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Should you wear a denim jacket with jeans?

When you need to get dressed in a hurry or you have to run out to go to the store or you just have to throw something on real quick, you probably reach for a pair of blue jeans. Everyone has owned a pair of blue jeans at least once. And most people have lots of pairs of jeans hanging in their closets. They’re the go-to item that everyone loves. But does that mean it’s okay to pair those denim jeans….with more denim? Can you wear a denim jacket with jeans or is this, in fact, a fashion catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions? Style experts, casual observers and people from all walks of life have their own opinions when it comes to the denim-on-denim look. Where do you stand in this, one of the greatest style debates of all fashion history? 

The Denim Denim Problem

Denim blue jeans. Denim jacket. It’s known as the Canadian tuxedo and depending on who you ask, it’s either a perfectly fine fashion choice or it is a style crime so foul it should be punishable by jail time. Yeah, this is a pretty hot fashion debate.

Wearing denim on denim laying down

The Art of Manliness summarized the look pretty well, saying “The one rule you’ve probably heard about wearing a jean jacket is to never do ‘double denim’; that is, you shouldn’t wear a denim jacket on top of denim jeans. The result of this pairing is what’s called the ‘Canadian tuxedo,’ named after an incident in the 1950s, when Bing Crosby was banned from a swanky Canadian hotel for wearing an all-denim get-up, and the Levi’s company responded by making him an entire denim tuxedo to rock.

“The reason that ‘double denim’ is considered a faux pas is that when your denim jacket and jeans are too matchy-matchy, it looks like you’re wearing a weird pseudo suit. But avoiding this combo isn’t a hard and fast rule. While it’s more difficult to pull off well, you can wear a denim jacket with jeans, as long as you make sure there’s a good amount of contrast between the two pieces.”

A Quick History of Denim

Denim is made out of cotton and it has a reputation for being a bit of a “wonder” fabric. It resists wrinkles, it’s soft to the touch but it’s also durable and it looks great. Denim resists tears and rips, it’s non-irritating on the skin and it washes well to resist stains. 

Wearing denim on denim from behind

But where did this fabric come from? Specifically, denim comes from the town of Nimes, France. The word “denim” probably comes from a phrase meaning “fabric from Nimes.” It was the perfect material for tailor Jacob Davis, who had been asked to provide local miners with tough pants that could handle their tough jobs. Luckily, Davis bought his fabrics from a retailer named Levi Strauss. Together, the two discovered that using denim to create pants was exactly the right idea.

And they made fashion history using this material for their blue jeans, which were first patented in the 1870s. Levi Stauss continues to be a famous name in jeans. Strauss has been the cornerstone of many a great outfit idea involving denim-denim looks. This blue jean wizard didn’t stop with pants made out of denim fabric.

In fact, Strauss is credited with inventing the first denim jacket in 1880. He called it the Triple Pleat Blouse. It was designed to be worn by miners and other hard-working types who did tough work in harsh environments. The denim jacket Strauss designed was specifically made to complement the blue jeans Levi Strauss & Co. was already famous for. This means that from the outset, denim jackets were actually meant to go with denim jeans…no matter what the style experts might say. 

Modern Denim Fashion

Denim in both jean and jacket form exploded on the pop fashion scene in the 1950s thanks to cultural icons of the day, such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Both wore denim jeans and denim jackets. The two sex symbols truly lit the fashion world on style with their casual, glamorous denim looks. Suddenly, everyone wanted to own a pair of jeans and a cool denim jacket to go with them. 

Denim on denim outdoor look

It’s a look that has worked since then and it’s a look that hasn’t really gone out of style once since those early denim days. Even as styles and trends evolve over the years, denim jackets and jeans remain a mainstay. So how, when it feels so right, could this combo ever be wrong? 

In short, it’s not. It’s just hard to pull off. When you know exactly how to wear your denim jeans and jacket together in a way that works for your body and your personal style, you will find that this classic combo is always a great choice…as long as you’re making all the right decisions that go along with it. 

