Denim is the chameleon of fabrics. It’s origins are murky but by the 19th century, Levi Strauss had used it to revolutionize the world of fashion. Today, denim shirts, jackets and, of course, jeans, are a staple in most people’s wardrobes.
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The first company to commercially manufacture denim shirts was Miller & Co in the 1920s. And with their versatility and effortless style, men’s denim shirts are as popular as ever today.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about denim shirts for men, how to style them, and where to wear them. To top it off, we’re sharing our top picks to freshen up your wardrobe.
All About the Denim Shirt
Denim shirts are made from a sturdy but lightweight cotton that’s woven with colored yarn in a twill construction. It has been around for centuries with its roots in France, originally called “serge de Nimes.” But are denim shirts still in fashion?
The answer is a resounding yes. Everyone from construction workers to rockstars owns a denim shirt.
So then, which brand of denim shirt is best? The answer to this question largely lies with quality rather than style. This may be controversial – but denim shirts all look pretty much the same, at least to the untrained eye. But to the trained eye, there are a host of washes and hues that people are actually very particular about.
This is why focusing on quality is vital. No man wants their favorite dark denim shirt to fade after a couple of washes. If this means shelling out a bit more on that Levi’s denim shirt, then ignore all the critics telling you that it’s “just a shirt”. The man who wants to invest in himself knows that the clothes don’t make him, but it doesn’t hurt to splurge every now and then.
Where to Wear Your Denim Shirt
The beauty of the denim shirt is its versatility – but that doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for any and every occasion. Denim shirts best suit laid-back to semi-formal events, but it’s generally not advisable to wear them to something like a job interview.
A light-wash denim shirt is perfect for the beach, a barbeque, and your day-to-day errands. Your medium- to dark-wash denim shirts can be considered a little more formal, and you could probably get away with wearing one to a backyard summer wedding.
How to Style Your Denim Shirt
Your main consideration when styling a denim shirt is color. Styling blue isn’t always so straightforward, and you also need to consider the occasion you’re dressing for.
If you are dressing for a warm day, then no matter where you’re going, make sure to pair your denim shirt with a cool, breathable fabric. A light-wash denim shirt with a pair of 100% cotton white shorts or linen pants are staples for the summer.
If this look is a bit basic for you, wear your shirt unbuttoned and don your favorite printed t-shirt. The combination of neutral bottoms and the unassuming denim shirt gives you some room to experiment with a statement piece.
For a more formal look, pair a darker wash, long-sleeve denim shirt with a pair of slim-fit chinos. The color of the chinos here is up to you, it’s the fit that will give you a sleeker and more put-together look.
Here are our top picks for your next denim shirt.
1. Best Tight-Fitting: Elongin Chic Denim Shirt*
This shirt is the closest you’ll find to formal wear on this list. The tight fit hugs your figure and creates a flattering silhouette. What’s more, the cuff and breast pocket details set this apart from your average denim shirt.
If you already have a few denim shirts in your wardrobe, reserve this one for nicer occasions when you want to look put-together but not too overdressed.
2. Best Vintage: Lee Denim Shirt*
Classic, vintage, with a hint of Western thrown in the mix. This lightweight denim shirt is perfect for the laid-back guy.
To crank up the cowboy feel a notch, tuck this shirt (buttoned up to the top) into a pair of jeans. Throw in a brown belt and some brown boots, and you’ll be looking like a modern-day cowboy in no time.
3. Best for Work: Just in Trend Flame Resistant Denim Shirt*
Fellas, are you tired of having your work shirts destroyed by flame? The good people at Just in Trend have heard your cries.
If you work in construction, welding, or any other environment where you can encounter flash fire or sparks, this denim shirt is a great option for you. Some reviewers pointed out that the shirt runs a little big, so keep that in mind.
4. Best Short-Sleeved: Goodthreads Short-Sleeve Band-Collar Denim Shirt *
This is your next summer staple. The band-collar gives this shirt a little something extra and sets it apart from the crowd. This shirt also comes in five colors with a range of blues and grays, so you can wear them all year round.
5. Most Comfortable: Goodthreads Long-Sleeve Denim Shirt*
This is a classic, casual staple that all men should have in their closet. This denim shirt is made for comfort and is suitable for running your everyday errands. As you can see, it’s pretty simple, and we would urge you to branch out a bit more if you’re trying to make an impression.
Throw on some black jeans, and you’ve got the perfect casual look to take on your day.
6. Best Black Denim Shirt: Levi’s Men’s Big & Tall 550 Relaxed Fit*
The black denim shirt is severely underrated. This shirt will go with anything in your wardrobe, so you don’t need to put too much effort into planning an outfit.
It’s got some western details and a slightly roomier cut, so this is a great casual option, especially when worn unbuttoned.
7. Best Cowboy Cut: Wrangler Western Long Sleeve Work Shirt*
Wherever you live, you can channel your inner cowboy with this shirt. Specifically designed with cowboys in mind, this durable, comfortable shirt is perfect for the ranch to the grocery store.
The best part? It’s got Wrangler’s signature “W” logo stitched into the breast pockets to give it the added western authenticity.
To complete your look, add a pair of heeled boots and dust off your old cowboy hat (we know you have one).
8. Most Durable: Joe’s USA 6.5-Ounce Short Sleeve Denim Shirt*
When we say this shirt is made for every man, we mean every man. It comes in sizes XS to 6XL to accommodate body type, and it’s 100% cotton to keep everyone comfortable regardless of the heat.
Customers who have bought this shirt have attested to its durability, saying that months of daily wear and multiple washes hasn’t affected its coloring or feel.
9. Best Splurge: Billy Reid’s Men’s Denim Brass Snap Work Shirt*
Billy Reid blends luxury with Southern influence like no other. This is a high quality tailored piece that can suit a number of occasions. It comes in four colors, so there’s something for everyone.
We don’t believe that you need to spend too much money to feel good in your clothes, but you can’t deny that when you’re wearing a garment like this, you walk with a little more confidence in your stride.
10. Best Retro: Southpole Men Long-Sleeve Denim Shirt*
For those of you who reminisce over retro fashion, this is the denim shirt for you. The shirt is 100% cotton, but this is definitely a sturdier material, and is better suited to cooler days.
You’re not going to find embroidered patches like those on current denim shirts, so you can be sure that you won’t just blend into the crowd with this piece. At the same time, the shirt isn’t loud or obnoxious, and those giant breast pockets are certainly not something you see everyday.
Who knew there were so many options for a classic piece like the denim shirt? Spruce up your wardrobe with some of these options, and maybe even unleash your inner cowboy.