It’s no secret to most guys (like readers of this site, particularly) that dark denim is a true style essential.
If you had to buy one pair of pants outside of a suit or trousers to take you a variety of different places, dark denim could be that pair.
It goes with a multitude of different outfits and looks. And in the right fit, it provides a uniform look, crisp silhouette, and most importantly, versatility.
There’s certainly something to be said for owning things like chinos and cords in multiple shades, but some of those don’t have the ability to be worn in virtually all seasons.
And even if you do own jeans, it can be tough to transition a wardrobe from, say, pairs of baggier straight leg or boot-cut jeans to the right kind of denim.
Finding a pair
The right pair of denim certainly isn’t like your dad’s jeans — the right pair (i.e. the most versatile style you can own, one that can be dressed up as easily as it can be dressed down) is a dark indigo with, ideally, no pre-fading or other unnecessary details, rips, or tears.
The silhouette is also something to keep in mind — bootcut or unnecessarily baggy pairs should be left out of your search. A good medium is a slim-straight cut, like a Levi’s 514 jean or a Levi’s 513 jean. If you’re looking for something more trim — and this all comes down to personal preference — a Levi’s 511 could do the trick.
And unless you’re ultra-trim and into that style (or maybe in a popular boys’ band?), a rock-star skinny cut should probably be avoided. If you have to squeeze yourself in, it’s not the right cut for you.
Editor’s note: My favorite pair, mostly because of the ubiquity of it, is the Levi’s tapered model.
Washing your jeans is, for the most part, dependent on the type or style, but namely, dark denim should be washed as little as possible to deter bleeding of dye from the jeans and maintain quality. This especially holds true for more expensive types of denim, like raw or selvedge denim.
Handwashing small spots or stains, airing the jeans out, and using some Febreze (yes, Febreze) to ‘clean’ your pair are all good care options. The longer you wear those jeans, the more they break in and fit to your body, like any great item of clothing should.
On To The Options
Now that the perfect pair of denim is in hand, you’ll need some killer looks to wear it with. Read on for ideas below.
1. Winter Business Casual
With this outfit, there are certainly a lot of different textures going on. But, mixing up textures in rougher, more diverse shades for the fall and winter is a seasonally appropriate match for the cold (or even chillier-than-normal) weather that hits the country a lot this time of year.
The elbow-patch cardigan is a more bold move than a v-neck sweater. Combining two on-trend pieces (a cardigan and the elbow patches) is a nice nod to modern style without going too overboard, as the outfit is anchored by solid denim.
Although the Frank and Oak cardigan is more expensive because of that cashmere, it’s a nice investment that’ll pay off in the long run. The chambray
In sticking with outfit’s more rugged-casual feel, a braided belt plays off different textures and pairs more naturally with wingtip boots than a shinier dress leather belt. Because the outfit’s casual, skip the tie this time.
2. Cold-Weather Casual
- Shawl-collar cardigan (similar, similar)
- Thermal white henley
- Wingtip boots (similar)
- Braided leather belt (similar)
At first glance, this outfit might not seem too different from the outfit up top because of similar pieces (versatility, right?), but this number is decidedly more casual.
More than that, it practically screams rugged, manly style — something there seems to be less of these days. In colder parts of the country, thicker knits are going to be your friend when it gets cold. In fact, with a sweater in the right thickness, a cardigan and a scarf might do the trick nicely for staying warm.
And yes, that combo definitely works — ask this guy. In fact, the cardigan-and-henley combo once again provides some nice textural touches — the henley’s button placket is different from a crewneck t-
Heck, if you’re feeling adventurous, the cardigan could even be layered with a vest (like Daniel Craig a la ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’).
A casual night out with friends seems like a good chance to try this outfit on; it is, after all, a lot better than the ‘going-out’ shirts a lot of guys seem to favor.
3. Minus The Jacket
That’s right, no jacket in this outfit. That might be a bit different or ‘off’ for some, but when the
Roll up those sleeves, too, and throw on a watch with a standout canvas strap (say, navy), and the casual pairing up top is complete.
Since it’s winter (or at least colder in most parts of the US), a wool tie would be a fine, seasonally appropriate way to go, although a neutral knit tie isn’t off base in almost any climate or time of year. A tie bar is a modern touch that keeps the outfit sharp and your tie held down, more importantly — just make sure it’s at least a bit shorter than the tie itself, not longer.
Because the jacket is left hanging, the shoes can be more casual, too — that’s where the suede desert boots come in. And in this case, don’t worry about matching the leather to the suede of the boot — brown and tan should work well together.
4. Blue on Blue… on Blue?
- Blue Oxford cloth button down
- Marine blue v-neck sweater
- Plain brown leather belt
- Wingtip shoes (similar)
Contrary to popular belief, shades of blue can be worn at the same time. The trick is to make sure the shades fall in different places along the spectrum, so as not to seem too matched-up or allow the outfit to blend together.
In this instance, the oxford-cloth button down is lighter than the sweater, and the sweater is a different shade of blue than the jeans. A royal v-neck could work quite well here, too. It’s the same idea as wearing a navy blazer with dark jeans, but this outfit is more errand-ready than a blazer.
Blue is certainly a more forgiving color when pairing with multiple shades, so this is a good time to experiment with colorful socks or a bright
As a shoe option, double monk strap shoes are somewhat toeing the line between ‘of-the-moment’ and classic, as they’re certainly quite ubiquitous now. Here, you could also utilize the brown wingtip boots or something more classic, like a brown desert boot.
5. Warm Weather Style
It might not be warm enough to wear a popover
More importantly, it’s different than a standard polo or an OCBD, making it a choice that’s more eye-catching (and it’s always good to have one of those on-hand).
Just because it’s hotter out in the spring or summer also doesn’t mean that dark denim can’t be worn. It’s probably not a good bet to wear all the time, as it does tend to get hot enough in shorts or chinos, but in doses, it’s definitely still solid.
That same braided leather belt that worked in the cold weather works in the warm weather too — it’s a more casual option and wears less severely than a standard leather belt. And because it’ll be warmer out when this outfit is in vogue, it’s the perfect time to go ‘sockless’.
Cuff those jeans, show off some ankle, and soak up some much-needed rays.
The above outfits are only a few options to mix and match pieces with dark denim. It’s so versatile in that it’s dark, clean and slim-fitting, making it the perfect canvas on which to try out a plethora of outfits and experiment.