You might be tempted to write off denim jackets as a little vanilla.
Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because everyone and their father owns one. Sometimes the same one — grifted from a bag of youth garb in the garage. But the fact that they are so ubiquitous speaks to their staying power and the handsome brilliance of their design.
So how did an 19th-century American work coat get to be duplicated into damn near every closet in the world? It was in fact denim master Levi Strauss who’s credited with designing the first denim jacket, circa 1880. It was meant to be a workwear jacket for those settling out West, in the gold mines, on the railroads and on the range. Super durable, with strategic pleats that can be taken in or let out to adjust for sizing, whether to accomodate a body gaining or shedding winter pounds, or to allow for layers.
Of course, the denim jacket has now been adapted for every possible function and look, from fast fashion to runways. Its cultural impact has been significant: despite being trendy among average joes and starlets alike (here’s Marilyn circa 1960 sporting some oversized denim), jean jackets have never totally shaken the ruffian association of mid-century beats and greasers.
But as to whether you can tell the difference between a $400 denim coat and a $40 one? You’re asking someone who has half a dozen denim jackets across many price points, and my answer is a hard yes. Maybe not a dramatic difference, but you can certainly tell when you pull on a very sturdy, well-worn piece, compared to low-grade blend, stretchy knock-off. When it comes to denim, we welcome this workwear revival.
On another day, you might catch me getting jazzed on some of the crazier things one can do with denim — like this weird, frankly hideous blazer, or this freaking Safari Jacket — but today, we’ll stick to things you can and should add to your wardrobe.
The Holy Grail, this is it. Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1880 Triple Pleat Blouse ($400) is a repro of their oldest jean jacket, aka the one that launched a thousand knockoffs. Proof: here's an “homage” to this Cowboy style from Benzak ($275).
Something you can paint the house in, do some manual labor in, pull a pencil out of your pocket, chew on the end and then replace it in your pocket. Tackle your chores, procrastinate on them — it’s up to you. You’ll look good in this striped number from Le Mont Saint Michel ($300), or the much easier-on-the-wallet Uniqlo version ($20).
The most basic and essential style that pairs with pants, slacks, shorts and trunks, we strongly recommend collecting one in every shade. DSTLD has good quality for the price point ($95), Todd Snyder has an elevated selvedge version (
$295 $179). And don’t forget the sherpa lining for surviving winter.
“Love a good shacket” — our Editor in Chief. Slightly elevated from a button down, J.Crew’s quirky lightweight zip-front (
$75 $54) will probably span many seasons in your wardrobe, which is what makes it a perfect example of denim’s versatility. This Levi's Vintage Clothing Shirt Jacket ( $195 $135) is an archival reproduction of a 1970s Levi's heavyweight cotton twill design, which is super on trend right now.
The Rain Coat
If a company only makes one product, that can be taken as a good sign. At least for now, Proof Collective makes precisely one men’s jean jacket and one women’s. But these duds have some technical prowess. The fabric is treated with Bluesign, which makes it waterproof without stiffening it. All this is to say, it’s a handsome option for those end-of-summer rainy nights. Elsewhere, the winter-friendly Pedaled hooded Adventure Jacket ($370) boasts a bunch of clever cargo on top of some hardcore weatherproofing.
Nota bene: If you buy through these links, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits