Updated: Apr 9, 2020
As a tough, lightweight material, denim has clothed labourers for decades. But in the 1950s, its perception changed and the jacket hit stylistic heights largely thanks to the James Dean effect. Since then, the denim jacket has kept its irreverent cool. Constructed from a cotton twill, good quality denim is likely to both outlive you and out-style you. Perfect to throw over your outfit in the warmer months and brilliant for layering in the colder months, it is a wardrobe essential.
It wasn’t until a friend left his denim jacket in my car boot a while back that I realised this. I avoided that friend for almost two years. That is the power of a denim jacket. George, I would say I’m sorry, but I don’t regret it.
The most powerful advantage of a denim jacket is its layering potential. Sure, it's good in the summer or on days when it's humid and you still need a little extra warmth, but this is an item that's going to see you all the way through winter. Over a jumper or under a wool topcoat, a denim jacket not only gives your look an essential injection of insulation, but also an unexpected hit of rugged sex appeal – particularly if you go for a deep indigo or something a little roughed up. Just be sure to choose a slimmer fit or a cropped cut so it slips nicely under your larger, slouchier top layers. And for a smarter vibe, go for a raw, dark selvedge that'll loosen up as you live in it.In
an endless sea of denim jackets that range from the stalwart Levi’s classic to the progressive and innovative reimagining, we have whittled the market down to size. Here is the GQ selection of denim jackets.
A denim Harrington jacket by Ami provokes three words: yes, yes (and) yes. This is the ultimate laid-back weekend look. Whack on some wayfarers, download Huji and shove both hands down into the pockets. This jacket is a sunny autumn day in Paris. It is Montmartre at sunset. It is French beauty.
A Sherpa jacket is a foundational menswear item, but if you are looking to give your denim a little nuance, this vintage-inspired piece by Lee Jeans will tick that box. The jacket comes with rounded top pockets and large, square external bottom pockets, suggesting a whiff of Japanese influence.
It’s actually difficult to screw up stylistically with a Sherpa-lined denim jacket. Especially in black, because it basically goes with anything. If you’ve got a hankering for classic American design and a fleece lining to keep you toasty, search no more.
This denim jacket takes the philosophy that excessively large is the new subtle. So macro it is micro. While at the lower end of the subversive spectrum, the monochrome colours, the oversized fit and rigid denim mean it is a jacket to be reckoned with when out and about on Fashion Street.
If becoming a cyber-cowboy isn’t on your to-do list this year, what on earth are you doing with your life? While achieving the full look takes Zen-like patience, Sisyphean dedication and a Cézanne-like colour palette, it is not to everyone’s taste. This jacket can work as a strong, standout piece in tandem with a subtle outfit. The fluorescent green stitching helps take an iconic piece of Americana heritage and reimagine it for the new decade. It’s a bold piece, so enjoy the ride.
Balance and simplicity make this jacket so goddamn desirable. This much-anticipated collaboration of two Western giants has not disappointed. The refined minimalism of APC combined with the sturdiness of Carhartt makes (unsurprisingly) for a very cool denim jacket. Snap them up before you can’t.
This Jil Sander piece is a real denim-head’s jacket. It is made from selvedge denim, a traditional weaving technique that’s less common these days, and gives a nuanced weave. It comes in a wonderful ecru, cream colour and the lower rib-height pockets give it an effortless sense of style. This is a perfect throw-over jacket in those sunnier months.
OrSlow’s head designer, Ichiro Nakatsu, focuses on quality fabrics and rugged construction. This minimalist coverall gives the softer denim fabric and lightly washed colour space to express itself and do the talking. If you’re looking to add a little Japanese inspiration to your wardrobe, this is chic way to do it.
Denim jackets are the most celebrated aesthetic for Ralph Lauren, so we advise adding one to your wardrobe, stat. Our top pick has to be this classic washed design: slim-fitting, indigo blue and crafted from a mid-weight washed denim to give a bit of a worn effect to your look. We're also into the subtle branding here, casually embossed onto the silver-tone metal buttons. Finish it off with a red tartan scarf for maximum impact.
If there’s one thing Virgil Abloh likes to do at Louis Vuitton it’s shake things up. Case in point: his 3-D take on a traditional denim jacket. Crafted from a washed grey denim (not your average shade for the jacket style but we’re into it), its pocket and collar details have been amplified with material, meaning there’s that extra bit of room to fit your day-to-day essentials. That, and it just looks plain cool.
Disclaimer: dark-wash denim is the way forward. Our top point of call? Easy: Tom Ford. It's safe to say that the designer has mastered pretty much every piece for the wardrobe of a stylish man and this denim jacket stands as casual proof. We're especially into those slanted bottom pockets, but this dark topper also boasts the classic details: adjustable waist tabs, saffron stitching and flap pockets. Wear it with straight-cut dark-wash jeans if you dare – you'll be receiving a thumbs up from us if we spot you in the street.
You hear the words denim jacket, it’s likely some form of Western style scenario comes to mind. We’re all for embracing the head-to-toe cowboy look, but for some, it’s quite a lot to embrace. The ideal stepping stone? This brilliant denim jacket by Holiday Boileau. Coloured in a suave dark blue denim and boasting a cotton-corduroy collar, two chest patch pockets, button cuffs and elegantly exposed stitching, the only thing you’ll be craving after this is a chestnut stock horse. We’ll be following suit.
More often than not, you just want a denim jacket to be what it is: a denim jacket. No elaborate details, no bold hues, just an easy, stylish layer to top your casual attire. If this sounds like what you’re looking for, head to Arket, which is offering this relaxed design cut from soft cotton twill and detailed with four angled chest pockets. Practical, comfortable, simple – what more could you ask for?
This one looks like it has been plucked straight from the middle of Brad Pitt’s wardrobe. Saint Lauren’s denim trucker jacket is the very definition of cool – clad in indigo denim and boasting a detachable shearling collar so you can sport it on any kind of autumnal day. Best of all? The lining is completely shearling as well. Unpredictable weather conditions, we’re ready for you.
If you want your denim jacket to have that old, subtly battered rockabilly look, Clutch Cafe is your next companion. The brand sells the best blend of Japanese, American outerwear and this denim jacket is the perfect example. Made from 13.5 oz Okayama denim, the structure is quite boxy and is fronted with two subtle pleats to nod to the Twenties and Thirties. An authentic, classic piece (which we recommend styling with straight-cut jeans of the same shade, if you dare).
This APC denim chore jacket with the added indigo details on the collar and the pockets is a great casual piece to add to your wardrobe, giving you hints of a Japanese street/skate aesthetic in a simple manner. This is denim on the smart end of the spectrum giving you a refined, but relaxed feel.