There’s probably some science behind why the denim jacket is so consistently handsome and endlessly wearable. That’s not why we’re here. It just is.
Though it may be chopped, changed, nipped and tucked season on season, the truth is it never falls out of favour in men’s fashion.
It’s a piece that appears in wardrobes almost by default because it suits just about everyone, making waists appear narrower and looking stylish without trying too hard.
Then there’s the thick, rugged construction, which makes it a practical workhorse of a garment, deflecting wind and rain without causing its wearer to overheat when the sun comes out.
And anyway, who chooses to argue with cowboys, railroad workers and miners? Not us.
The History of the Denim Jacket
Elements of the garment itself can be traced back to the indigo dyed work coats worn by 18th-century Japanese firefighters. But it was Levi Strauss in the 1880’s who cut the denim (or ‘trucker’, as he called it) jacket as we know it today, to build on the success of his already wildly popular jeans.
Labourers loved it because the fabric gave the jacket a hard-wearing edge, but was still easy to move in, and the US Navy soon decided the same. It wasn’t long after that Elvis opted for double denim in Jailhouse Rock (1957), thrusting (quite literally) the denim jacket into the mainstream, where it remains today.
Not all denim jackets are created equal, mind. When it comes to buying one, it’s important to know how to sort the denim to don from the denim to ditch. “A tailored fit, a good weight denim, and the stitching and rivets are the key pillars of a first-class denim jacket,” says Topman buying director Rachel Morgans.
As part of this three-point checklist, make sure any jacket you pick up isn’t paper-thin, it doesn’t drown you (even if it’s oversized), and be sure to scrutinise the finer details such as hardware (zips marked ‘YKK’ are an excellent determiner of quality).
Get all these right and you’ll have a jacket that’ll keep on trucking for as long as you can fit into it.
How To Wear A Denim Jacket
The payoff from taking time to nail your denim jacket purchase is the number of styling options that it offers. While it may have started out as a piece of grease-covered workwear (and as such looks effortless in casual outfits), it’s also possible to slide a well-fitting example under an unstructured blazer or overcoat.
Morgans, however, recommends keeping things simple: “A denim jacket is a casual fashion staple, so pair it with a plain T-shirt and opt for a pair of chinos.”
If you’re after a more attention-seeking look, consider doubling your efforts: “The double denim look is a tricky one, so if you lack confidence, wear your denim jacket with a pair of much darker jeans,” adds Morgans.
The Best Denim Jacket Brands For Men
High-street giant Topman prides itself on always having its finger on what’s hot right now. So if you’re after denim with an on-trend edge, you need look no further. Whether oversized, distressed, pre-faded or embellished, the retailer’s not-so-run-of-the-mill designs are hard to beat.
The original and still one of the best, Levi’s iconic trucker jacket is the style that spawned a thousand imitators. Today’s iterations of the classic may have had a superficial overhaul – available in a range of washes and with details such as a down-filling – but they all still share the same timeless design and robust build.
If high-quality, unfussy wardrobe staples in a pared-back palette are your thing, then Paris-based brand A.P.C. is an obvious sartorial go-to. Already well-known for its selvedge denim jeans, the same knowledge has been applied to jackets, which come in classic, easy-to-wear shades.
The men’s denim offering at ASOS is (probably) the most comprehensive anywhere on the web. With hundreds of products in the category alone, if you can think of a style – classic, contemporary, slim-fitting or plus-sized – chances are you’ll find it here.
By now, pretty much every man is in agreement that Stockholm design collective Acne Studios is the ultimate in Scandinavian cool. While leather jackets may be the brand’s most famous export, its recently refreshed denim line is every bit as scalpel sharp (and way more wallet-friendly).
When it comes to providing quality, affordable clothing which responds to the fast-changing tastes of men, few do it like River Island. The high-street retailer’s denim jackets come in a dizzying array of colour, cut and wash options, which means you’re utterly spoilt for choice.
Based in Gothenburg, denim brand Nudie Jeans has been quietly outfitting stylish legs since the turn of the millennium. Thankfully, its line of denim jackets – cut from dry denim, which breaks in over time – is just as appealing, meaning your torso can benefit from the Sweden’s famed clean lines and high-quality design, too.
Not content with perfecting perhaps the ultimate distressed leather jacket, AllSaints can now lay claim to making major noise in the world of men’s denim. Its jackets display the British brand’s trademark (and perfectly executed) worn in detail, making them a solid choice for more casual, grungy looks.
Any brand that made its name in the 1990s is bound to turn out top-notch denim. Gap may be a go-to for basics, but there’s nothing basic about its jean jackets, which marry vintage design details with modern cuts and colours, all without giving your wallet cause for concern.
Established in 1889, workwear specialist Carhartt has built a name that is today shorthand for rugged, hardy clothing that can withstand a bit of rough and tumble. True to form, the US firm’s denim jackets champion functional design and robust fabric composition, while still managing to look damn good.
Japanese brand OrSlow prides itself on producing clothing made from locally sourced materials on specialist machinery. Its line of workwear-inspired denim jackets is no different: impeccably cut, crafted with care and endlessly stylish.
Established in Japan in 1947 and coveted by denimheads the world over ever since, it’s little surprise that Edwin’s jean jackets are the perfect partner to the brand’s lusted-after jeans. Though they cost more than the average high-street option, they are ideal for lovers of premium raw denim and relaxed fits.
H&M has conquered pretty much every street corner and shopping centre in the world thanks to its agreeable prices and seemingly endless stream of new drops. Denim jackets are very much one of the Swedish firm’s fortes, combining sturdy construction with trend-led designs.