When it comes to timeless outerwear, the denim jacket (also known as the jean jacket) is virtually invincible. From rugged ranchers to urban trendsetters, this type of jacket is as important as the classic white sneaker in the modern man’s wardrobe. Even if you find yourself somewhere in between those two extremes (as many will), there’s a denim jacket out there waiting to be adopted into your closet this season.
If there’s one jacket that started it all, it’s the Levi Strauss Type 1. Introduced in the early 1900s, this garment quickly became a workwear essential. And like other style staples with utilitarian origins, the denim jacket soon infiltrated the fashion universe. Reinvented by menswear designers the world over, today’s jean jacket comes in a dizzying array of denim variations, including white jean jackets and black jean jackets, all accented with unique details like intricate embroidery, warm sherpa linings, and even decorative patches.
How to Wear a Jean Jacket
When it comes to wearing denim jackets, there are a few key considerations to bear in mind. First, the occasion: The beauty of a denim jacket lies in its chameleon-like ability to blend into both casual and semi-formal settings. For a laid-back weekend jaunt, team a light-washed denim jacket with a crisp white T-shirt, black jeans, and a pair of sleek sneakers. For a dinner date, opt for a dark wash jacket, a black turtleneck, tailored trousers, and Chelsea boots.
The type and wash of the jacket also play a critical role in dictating the overall vibe of your outfit. Lighter washes exude a relaxed, vintage charm, making them perfect for daytime and more casual outings. Darker washes lend a more polished, contemporary edge, making them suitable for night-time engagements.
The fit of your jacket is another essential factor. As a rule of thumb, the jacket should hug your shoulders, and the hem should fall at your waist. A slim-fit jacket works well for a modern, streamlined look, while a relaxed-fit jacket can add an element of nonchalance to your ensemble.
Our advice? Don’t shy away from experimenting with layers. A denim jacket can serve as a stylish middle layer between a tee or a button-down shirt and a heavier overcoat. And remember, it’s not necessarily a faux pas to wear denim-on-denim (a.k.a., the Canadian tuxedo). Just make sure there’s enough contrast between the washes of your jacket and your jeans to avoid a monotonous look.
Finally, the beauty of the denim jacket lies in its ability to age gracefully. As it wears, it will develop a unique patina and character that reflects your individual style and experiences. Wear it proudly and let it tell your story.
Below, we’ve compiled our favorite denim jackets available now. Pick one up and enjoy it for years to come—just like the original, each one is guaranteed to get better with age.
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The Best Men’s Denim Jackets of 2023
The type III denim jacket is the most identifiable and contemporary denim jacket style, and it’s what most people think of when they imagine a denim jacket. There are two welt hand pockets and two small, pointed chest pockets placed high on the jacket. The style was created by (who else?) Levi’s, and the brand’s Premium version of the type III features a leather tab, higher quality stitching, and an all-cotton construction that will wear in beautifully.[$74; nordstrom.com]
As its name suggests, this organic cotton selvedge denim jacket was made for the long haul. But since it’s garment washed, it’ll look like one of your well-worn favorites right out of the box. The map print inside the pockets is a fun travel-inspired touch.[$238; taylorstitch.com]
The Dylan Jacket is a bestseller that exemplifies Todd’s approach to reimagining classic designs with superior materials. This rendition, created in 100-percent cotton selvedge denim, is available in two colorways: a true indigo hue in medium and a faded wash for a vintage-inspired look. The jacket retains the stalwart trucker silhouette but offers a slimmer fit for the modern man.[$298; toddsnyder.com]
Banana Republic has been on a tear lately. They’ve been focusing less on meeting the style status quo and more on creating modern versions of classic workwear and military-inspired pieces, like this ecru denim jacket. The luxurious off-white shade helps it stand out from a sea of blue denim while the contrasting corduroy collar and pocket flap keep it from looking too much like a doctor’s jacket. The jacket will look great paired with earth tones; try brown or olive work chinos and suede boots.[$150; bananarepublic.gap.com]
With a quilted design, hand pockets, and a blanket lining, this number from Flint and Tinder is selling itself a little short by calling itself a “western shirt.” It’s warmer than the average men’s denim jacket, but cut in a comfortable, casual shirt style, making it a piece you’ll reach for on cool summer evenings and crisp fall days.[$168; huckberry.com]
A black denim jacket is an easy-wearing alternative to blue denim. This affordable jacket from Gap comes in a classic, relaxed fit with a hip-length hem and adjustment tabs on the back. The washed black color gives it a casual, lived-in look that’s perfect for pairing with everything from light-wash jeans to athletic shorts.[$80; gap.com]
Alex Mill’s Work Jacket is constructed from 100% Japanese indigo denim in an appealing vintage wash. Shank buttons add a traditional touch to the contemporary design, and bar tack stitching (a series of closely spaced zig-zag stitches) provides reinforcement in key areas.[$220; alexmill.com]
