Fashion Forward: Sport Jacket and Denim


Ask a man what he finds most challenging about clothing, and the answer invariably comes back to "the rules" of mens dress. A waning of shared traditional knowledge and perpetual fashion movement creates a cloudy construct for many to build upon, and a tacit with little beyond the basic denominators is often the net result. A culture of following trends is as much instruction as many modern men ever receive, often to mixed results.

Few menswear trends create debate and divisiveness as that of wearing a sport jacket with denim jeans. While purists scoff at such forward contrast of formal and rugged casualness, the appeal to the modern man lays undeniably in the combo's accessibility.

Denim has become the most worn pant amongst the male demographic in recent decades and as such has expanded its familiarity in unfamiliar settings. The night out, casual dining, the club and the office frequently boast this trendy combination, and it certainly raises the stakes from a simple t-shirt and bomber jacket effort.

Go Sporty

Darker denim tends to be the easiest colour to pair with a sport coat, and blacks, greys and coloured jeans tend to work effortlessly as well. Lighter shades of blue can certainly make up well, though they often require a keener eye to look smart (rather than cliché). Proper leg length is imperative to cleaning up the outfit, so no bunching around the ankles, please.


Stay away from jackets that look like they were orphaned off of a business suit - worsted greys, navies and pinstripes. These combos create a divide far too jarring and are best left to daring fashionistas and edgy musicians, much of whom can be excused for their whimsy.

An effective choice in garment lies in the formality, or, rather, the lack thereof; The sportier the jacket, the better it will pair with denim. As I've discussed previously , some suit jackets lend themselves better to wearing as a separate than others. Most dedicated sport jackets, however, will possess some qualities that tone down the dressiness, such as a texture, colour, pattern, and lack of construction. Texture, I find, is the easiest qualifier for denim readiness.

Tweeds are a cinch in the fall and colder months, while linen and silk blends in the spring and summer offer similar textural complement to a denim pant.

Casual Shirting

To bridge the formality gap, eschew the dressier shirts that pair with formal suits and instead opt for a button-down collar or sport shirt. The simpler the shirt the easier the match, so remember that execution is key here. Plain white, light blue or mid-stripe shirts will work with most combos; sportier shirts bear more risk but can add personality and colour if picked well.


Polos are a great option and a natural fit for the intersection of formal-meets-casual. Long-sleeved offerings add a touch of class and can be seen poking out the jacket's sleeves, giving a more-polished final product.

What of collarless shirts? One wrong turn elicits echoes of Don Johnson and bad 80's celebrity, so caution is a must. Again, plain and striped tees are conservative bets and yield less risk, and henleys give a bit of detail that curbs the stigma of the classic T-shirt. An important consequence to note: much like the ring-around-the-collar staining of a shirt collar, your jacket will be subject to the brunt of the oils and dirt in your neck, so caution is advised before going collarless.

They Often Notice the Shoes First, Don't They

When choosing a shoe, go too dressy or too casual and you'll miss the mark. No black oxfords and no sneakers/sandals unless you're absolutely sure it suits the locale. Derbies, bluchers, and brogues are casual enough yet a proper shoe worthy of the jacket. Loafers are a relaxed choice and also a great option.

Boots! Chukkas, chelseas, jodhpurs, and the like are brilliant in this application.

Browns are always a win, and oxbloods offer a nice bit of colour. Suede and nubuck are already less-formal by nature and are the perfect pick for denim.

The Finishing Touches

Tuck the shirt in, unless you're on a beach. T-shirts can remain untucked (so long as you know what you're doing with the rest of the ensemble.)

Skip the tie unless you're really ready to make a statement. In fact, just don't.

No wearing jeans to a place of worship, so unless it's a backyard wedding and the bride and groom have stated so, opt for a proper trouser.

Embrace Modernity With Class

Perhaps we'll look back at this age as a time where clouded rules reigned and anything went. I'd be more inclined to believe that the jacket and denim look is more than a passing fancy, so one must learn to change with the times. Smart execution, however, should never be up for debate. Have fun, gents.

Ryan W.A. Clark


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