the first place. A tailor can do minor adjustments to the length of the sleeves easily enough, but you don’t want to plan on having significant adjustments made once you get the jacket off the rack.

Instead, buy one that has a good, snug fit in the first place. You’re looking for nice straight lines throughout your figure — the jean jacket shouldn’t billow or sag in visible folds. The shoulders and sides should be clean planes, and the front and back should fall smooth and flat.

Length can vary a bit depending on styles, but most denim jackets are cut right around the waist. Too much longer than that and it starts to look more like an untucked work shirt; too much shorter and it’s getting girly. You won’t go wrong with a basic waist-length, or upper-thigh at the longest.

wrangler jacketColor

Most jean jackets are blue. That’s unsurprising, given that modern denim jackets started as a way to repurpose scraps from the manufacture of blue jeans!

Light blue is the color of “working jeans,” and the most casual option. This is getting into pretty serious cowboy and trucker wear. (It’s also a favorite for cropped, distressed, or otherwise-altered women’s jean jackets, so beware of short ones with ragged edges unless you’re actively trying to look like Britney Spears.)

Darker blues, on down to deep indigo, dress the jacket up a little. These are the most common option out there for men right now.

Non-blue colors are more fashion-forward. They make the jacket a little less versatile, but also help it stand out a little. If you’re feeling bold, there’s no law against wearing colored denim. Just use the same caution you would when wearing colored denim pants — to nightclubs and rock concerts, yes; to work on Casual Friday, no.

Matching the Denim Jacket

If you’ve never heard the phrase “Canadian tuxedo,” here’s all you need to know about it: it refers to wearing blue jeans and a matching denim jacket, and it’s not a compliment.

Your jacket and trousers should always have a bit of contrast if you’re not wearing a suit, but it’s especially critical with denim. Too much of it makes you look like a Hollywood caricature of a 1970s trucker.

In general, just wear pants that aren’t denim when you wear your jean jacket. Cords, chinos, khakis, and even some casual dress slacks can all look fine with a jean jacket, as long as there’s some color contrast. It takes the whole problem of matching denim out of the equation.

If you must wear denim pants and a denim jacket at the same time, make sure the colors are substantially different. Light gray jeans and a dark indigo jacket can work; a medium-blue jacket with light blue jeans will not. Really, your best solution here is “buy more pants,” so that you don’t have to pair denim with denim.

Conclusion: To Buy A Jean Jacket, Yes or No?

There’s no reason that anyone has to own a jean jacket. There are alternatives out there.

But they’re great pieces of equipment: sturdy, versatile, and low-maintenance, with a weight that works for the better part of the year. (Only in temperate climates, of course — you’ll get less use out of a jean jacket in Indonesia than you will in Iowa.)

Anyone that’s looking for a midweight jacket in a casual style could do a lot worse than to try denim. If nothing else, you’re following in the footsteps of 400 years of fashion.

Where to Buy A Jean Jacket?

The jacket I wear in the video is a classic Levi’s Trucker jacket – you can buy it here.

I also really like the Wrangler Rugged Wear Denim Jacket & Carhart Sandstone Jean Jackets

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About Antonio

Antonio Centeno is President of ATailoredSuit.com and the founder of RealMenRealStyle.com. He has created over 700 articles & videos on men's style, blogs over at the Art of Manliness, and is the creator of the internet's best selling personal presentation course - A Man's Guide To Timeless Style. Antonio has studied clothing design in London, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. He is a former US Marine with an MBA from UT Austin and a BA from Cornell College. He loves to hear from old friends and make new ones.

  • Dave

    i think it looks alright. the main thing i noticed was that, for the majority of your videos, you give a relatively formal presentation, so the jean jacket looks a little out of place in this context. towards the end of this one when you start to joke a bit, it seems more appropriate and looks good.

  • mrdanielcruz

    Unless you are going into a farm or the jungle than it is not necessary!! It is not so US to wear such of thing. Please discard!!!!!!!

  • DUI Attorney

    Over 50, other than for farmers or construction workers, a blue or black jean jacket isn’t worth the effort. The right look and fit wouldn’t be worth the time to search considering all other options. An older guy can find a nice jacket to go WITH a pair of jeans by walking into Nordstrom. The right blue denim jacket would send you to multiple malls and ultimately online. And, finding even a pair of jean pants that look good is hard enough by itself. You look good with the particular shirt you are wearing. I compare the Levi jacket fit to wearing a Cafe Racer leather. Better not be even a pound overweight. Better options in denim for an older guy would be something other than blue, perhaps a brown or green in a Filson. Then a person might still be able to wear their blue jeans.

