A denim jacket is never exactly on-trend. Sure, the last couple of seasons have seen its star shine brighter, designers riffing on its workwear history and outsider vibes. But it’s a piece that appears in wardrobes almost by default because it suits everyone. The cropped waist makes yours look narrower and shrugging one on over a white tee immediately turns your look 100 per cent more badass.
The denim jacket is a practical beast, too. Cowboys loved them because denim deflects wind and rain, but it’s lightweight enough not to cook you when the sun comes out. It’s outerwear not built for biblical conditions – so won’t leave you looking like you’re prepping for the end of days – but it’s the holy grail piece in unpredictable weather.
Storied fabrics offer lots of options. And denim’s tale is longer than most. You can trace the silhouette to 18th century Japanese firefighters, but it was Levi Strauss who cut the denim jacket proper to build on the success of his jeans. Labourers loved it because it was hard-wearing but easy to move in, and the US Navy soon decided the same. Then, when Elvis donned double denim in Jailhouse Rock, the jean jacket became a youth uniform too.
Even as the denim jacket went premium, its rebelliousness endured. Its utility, too, which means yours will rank among the most versatile – and, therefore, worn – pieces in your wardrobe. Pick right and your jacket can be best friends with a shirt and tie, layered beneath an overcoat, or worn open over a muscle tee.
Just make sure yours fits like a second skin, with a cropped waist and high armholes, cut from the most premium denim you can afford. As it breaks in, it moulds to the way your body moves. You’ll never own anything else that fits as well.
10 Of The Best Denim Jackets
ASOS Denim Overhead Jacket
Proof that the denim jacket is multifarious, this take riffs on Stone Island’s funnel-collared overhead jacket, which every football hooligan worth his missing teeth donned in the 1990s.
The fabric switch kills those punch-up connotations and keeps things lightweight. So you’re covered in any weather.
Available at ASOS, priced £45.
ASOS Slim Fit Dark Wash Denim Jacket
On more of a classic tip, ASOS’ dark denim jacket has all the must-have features – a figure-hugging fit and high waist, which stops it bunching up – in a dark wash that works with almost everything else in your wardrobe.
Available at ASOS, priced £40.
Levi’s Trucker Jacket
Levi’s trucker jacket has barely altered since the brand launched the now iconic design back in 1962. But then, why would you tamper with a denim jacket that suits anyone from rock stars to the guys who drive their equipment between gigs?
Your festival (or everyday) wardrobe isn’t complete without one.
Available at Levi’s, priced £120.
Levi’s 1967 Type III Denim Jacket
As the name suggests, this is the third spin on Levi’s original denim jacket. The Type III was more fitted than its predecessors and featured Levi’s now iconic pointed pockets, in a rigid denim that needs serious breaking in.
It’s worth it though; once you’ve done battle with the fabric it warps to your every lump and bump. Later takes added hip pockets, but this version’s based on the 1967 original. So you’ll have to keep your hands in your 501s.
Available at Levi’s, priced £295.
A.P.C. Overdyed Denim Jacket
Trust A.P.C. to take an already minimalist piece and still find stuff to strip away.
Its denim jacket is constructed from an over-dyed blue fabric, with matching thread to keep things even more austere, plus burnished silver buttons that gives the design a roughed-up look.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £190.
Acne Studios Who Mid Vintage Denim Jacket
The best denim jackets look a little lived in. But beware the man who buys holed clothes right off the rack.
If you can’t wait for yours to get some personality, Acne has done the hard work for you, taking premium Japanese denim and lightly battering it. You just need to make up the stories for when people ask how you got it looking so good.
Available at Acne Studios, priced £220.
Rag & Bone Standard Issue Washed Stretch-Denim Jacket
Made in the US, this piece is finished in a light blue wash and blended with a hint of stretch, for supreme levels of comfort.
Dress it up with a crisp white shirt, slim-fitting trousers and boxfresh leather trainers.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £225.
Cheap Monday Staple Rinse Black Denim Jacket
If the blue denim jacket is an outlaw staple, then its black brother is the kind to silence the saloon pianist when it swings through the doors.
Thank Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent tenure for making the rocker thing cool again, by picking up a piece that kicks out Alex Turner vibes. The greaser hair is optional, but at least spilled Brylcreem won’t show up on your sleeves.
Available at Cheap Monday, priced £70.
Topman Mid Wash Denim Western Jacket
Topman knows its way around a loom and produces some of the best, most affordable denim out there.
This jacket has been tricked out with some slick western styling, a mid wash, and the kind of cut that ensures you can layer it over T-shirt and sweat without getting all bunched up. Yee-ha.
Available at Topman, priced £45.
Nudie Billy Denim Jacket
There’s more to life than denim in black and blue. Nudie’s white-washed take lightens up any look, and its undyed ecru colour also positions it as your go-to spring-into-summer outerwear.
Just keep away from red wine.
Available at END Clothing, priced £115.