Introduction

Denim is a material that is ingrained within the very core of menswear. From jeans to jackets and everything in between, the practical and rugged fabric makes its presence felt within our wardrobe season after season, come rain or shine, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

However, durability aside, it’s denim’s underrated versatility which has really helped its continued rise through the sartorial ranks.

A change in the way we view the fabric has seen denim jackets and jeans used alongside smarter, tailored garments to create expertly balanced smart-casual ensembles, whilst denim shirts and ties/pocket squares have added a new dimension to the term ‘business-casual’.

The Denim Shirt – A Menswear Essential?

Denim jackets and jeans may often steal a lot of the limelight, especially with the revival of the double denim look this year, but a denim shirt can be considered the quiet workhorse of your capsule wardrobe.

Like most modern staples, they’ve endured rough patches – the denim jacket has bore similar treatment in the past – before cementing themselves as an undoubted menswear essential due to their boundless versatility and ability to effortlessly interchange through looks.

Of course, this versatility is enhanced by selecting the right kind of shirt. Heavyweight Western versions are superb for pulling off casual, masculine looks due to their blue collar, workerwear roots – yet a slim-cut, mid-weight button-down is the style you should be looking for if you want to truly harness the power of a denim shirt.

Able to slot naturally into casual, smart-casual or business-casual outfits, the slim-fit denim shirt looks just as great paired with boots and jeans as it does dressed up with a textured wool tie and tweed blazer during autumn/winter. Not only that, lightweight versions will transition through to high summer with ease and can be worn open over a vest/tee.

It is this year-round appeal that further cements its ‘essential’ tag. Whether used as a layering or standalone piece, denim shirts are truly a modern, on-point way to step up not only your casual looks, but your smarter ensembles too. The lookbook below is testament to this.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Denim Shirt Lookbook/Outfit Inspiration

he by mango aw13drykorn aw13asos aw13burton aw13j crew fall 2013suiteblanco aw12Boglioli aw12Wrangler Australia aw13selected homme jeans aw13house of fraser aw13M.Grifoni denim aw13burton aw12
Street Style Inspiration

A perusal through the FashionBeans’ street style gallery demonstrates just how popular and versatile the denim shirt really is.

It’s held in high regard across the globe and integrates into a variety of different aesthetics – from traditional rustic attire to modern streetwear-inspired looks:

Men's Street Style - The Denim Shirt

Ways To Wear: The Denim Shirt

For our ‘ways to wear’ section today, we are going to be using one particular style of denim shirt – a mid-weight, light wash button-down from Topman – to illustrate how it is able to adapt to any scenario or occasion.

From business-casual to relaxed high summer looks, the denim shirt is set to become an important addition to your capsule wardrobe…

Look One: Cold Weather Smart-Casual

Introduce a strong tactile element within your smart-casual ensembles this winter, with the denim shirt setting the tone. Look to create depth with carefully curated layers – in this case, each piece utilises texture as a key characteristic and defining focus.

The colours on show are kept simple and timeless – this allows the denim shirt to really pop underneath the grey cable knit and dark camel blazer. A woollen, emerald green pocket square complements the shirt and is enriched by the neutral supporting layers.

Continue down the textured route with some brushed cotton trousers. Their muted all-over check print is suitably on trend and the slight burgundy tint in the fabric helps subtly inject this seasonally-appropriate hue into the ensemble.

Finish with brogues, Derbies or, in this case, dress boots for a smart-casual outfit that beats the elements in style:

  • Topman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim ShirtTopman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • Jack Wills Jumper With Cable KnitJack Wills Jumper With Cable Knit
  • Topman Dark Camel BlazerTopman Dark Camel Blazer
  • Reiss Gears Plain Wool Bordered Pocket Square EmeraldReiss Gears Plain Wool Bordered Pocket Square Emerald
  • Reiss Hopedale Brushed Check Trousers BerryReiss Hopedale Brushed Check Trousers Berry
  • Grenson Hadley Boots 160756Grenson Hadley Boots 160756
Look Two: Transitional Layering

The seasonal segue consistently proves difficult to dress for. Its arrival often signals a period of over-dressing or under-dressing, with a small few achieving perfect sartorial equilibrium. The trick? Easily removable layers – think cardigans, gilets, lightweight outerwear and the like.

A denim shirt in a light wash works well, aesthetically, for the transition to/from the warmer months, whilst a simple white crew neck tee provides a trusty base layer. Complete your top half with a chunky knit cardigan – a piece that offers warmth and can double up as a makeshift jacket.

The three items above offer a plethora of layering combinations to help beat the fluctuating weather and temperature: all three for when the weather is at its worst; sans-cardigan for when the sun comes out; and finally, simply unbutton the shirt, creating a makeshift ‘shacket’, if temperatures begin to approach those of high summer.

With the top half now settled, the bottom half proves just as tricky. Do you opt for shorts? Jeans? Trousers? The list is long and all of them come with a range of pros and cons, naturally.

With shorts you risk getting caught cold, although heavier alternatives really should be the preserve of winter. Cotton chinos or lightweight jeans offer the perfect compromise: if the mercury rises, so can your hemline, yet they will also provide protection for you pins during the cold spots.