  • rafaelscreative .

    asf

  • Jared Jones

    The jean jacket is for everyone; that’s what makes it such a timeless piece. The only advice I would give in regards to it is beware of solid washes! The original purpose of it was for farmers and cowboys so with that in mind you have to assume that their washes weren’t so solid. They lived in those jackets so there is a little fading and distress that’s associated with them. That original and vintage looked that they exuded is what made this jacket so iconic in the beginning. Along with the wash, like you said the fit is also very important. You do want folds but not because of the fabric; they should be because of the distress. The jacket should be snug but it shouldn’t fall too far below the waistline. It gives it a bulky look. You are not too old to wear a denim jacket you just have to wear one that has character to create the rugged look the jacket is meant to portray.

  • Exnyer

    I travel often. I have found the 6 pockets of the classic denim jackets to be of exceptional good use the two interior pockets hold tickets and passports beautifully . The cotton fabric breaths well offering almost automatic temperature control when moving from the balanced A/C of airports in the modern world to the unpredictable temps of less well appointed airports. Further this jacket is great when on the airplane itself. The climate on board an airplane changes abruptly to me esp. on overnight international flights. No problem I can keep this jacket on without worrying about its appearance. I have noticed that I stand out less while dressed this way adding to my wife’s sense of security. I have worn this jacket with a comfortable white oxford shirt and my ultimate ROC pants by Columbia Sportswear for really long trips and I never feel that the look is “young” by any means. Ralph Loren looks great in his denim, I suspect it is the ease of wear provided by this classic piece. Should you have one in your wardrobe? YES! But I would urge you to get one that is faded. The one you are wearing looks like your going to the funeral of your horse. LOL

  • paul

    I only wear the one’s I personally made myself from virgin cotton.

  • Rob

    As usual, GREAT job. Thank you for addressing a lot of my unanswered questions!

  • 7zyzz7

    I found that by folding the jacket opening into a lapel like on a suit, makes it look really refined and more aesthetically pleasing.

  • Phil T

    I am a so called older man and I love wearing jean jackets thanks Antonio and as you say can pull it off …………

  • Mike

    It’s a classic, but only for the under 30 crowd. After that, you’re really pushing it wearing it for fashion. After 30, it’s best worn by real ranchers and farmers etc. And, as somebody noted, you better be lean and tall to make it work. Pass 30, your best choices for work coats are from Carhart and or Filson. They give you many options to fit different types of body types.

  • Malone

    I usually agree with your style tips and all of the cornerstone of the classics that make up a timeless wardrobe. But I know plenty of men 40-50+ years old that can totally rock a cool denim jacket in the right circumstances… and a lot depends on where you reside.

  • Joseph

    I remember my first Levis jean jacket when I had enough money saved from my allowance and went to Modell’s and saw it, tried it on, and walked out wearing it. I grew up being in uniforms all my life from catholic schools, to suites, changed professions and now wearing scrubs. I recently have taken notice of my wardrobe and have realized that all I wear are t-shirts in conservative colors, jeans with loafers or oxfords, windbreakers, zipper sweater, and one leather jacket. My favorite jeans were Wranglers, Lees, and Levis but Levis have a better fit for me. I have been thinking about purchasing a jean jacket again but am not sure because I am over 50 but in good shape. I have seen your videos on YouTube.com and agree on many of your suggestions and how to make conscious decisions and not impulsive ones which I have done only to see my clothes being donated. I have received compliments but no one knows how much I lost in time and money. Now that I am making an effort on improving my wardrobe and still want to feel relaxed in the clothes I wear – your videos and others on Youtube.com are very helpful. You are doing a great job and continued success. Thank you.

  • RMRStyle

    Hey Joseph – this is a GREAT story – thanks for sharing and I am happy to help you on your journey :)

  • RMRStyle

    Yea – I should have clarified but you nailed it – older men in the right circumstances can rock it!

  • RMRStyle

    Thanks Mike!

  • RMRStyle

    Interesting…….

  • RMRStyle

    You’re welcome Rob!

  • RMRStyle

    You sound like a sewing stud!

  • RMRStyle

    Thanks for the great comment sir – loved it!

  • RMRStyle

    Solid points Jared!

  • RMRStyle

    fsa

  • RMRStyle

    What – you left out Ranchers! :)

  • RMRStyle

    Sorry – kept it!