Along with Levi’s, Lee is one of the oldest and most iconic denim manufacturing brands in the US. The brand is best known for its blanket-lined Storm Rider jacket, which fetches a pretty penny on the vintage market. But the heritage brand has recently started offering some stylish and decidedly contemporary offerings, like this trucker jacket with a psychedelic, marbled wash.[$60 (was $90); lee.com]
Taylor Stitch makes the kind of workwear that’s more at home in a cocktail bar than a job site, but that’s not a knock against it. Take this stylish trucker jacket, cut from a breezy 10-ounce cotton in an off-white color. It features pleats that nod to Levi’s type I and II denim jackets, an earlier version of the modern trucker jacket.[$198; taylorstitch.com]
Herschel’s unisex Supply Uniform Collection is made up of highly functional wardrobe basics including tops, bottoms, outwear, and the Denim Shop Jacket. The workwear-inspired piece comes in a medium-wash shade with metal buttons and three pockets, and it’s finished with Herschel’s signature white woven label.[$120; herschel.com]
Tellason’s jacket features the kind of details denim heads drool over, minus the nosebleed-inducing prices. The jacket is made from Cone Mills denim, a legendary (and now defunct) denim mill. It’s cut and sewn in San Francisco, the birthplace of the modern blue jean. The chore coat style jacket features more pockets than one could reasonably use, so you won’t have to worry about carrying a bag. It’s raw denim but sanforized to resist shrinkage.[$159; amazon.com]
Anyone who prefers a roomy fit has a friend in Carhartt, a brand known for boxy, oversized fits designed for blue-collar workers who put their clothes through the paces. Of course, Carhartt has become pretty popular among the creative class, too. This jacket features oversized pockets and a comfortable faux-sherpa collar.[From $116; amazon.com]
Bonobos’ take on the denim chore coat is blended with hemp for a soft hand feel from the first wear. It comes with three patch pockets on the front, plus a smaller pocket in one of the pockets, akin to the watch pocket on jeans. The light wash gives it a casual, laid-back look that may sneakily become a daily favorite.[$79 (was $129); bonobos.com]
As rugged as it is affordable, Wrangler’s denim jacket has a boxy, comfortable fit and is constructed from 100% cotton. In contrast to the angular pockets and diagonal stitching typical to Levi’s-style type III jackets, Wrangler’s take features rounded chest pockets and straight stitching for a more natural, relaxed look. There are two hand pockets and two adjustable cinch tabs on the back. It’s also available in sizes for tall guys.[From $42; amazon.com]
Dickies 874 pants are sold in trendy shops and surplus stores alike, and the brand has gradually attracted a fashion-forward fan base as classic workwear enjoys a revival. Aside from pants, Dickies makes great work shirts and jackets, like this 100% cotton denim jacket. The Dickies logo and oversized pockets give the jacket a workwear edge, while the light wash keeps it feeling casual.[$90; nordstrom.com]
While the typical denim jacket has a cropped, slim fit, sometimes a boxy fit is called for. Madewell’s shirt jacket keeps things loose with relaxed shoulders and body length that make it great for layering over a sweatshirt. It’s cut from 100% cotton and features oversized button flap pockets on the chest, as well as subtle side pockets.[$148; madewell.com]
Levi’s riffs on the classic type 1 trucker jacket with an open, shirt-style pocket and a subtle stripe detail, resulting in a jacket that nods to the classics without being overly reverent. Traditionalists will appreciate heritage details like the cinch-back strap and pleated placket, while maximalists will enjoy the statement-making striped pattern.[$109; urbanoutfitters.com]
Work in Progress is Carhartt’s fashion-forward diffusion line. It’s made with the same rugged construction as the workwear brand’s main line, but updated with streetwear sensibilities. This work jacket features a hickory stripe pattern and zip-front placket, making it a great alternative to the ubiquitous trucker jacket.[$275; nordstrom.com]
The best men’s denim jacket doesn’t necessarily need to be a trucker jacket. AG takes the trendy coach jacket and swaps nylon for denim, and the jacket comes in a soft off-white hue or in black. Traditional coach jacket details include snap front buttons and a drawstring hem. It’s the ideal jacket for anyone who loves denim but doesn’t want to go full Canadian tuxedo.[From $99; amazon.com]
Ralph Lauren didn’t invent the polo shirt, the repp tie, or the blue jean. But the brand is as much a tastemaker as it is a clothier, remixing classic pieces for the modern era. Polo’s denim jacket may not look different from Levi’s, but where it stands out are fit and fabric. The jacket is fitted and cropped without constricting mid-wear and the all-cotton denim is built to last.[$188; bloomingdales.com]
Calvin Klein’s take on the denim jacket features a cropped, blouson fit and boxy, dropped shoulders. The laid-back silhouette nods more to the 1990s than the 1890s, less Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and more Keenan and Kel. It’ll look great paired with flannel shirts and combat boots or a bold graphic tee and cargo pants.[$59; macys.com]