Pairing sports jackets with denim jeans.
This is a simple, relaxed look that pairs the flattering shape of a suit jacket with the casual feel of denim.
It’s also highly adaptable, dressing up or down depending on the other items work.
With the right pieces, it’s hard to screw up a blue jeans/sports jacket combination.
The trick is to get the jeans and the jacket right in the first place
Alright – like always I created a quick video to summarize my points about how to wear a sports jacket with jeans. You can watch it by clicking here.
Selecting The Right Jeans to Pair with Men’s Jackets
The jeans you wear with a jacket need to look dressier (if there is such a thing!) than your basic worn out work jeans for this to be a good combination.
“Dress jeans” is something of a contradiction in terms, but people should be able to tell at a glance that you don’t wear these pants for working on your car or hiking in the woods.
A good pair of jeans to wear with a sports jacket should have the following “dressy” features:
- Close fit. They don’t have to be skinny jeans, especially down below the knees, but there shouldn’t be any sag up around the thighs and crotch. You want a smooth outline of your body, not a drape of loose cloth that you can wave back and forth.
- Dark color. Deep indigo is most common, but grays and black are also typical choices for nice jeans. More fashion-forward men may also experiment with white or very light gray jeans, or even brighter colors, but beginners should stick to jeans that are darker than the jacket.
- Proper length. You’re going to be wearing nice-looking shoes with most of these outfits, and the cuff of the jeans should rest very lightly on the tops of the shoes when you stand straight.
Other style details that aren’t mandatory but help you look more dressed-up include contrast stitching (where the seams are done in a color that stands out, such as orange or yellow on dark blue jeans), “natural” dyes with an uneven fade, and in some cases designer labels or trademarked stitch patterns.
You want to stay away from fashion details that make the jeans look more worn, even if it’s a deliberate fashion statement:
- Severe fading or “acid wash” patches
- Rips or tears of any kind
- Fraying at the cuffs and pockets
- Cargo pockets or gear loops
That’s not to say that some men don’t wear deliberately distressed jeans with jackets, but it’s a fashion-plate look — affected and a little over-the-top. Don’t experiment with it if you’re just trying to look a little sharper.
What Jacket Styles to Pair with Men’s Jeans?
The other half of the equation is your jacket.
There’s a huge range out there to choose from, and no one “right” style. But think about a couple important factors when you choose one:
- Casual Jacket Fabric – This is more important than a lot of guys realize. A very fine, worsted wool jacket pretty much screams “suit jacket” to a practiced eye. It can work with jeans, but it’s not the unthinking casual ease of something more relaxed like corduroy or a visible twill weave.
- Relaxed Jacket Cut – The advantage of any men’s jacket is the added definition, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want a razor-edged Italian suit here. A little softness in the shoulder is good, and the taper at the waist shouldn’t be too extreme. For tightness, remember the name of the garment — it should be loose enough that you could do “sport,” i.e. hunting and hiking in the countryside, comfortably.
- Bold Jacket Color & Pattern – A solid jacket is fine, but you’re not going to be wearing it to any business meetings. Have a little fun. Colors like browns and grays work well, as do patterns like windowpane checks and plaids. In general, keep the dominant color lighter than your jeans, and if you’re wearing blue jeans steer away from navy blue jackets.
A jacket that you’re buying to wear with jeans is also a great place to play around with unusual decorations you don’t wear on your other jackets.
Ever wanted to see how you look with leather elbow patches, or with big, square, accordion-style pockets? This is the place to try them out.
What to Wear with a Jacket and Jeans
The beauty of the jeans/sports jacket combination is its versatility.
With a lightly-patterned dress shirt and a sporty tie it’s dressy enough to attend casual business functions or a weekend church service in confidence. Opt for a dark T-shirt and a pair of skate shoes instead and you can fit in at a dance club.
It really comes down to the image you want to project. A jacket/jeans outfit can be safely traditional or more fashion-forward.
Don’t believe me? Here are three examples.
Dinner & A Drink
- Dark denim jeans – black, indigo, or a dark wash
- A solid dark colored sport jacket – blue, brown, or olive
- A Patterned Dress Shirt (not solid white) Butcher stripes are perfect
- Open Collar
- Pocket square (add a dash of color but keep it well tucked)
- Brown leather belt and western boots (Lucchese 1883s are nice)
I love wearing this outfit every time I’m down in Austin judging at the venture lab investment competition there at UT (Hook’em!). It’s not too flashy, yet it lets me seamlessly move from interviewing start-up founders to going out to dinner at one of Texas’ finest steak houses without missing a beat.
- Dark indigo denim jeans
- Earth-tone or khaki sports jacket
- Lightly-patterned (not solid white) dress shirt
- Necktie (something colorful)
- Pocket square (same — no need for crisply-pressed white edges)
- Brown leather belt and casual dress shoes
This also happens to be a good outfit for a tweed cap, if you have one lying around, and it looks good under a light wool coat in cooler months. Wear the look anywhere from the kids’ sports games in the fall to Easter brunch with the grandparents. It also makes a nice dressy update for men in dress-casual offices where khakis and a blue oxford shirt are the staple uniform.
- Dark or boldly-colored (e.g., orange, green, etc.) jeans
- Soft-shouldered sports jacket, close-fit
- Dark, single-color fitted T-shirt or turtleneck (distinct from jacket color)
- Subtly-patterned pocket square, folded loosely
- Colored canvas shoes
- Decorative belt (unique buckles are handy to have here)
This will look better on younger men, in artistic crowds, and in urban and evening settings. You could theoretically use the same jeans and jackets as you do for the classic dress-casual outfit described above; you just change the style and color of the other items around to adjust the feel of the outfit.
How To Start Wearing A Sports Jacket & Jeans?
Hopefully these examples make the point for you: a sports jacket and a well fitted pair of dark jeans can go anywhere you need them to.
I personally sport this look and encourage men to think of it as a “default” for day-to-day life.
Now if you’ve made it this far you might be wondering – this is all good and all, but how do I get started?
The answer is to practice.
You already have a pair of jeans that you love the fit of. If they’re not dark & solid consider buying a new pair – they can be found for well under $50.
Next focus on the jacket – nail the fit, and whether its a designer or thrift store buy – you’ll look good assuming the style is classic & timeless.
Now wear it.
Going out to the store? Meeting a friend for a drink? First date?
Throw on a jacket.
It looks good.
Give it a try!