Can You Wear a Denim Jacket With Jeans?

Ralph Lauren paired shades of denim for Spring 2010, creating an effortless look.

Photo: Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Nothing says old West like good old-fashioned bluejeans. quoted from Ralph Lauren's Spring 2010 show program, "I am inspired by the character of the worker, the farmer, the cowboy, the pioneer women of the prairies." Search deep down in yourself, and you may be be surprised to find that there is a pioneer woman in you, and she's pushing for new fashion frontiers. Go ahead, give denim-on-denim a shot.

Wash and Wear

It seems like every season, there is a new denim wash out there, and the world of washes just keeps getting more complicated. What you need to remember when pairing denim elements: Wear different washes, or you'll look like a repairman in an all-denim jumpsuit. One approach that works well is to choose a deep-colored jacket and a pair of jeans that looks like it might have been the same color before fading (it's important that they are faded or worn, though, not the same color). Having the same base shade of denim will keep your look from clashing. The same is true if you want to pair a light-washed element with a medium wash; if both have a true blue base, they will usually pair well. Don't stray too far apart in your shades of blue. If you're nervous about pairing two shades of blue denim, try a white denim in either the jacket or jeans, paired with true blue in the other element.

Mix and Match

You wouldn't wear dress pants and a T-shirt, and you shouldn't pair completely disparate denim styles, either. If you want your look to be trim and professional, try tailored pants in a slim boot cut with a traditional four- or five-pocket jacket. For an edgier vibe, combine skinny jeans with heels and a cropped jacket. For a casual-chic look, pair boyfriend jeans and a tailored blazer. To achieve a '70s-inspired look, wear faded wide-leg denim with a lightweight shirt-style jacket.

What Not to Wear

While you don't want the pieces in your wardrobe to shout at each other, you probably also don't want to look like you're wearing a denim suit (it's been done on runways, but it's not so easy to pull off on the streets). Avoid pieces that look like they should be worn together. One example of this might be tailored trouser-style jeans and a blazer. Another is 1970s-esque bell bottoms with a loose-fitting jacket. If the items in your outfit both have the exact same feel, that is a good indication they should not be worn together.


Achieving a stylish yet effortless denim look is all about the accessories. As denim tends to be a casual element, leaving out accessories can make it look like you haven't put any effort in. For a menswear-inspired look, pair boyfriend jeans and a denim vest or blazer with a white shirt and tie (yes, a tie) or scarf. Add a fedora and chunky watch, but lend the outfit some femininity with a shirt that's sheer or has a faintly floral print. To skinny jeans and a cropped jacket, add platform heels in an eye-catching color, like hot pink or yellow; chunky bangles; and long, layered necklaces. To trousers and a light chambray jacket, add a worn leather belt with a heavy belt buckle and a handbag with long fringe.

A Note on Denim Tops

Remember: Jackets aren't the only denim top out there. If jackets have you feeling uninspired, look for a denim shirt or vest. All of the same pairing and styling rules apply.

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References; Spring 2010 Ready to Wear: Ralph Lauren; Nicole Phelps
"Self"; Indigo Girl; February 2011

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