How to Make It Work

It is possible to look good while wearing denim on denim…but it’s tricky. One way to make this look work is to play with different denim colors. White denim jeans with a dark blue denim jacket can be a super cute look. White jackets are a little harder to wear. A white denim jacket is going to look dated, so you’ll have to work extra hard to make this look retro instead. An oversized denim jacket in white with the cuffs rolled up can be an amazing casual look that won’t feel too dated when paired with the right top and a trendy pair of blue jeans.  

Denim on denim outfit in white

If you’re really going to wear a denim jacket with jeans, don’t wear anything else in denim. Make sure none of your accessories are denim. Don’t let your shoes be made out of denim. Everything else you war should be made with any other material at all.

Be clever about how you use your different shades of denim. Darker wash denim has a more slimming effect, while lighter washes are more noticeable. It’s a sort of optical illusion for the eye. If you wear a light wash denim jacket on top of dark wash denim jeans, this will make your legs and hips look limmer and your bustline look larger.

Whatever you do, avoid wearing a matching jeans and jacket combination. Under no circumstances should the denim jacket and the denim jeans be the same color shade or wash shade. The matchy-matchy look does work great in some situations. It doesn’t work with denim. The only possible exception to this may be the pairing of a black denim jacket with black jeans, though the two denims much match well for this to work. Worn with a contrasting shirt and accessories, you might be able to pull this look off.

You’ve got to avoid going too far down the rabbit hole. It might be tempting to really lean into the Western theme of wearing denim jeans with a denim jacket and add things like cowboy boots, a big belt buckle or maybe even pigtails. Don’t do it. Putting on an oversized jean jacket doesn’t mean you should go all-out on the Western gear next.

Choosing the Right Jacket

No matter what you wear or which combination of clothing pieces you choose, there is one rule of fashion you should always follow: make sure it fits. If you want to wear a denim-denim look, the jacket has to flatter you just as well as the jeans. 

Two people in denim on denim looks

A denim jacket should be able to be comfortably buttoned up over a T-shirt and still fit without being too tight around any part of your upper body. The jacket should hang in straight lines around your bottom and the hem should hit right around the hips unless you’re wearing a shorter cropped style. A cropped denim jacket may end anywhere from the bottom of your ribcage to just above the hips.

The sleeves of the jacket should end right at the wrists and shouldn’t be long enough to extend past the first thumb joint. A denim jacket should fit your body the way as a leather jacket and often, the two are styled in much the same manner. By the way, you should never wear these two jackets together. Even Kanye West can’t get away with that sort of fashion mistake.

Make sure the jacket isn’t too big. It shouldn’t be bunched up or out around the body. If it’s too loose, the jacket will twist and stick out and it won’t look good on you. No matter how great the pant style you choose to wear with the jacket might be, a jacket that doesn’t fit well will ruin any outfit.

Choosing the Right Jeans

When jeans fit well and hug your body in the right places, there’s nothing like them. There is no garment that is as stylish or as flattering. But that’s when they fit well. When they don’t, jeans can truly be your enemy. Make sure you choose jeans that fit well and flatter your body so that your overall silhouette is totally show-stopping. 

Denim on denim outfit in black

If you have a slim or athletic silhouette, skinny jeans and straight leg jeans will suit you well. Curvier body types can wear flared leg styles. If you’d rather downplay your curves and opt for a baggier look, try boyfriend jeans. If you want to show off your curves, skinny and slim fit styles will do just that. 

Curvy hips are well-displayed in low rise jeans styles. If you have a little more curve in your tummy than you’d like, look for mid-rise jeans that will help slim this section of the body. If you have a super small waist, a high-rise style will work very well for you. This is also a good companion for crop top outfits.

Different Ways to Wear Denim Jackets with Denim Jeans

Not only can you wear a denim jacket with denim jeans, this can be an amazing look. There are lots of ways to style a denim jacket with jeans to create all sorts of different looks and showcase your flair for style. 