In terms of footwear, consider the loafer. With or without socks, it’s an ideal warm weather shoe and comes in a variety of styles. Alternatively, if the loafer is a little too smart for your personal style, try a pair of classic suede desert boots or some minimalist trainers:

  • Crew Neck T-shirtCrew Neck T-shirt
  • Topman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim ShirtTopman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • River Island Purple Unfastened Chunky Knit CardiganRiver Island Purple Unfastened Chunky Knit Cardigan
  • Ted Baker Canvas BackpackTed Baker Canvas Backpack
  • Allsaints Sodium IggyAllsaints Sodium Iggy
  • Bass Weejuns Larson Black LoafersBass Weejuns Larson Black Loafers
Look Three: Off-Duty Spring/Summer

This look illustrates how a denim shirt can be worn all year round, by styling it in a spring/summer ensemble. Keep the outfit simple, functional and with an of-the-moment twist – utilising key trend-led pieces from recent seasons to create a fashionable, off-duty ensemble.

Although we have chosen a light wash shirt today, a darker wash would seamlessly integrate within this look – demonstrating how colour isn’t a barrier for the denim shirt being tagged as a true menswear essential.

Combine it with a subtle pair of printed shorts that will separate your look from the crowd, but aren’t overly ostentatious. Sparse, embroidered prints are the way to go here.

Complete in comfort with retro-styled runners; you can’t go wrong with classic New Balance. The dark red shade complements the khaki shorts and blue shirt extremely well, helping tie the look together.

The outfit as a whole is a lesson on the importance of simplicity during summer and how less is more:

  • Topman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim ShirtTopman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • Beams Plus Slim-fit Embroidered Brushed-cotton ShortsBeams Plus Slim-fit Embroidered Brushed-cotton Shorts
  • New Balance Mens Ml574fsm SneakersNew Balance Mens Ml574fsm Sneakers
Look Four: Business-Casual

Here we dress up the denim shirt for a business-casual situation. Start by pairing your denim shirt with a seasonal suit – in this case we use tweed for a tactile take on tailoring.

The two hard-wearing fabrics are perfect for the colder months, although the suit could easily be swapped for a lightweight linen version come summer.

Utilise seasonally-appropriate pieces that work in tandem with tweed, such as this wool Prince of Wales check tie, which helps reinforce an underlying heritage theme.

Finally, don’t let your footwear become this outfit’s Achilles’ heel. A solid pair of brogues completes the quintessentially British styling of this American classic with consummate, yet understated ease:

  • Topman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim ShirtTopman Light Wash Button Down Long Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • Farah Vintage Blazer in TweedFarah Vintage Blazer in Tweed
  • MICHAEL BASTIAN PRINCE OF WALES CHECK WOOL TIEMICHAEL BASTIAN PRINCE OF WALES CHECK WOOL TIE
  • Reiss ROSSMORE BroguesReiss ROSSMORE Brogues
Current Denim Shirt Styles

Although we have advocated a particular type of denim shirt today, there is a wealth of styles currently available on the market.

Below we pick out some of our favourites, along with those that offer a twist on the classic design:

  • He By Mango Slim-fit Dark Denim ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Dark Denim Shirt
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Bleached Denim ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Bleached Denim Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Denim Long Sleeve ShirtUniqlo Men Denim Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Reiss Lane Washed Denim Shirt DenimReiss Lane Washed Denim Shirt Denim
  • J.crew Selvedge Denim ShirtJ.crew Selvedge Denim Shirt
  • Acne Isherwood Denim ShirtAcne Isherwood Denim Shirt
  • Pull And Bear Denim ShirtPull And Bear Denim Shirt
  • Levis Denim Shirt Stonewash WesternLevis Denim Shirt Stonewash Western
  • Levis Denim Shirt 2 Pocket Dress BluesLevis Denim Shirt 2 Pocket Dress Blues
  • Selected Homme Glenn Western Denim ShirtSelected Homme Glenn Western Denim Shirt
  • Asos Denim Shirt In Long Sleeve With OverdyeAsos Denim Shirt In Long Sleeve With Overdye
  • Denim Spot Print ShirtDenim Spot Print Shirt
  • Topman Mid Blue Long Sleeve Denim ShirtTopman Mid Blue Long Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • Allsaints Kanda ShirtAllsaints Kanda Shirt
  • Allsaints Cannon ShirtAllsaints Cannon Shirt
  • New Look Navy Denim ShirtNew Look Navy Denim Shirt
  • River Island Dark Acid Wash Long Sleeve Denim ShirtRiver Island Dark Acid Wash Long Sleeve Denim Shirt
  • Billy Reid Washed-denim ShirtBilly Reid Washed-denim Shirt
Final Word

The denim shirt is one of the few pieces truly worthy of its essential tag. It offers something to every wardrobe; it transcends age, season and style with little effort and brings a rugged texture and blue collar roots to any look, never appearing out of place.

Despite previously being lost in the sartorial wilderness at times, the denim shirt is now here to stay. Pair it with tailoring, trainers, or both – it may have its origins in workwear but it’s no longer defined by them.

So:

  • Are you a long-time admirer of the denim shirt?
  • Or have we just convinced you to invest?
  • How do you style yours? Up, down, or both?
  • Is the denim shirt a year-round essential?

As usual, let us know your thoughts in the comments section…