How to Wear a Denim Shirt

How to Wear a Denim Shirt
Dubious about the jean shirt? Don’t be. This underrated item has enjoyed a recent fashion revival and is now a stylish menswear staple for every season. Here’s all you need to know about donning denim. Read more Men’s Style Guide features and check out our Store shopthelook

How to Wear a Denim Shirt

Denim shirts are a truly modern way to step up not only your off-duty look, but also your smarter ensembles. What’s more, find the right colour, style and fit and your outfit opportunities are endless.


Depending on your look, there are two key types of denim button-downs to play with:
  • Heavyweight – If you’re into oversized, casual cool, then a heavyweight shirt is your best bet. Creating an alpha-male aesthetic and a rugged, blue collar vibe, this style pays homage to traditional American heritage and is ideal for layering. Paired with a grandad jersey, lumberjack jacket and a pair of hiking boots, heavyweight jean shirt outfits form a quintessential outdoor look with a distinctly masculine flavour.
  • Lightweight – For complete versatility, a lightweight slim-fit shirt can be worn in multiple ways, both casual and tailored. It looks just as great unbuttoned with joggers as it does dressed up with a textured wool tie and tweed blazer. A lightweight denim shirt is also the ideal trans-seasonal item, able to be worn over or under layers depending on the weather. In fact, whichever way you wear it, lightweight denim shirt outfits are sure to get you noticed in a crowd of cotton.



When donning denim above the waist, the general rule is to opt for a light blue denim shirt or faded wash, which will coordinate with your current clothes more easily than a heavy hue. A washed out denim also works with all skin tones, keeping you looking bright and brilliant rather than sallow and sickly. You could even go for a black denim shirt. Just remember to contrast your shirt with dark or tan trousers (indigo or black jeans if you’re doing the denim double) and a splash of colour.


Nothing spoils a great outfit like a bad fit, and when investing in a denim shirt it’s important to take sizing into consideration. A shirt that looks too big or baggy will not have the desired effect – even if you have opted for an oversized aesthetic (the key is that your shirt is still sized correctly, rather than simply being ‘too big’). Remember, a shirt should draw the eye towards the face – which is framed by the collar – as well as create a flattering outline of the body, so it is important to pay attention to the fit.
In order for your denim shirt to look its best on, remember the following rules:
  • Ensure your shirt sits correctly across your back by checking the seam meets at your shoulder bone.
  • Check the collar won’t constrict your neck by sliding two fingers into the shirt when it’s buttoned up. Even if you intend to wear it open, this is a good test of size as any more fingers and the shirt may be too loose – any fewer, and the collar is likely too tight.
  • Your shirt should be loose enough around your arms and torso to allow easy movement, but not so loose that it billows. You should not be able to pull more than 4” of fabric away from your body.
  • The cuff should end where your palm meets your wrist, which is about an inch beyond your wrist bone.

What to Wear with a Denim Shirt

So now you’ve got the shirt, how do you actually wear it? We’ve compiled a lookbook of our favourite jean shirt outfits to show how easy it is to style this staple without looking like a cowboy (or, indeed, a Backstreet Boy).

How to Wear a Denim Shirt Casually

To create a laid back look that oozes LA cool, layer your denim over a simple white tee, keeping the shirt buttons undone to ensure nothing looks too rigid or restricted. Finish off with a navy beanie to help add some dimension to the look, while maintaining the relaxed style.


How to Make a Statement with your Denim Shirt

If you’re looking to wow a date or simply want to style things up, then don’t be afraid of donning double denim. This is one of the many options for how to wear a jean shirt. Go for similar shades to create a unique, unified look, or ease in with a less striking combination with contrasting tones.


How to Wear a Denim Shirt Formally

So denim isn't the number one choice for formal wear, but you can smarten it up a little with the right pieces. Play around with the traditional suit and tie combination but replace your classic Oxford shirt with a long denim shirt instead. Be sure to opt for a slim-fit shirt with a cutaway collar which you can pair with a seasonal suit: tweed in winter and lightweight linen in summer.

Preppy Denim Shirt Look

Denim shirts are perfect for preppy looks, especially if you opt for a light stone washed design, and can be paired with a range of different pieces. For a flattering, everyday outfit team a fitted denim shirt with a pair of beige or stone chinos, and finish off with your choice of footwear - from simple brown loafers to chukka boots.


What Pants to Wear With Denim Shirt

So we have all the denim shirt looks down, but what pants should you wear with your denim shirt? This is an aspect of styling that confuses even the most stylish of us. We have taken it upon ourselves to do a breakdown all of the best trousers that will suit your denim shirt.


Now, chinos are probably the easiest pair of trousers to style with your denim shirt. Depending on the colour of your denim shirt will determine your shade of chinos, so for light denim shirts go for tans, and for darker denim look at your darker shades and colourful chinos.


Slightly trickier to style are jeans. Now if you aren't a fan of double denim, then there is still a way to wear your favourite jeans with your denim shirt. Colour contrasting looks really good too, why not wear your dark blue denim shirt with black jeans or a white denim shirt with some raw denim jeans? The style combinations are endless.


A match made in styling heaven! The denim shirt and shorts look. This will be your go-to wardrobe essential come summer, it's easy to style, looks great with most shorts and will increase your style credit by tenfold.

How to Care for Your Denim Shirt

Now then, chaps. Having invested in a denim shirt and styled your wardrobe around your new staple, you need to make sure you know how to look after it. The good news is that denim doesn’t need washing after every wear; so long as you’ve not sweated excessively or dropped food down the front, denim can actually last for around two weeks before needing a thorough wash. A good spritz of a denim refresh spray can bring your shirt back to life without committing to a full wash, however, if it's past a quick freshen up then a decent wash with denim specific detergent will clean it up nicely. There are lots of myths about washing denim, so here are a few foolproof tips on how to keep your jean shirt shiny and clean:
  • Turn your shirt inside out. When you wash clothes the dye tends to run, so turning them inside out means the dye bleeds back into the material rather than out.
  • Avoid washing denim with dissimilar colours. Do a dedicated denim wash, or pop them in with clothes of the same shade.
  • Don’t use a high temperature wash, as this may lead to shrunken shirts.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach. This will ruin the colour of your denim shirt and leave you with an acid wash effect – not a great look!
  • If you want to be extra cautious, avoid using a washing machine and soak your shirt in a bath of lukewarm water and detergent for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Never tumble dry a denim shirt as this will cause it to shrink. Always air dry instead (ideally in the sunshine, but otherwise in a warm room).

A Brief History of Denim

To truly understand the draw of denim, we need to take a brief trip back in time. Our first stop is 17th century France, where we find production of the fabric, serge de Nîmes – a cotton twill cloth (‘serge’) manufactured in the city of its namesake. Next, we travel to 19th century America, and San Francisco, where German immigrant Loeb Strauss – later to be known as Levi – imported the French cotton twill (which he called denim, from ‘de Nîmes’) to manufacture hard wearing, long lasting overalls for industrial and agricultural workers.
Marlon Brando and James Dean in mens denim
Marlon Brando and James Dean in denim shirts


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