Glamorous

Levi's Women's Original Trucker Jacket, Jeanie, Medium

Create a high-fashion look by pairing white jeans with a darker wash blue denim jacket. Wear a high-necked sweater underneath to create an amazing fall or winter look. This look works beautifully with tennis shoes or ankle-high boots. A cute crossbody bag finishes off the outfit just right. This is a smart casual but glamorous look that is perfect for running errands, a casual lunch date and all sorts of other casual activities. This outfit works as day or evening wear.

Sophisticated

Wrangler Authentics Women's Authentics Denim Jacket, Weathered, Large

Slim-fit blue jeans pair well with a loose-fitting classic denim jacket. Wear a form-fitting shirt tucked in and an eye-catching belt. A metallic or brightly-colored belt will catch the end and add just the right touch to this outfit. Finish the look with a pair of dark sunglasses. High-heeled boots work well for women and oxfords or loafers will finish off the look well for the men. This outfit is a great way to give yourself a celebrity style type of look. This outfit works well in summer, fall or spring, depending on the shirt you wear under the jean jacket.

Hipster

Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Men's Signature Trucker Jacket, Rebel, Large

Slip into some skinny jeans and a denim jacket that fits you well. Wear this over a T-shirt that also fits well. Tuck it in and finish the look off with a leather belt and a pair of white sneakers with white athletic socks. This casual outfit will definitely give you some hipster vibes, like you’re almost too cool for the clothes you’re wearing. 

Sleek

Wrangler mens Rugged Wear Unlined denim jackets, Vintage Indigo, X-Large US

Wear your denim jacket over jeans and a T-shirt. Button up the jacket. The T-shirt should be bi enough so that the hem of the shirt appears below the hem of the jacket. This is a casual look that’s still sleek and put together very well. It simply looks stylish. Finish the outfit off with a pair of sneakers and you’ll be ready to take on any casual daytime event.

So What About that Canadian Tuxedo Thing?

Lynn Downey, the official historian for Levi Strauss, said that the denim-on-denim look can be traced to Vancouver, Canada. The year was 1951 and Bing Crosby was an internationally famous performer, known for movies, music and radio. He loved his Levi’s jeans and was wearing them during this year while on a trip to Canada. He and a friend went to a hotel to check in but they were turned away. The fancy Vancouver hotel thought that denim jeans were too blue-collar for their establishment. 

Denim on denim outfit sitting

The story made the news, as Bing Crosby was one of the most recognizable stars in the world at this time. In fact, the bellhop recognized him and the whole thing got sorted out. But the story did make its way into the press and it was read by the head of Levi Strauss & Co., who thought it was just hilarious. The company made him a brand-new denim tuxedo jacket and presented it to him at a special celebration in Elko, Nevada. Crosby was named honorary mayor of the town during the event. 

This, they say, is where the term “Canadian tuxedo” comes from. Had one celebrity opted for a pair of chinos over jeans that day in Vancouver, this well-known expression might not even eist now. Decades later, Justin Timberlake would take heat for wearing a literal denim tuxedo to an event. His girlfriend at the time, Briney Spears, wore a complete denim dress with a very full denim skirt. Sometimes even celebrity style is super weird.

Your Own Canadian Tuxedo

Yes, you can wear a denim jacket with jeans. In fact, there are many ways you can do this to look very stylish indeed. Follow the tips, choose items that are going to flatter your shape and wear your denim jacket and jeans combinations with pride. Because when you look good and you know it, you just can’t be doing something wrong with your fashion. 

Sources:

CBC – Did Bing Crosby invent the Canadian tuxedo?

Glamour – From Marilyn Monroe to Madonna, Here’s a Brief History of the All-American Denim Jacket

History of Jeans – Denim History – Origin of Denim

Land’s End – Finding Jeans That Fit Properly

PureWow – The 6 Rules of Wearing a Jean Jacket in 2021

Stitch Fix – How To Find Your Perfect Jeans

StyleCaster – How To Pull Off Denim-On-Denim & Still Look Chic

The Trend Spotter – What to Wear with a Denim Jacket