  • RMRStyle

    Thanks – I do need to lighten up!

  • paul

    Actually, I am not only a sewing stud but also a sexual stud, just as long as my conquests are all virgins and have no one to compare me to.

  • menstyle

    No comment here – gotta keep this site PG-13!

  • Fred M.

    I don’t think I could do a full on denim jacket, but I am strongly considering a Presentation Jacket from Duluth Trading. It seems like a great middle point between the casual denim and the almost formal (anymore) blazer. Anybody else have a Presentation Jacket?

  • Tony

    Antonio, I agree with Malone. It depends on where you reside, and the occasion or company you will be with. But I also think it depends a lot on the character and nature of the person- only certain types can pull this off. I don’t feel casual enough to be comfortable in this type of jacket, for the same reason I don’t feel as comfortable in shorts as I am in trousers. Having said that I really like the idea of a denim jacket; the durability of material and buttons, and functionality of pockets.

  • Darren

    This is interesting. I’m 48 and had stopped wearing jean jackets shortly after high school but recently I found one that I really love. It is second hand and nicely worn in. It was probably originally black but now its washed to a grey and white and it matches my hair, hahaha, and the gold threads match my skin so it feels like part of me. I always felt this type of jacket worked well for me because I am a casual, lighthearted person by nature and not very tall (5’7″) or heavy. So I think it depends on the person, the impression they are striving for and where and how they wear it.

  • RobSanDiego

    Where you live and what you do has a LOT to do with how you’ll look, but one important point is how much wear is on it. The guy in the top photo looks like a New York dude who works at a keyboard. Why? Two crew neck shirts and the jacket’s brand new! The cowboy looks like a Houston stockbroker out for a night out at Gillie’s, his duds are too new looking also.

    The jean jacket is a working man’s jacket, not a metrosexual fashion accessory. DON’T BUY GUCCI OR RALPH LAUREN, OR OTHERS OF THAT ILK, UNLESS YOU WANT EVERYBODY TO KNOW YOU’RE A POSEUR.

  • Yosua Wisnu

    I’m an Indonesian and we only have 2 season, the dry and rainy, well you could use the jean jacket on the dry, and you won’t on the rainy, so yeah it’s half a year.

  • menstyle

    Sounds great Fred. A presentation jacket can be casual to business casual setting.

  • menstyle

    Great point there Tony. Thanks for sharing.

  • menstyle

    Good point Darren. I agree with the fact that you mentioned it depends on the person and where or how they wear it.

  • mansman60

    I think it looks great and dont think you need to be a particular age to wear one; I’m 56 and have had one in my wardrobe for the last 30 years or so usually by Levis. I wear mine either with a T-shirt or a formal day shirt e.g. from Lewins or Thomas Pink. As long as you don’t do denim on denim you’re OK.

  • menstyle

    Good point Rob

  • menstyle

    That’s interesting Yosua. It really depends on the climate as well when you wear a denim jacket

  • menstyle

    Good point there!

  • Leo

    You could possibly wear it if your hair was a bit longer

  • Rimbo Gunawan

    hi antonio,
    do you think jeans can be used for formal event? and how we do it?

  • menstyle

    Jeans look best when worn casually. If you want to upgrade your look – you can wear a dark pair of jeans with a sports jacket to look sharp

  • Aaron

    I must disagree with Mike’s only under 30 comment.

    Past a certain age I think a man will look better in a denim jacket that has timeless, classical features. Dark indigo (like the Levis jacket in the article), no distressing or stonewashing or anything else that will make the jacket look dated or like fast fashion piece.

    Being in good shape and lean helps a lot too.

  • menstyle

    Aaron,
    Classy is always timeless.

  • Thom

    Well, I think you also have to take into account that many items that started as work wear are now becoming more common for people to wear that aren’t doing heavy work. Men’s boots are a great example, and jeans themselves!

  • Sherman H

    Sorry Rob but your comment sounds kind of ignorant to me. Do I need to be playing basketball to wear Chuck Taylors? Do I need to be working class to wear jeans? Fashion is what it is, just because you dress a certain doesn’t mean you have act that way. Some people just like the look.

  • David Franklin

    I agree DUI Attorney. As I get older I like to keep my life simple. Not into having a lot of random pieces of clothing. Everything needs to work together.

  • David Franklin

    Great points Mike. I agree totally. Not being dressed age approriate can make one look a bit silly.