Jeans With a Sport Coat—Some Thoughts

Wearing jeans with a tailored jacket can be tricky. While many posts on this subject focus on the details of the jacket (fabric, fit, silhouette, etc.), I just wanted to put some thoughts down about the jeans part of the equation.

There’s no easy list of guidelines for choosing jeans that will look good paired with a tailored jacket. Recently on Styleforum, someone launched a thread dedicated to the topic, and there have been some really great contributions. Nobody there has come up with a set list of rules yet, though there are lots of opinions. What rules make sense on paper can be easily discredited with a photo of someone looking great breaking them—as with anything, handsome, well built men photographed by a talented professional can make almost anything look great.

I’m personally working through my preferences on what I feel works best, but I do have some thoughts I wanted to put down.

1- A slim-straight silhouette is better than skinny or traditional straight

Of course we’re all built differently so a slim straight silhouette may be a challenge to find for some men with large thighs, but even for slim-legged guys, “slim straight” doesn’t mean the leg is totally straight. There is always a taper; it’s just how well the designer can make it look like there isn’t. Full fit jeans run a high risk of looking like dad jeans. And skinny has such a juvenile connotation to me.

2- Mid or high-rise is better than low rise

Low-rise jeans are really meant for fit guys wearing tees or other casual tops. With button up shirts, unless you have a super flat stomach, you’ll get weird pooching. Under a sport coat, it’s not that it necessarily looks awful (it depends on how the guy is built to be honest), but it usually wrecks the proportions of the jacket. So yeah you can see I’m wearing low-rise jeans here. I am on the lookout for higher-rise light wash jeans, but in the meantime don’t overthink this and wear what I have. These were $20 at Abercrombie and fit the bill for me most of the time.

3- Faded is fine but it’s really a crapshoot

I have three pairs of denim—a light-wash, a mid-wash and a dark rinse. I wear all of them with sportcoats. The mid-wash was the toughest to find for me, because so many fades just look so bad. They’re either trying too hard to simulate workwear fades, or have a weird color (I see weird greenish hues a lot for some reason?), or are just faded poorly in general. Yeah pretty vague, I know, sorry. Maybe I’ll write a post on this someday with examples. But generally, with faded, they shouldn’t look too workwear-y, or acid-washed, or have holes in them.

4- Cuffs are my default but only because cut is so hard to nail

Having slight or no-break denim looks awesome—on some people. But others it makes their legs look stubby (hello, that’s me). So I usually get longer inseams and cuff the jeans—even with a sportcoat. I feel it lengthens my legs and grounds me. Others vehemently disagree and think no cuff is the only way to go, and that cuffing has too much of a workwear connotation. Usually no-cuff jeans don’t look good to me because the leg opening is too big—so it just looks like a floating or slightly resting stove pipe standing still, or a floppy mess when walking.

I may post again about this topic in the future but just wanted to get some thoughts out.

What do you think? Have any strong opinions about wearing jeans with a sport coat? Let me know in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Colin

    April 27, 2018 at 4:19 am

    A couple of points that you mentioned I found interesting:
    -the thread on StyleForum, you mentioned no one has come up with a set of rules yet. I think this is interesting, as often that is where a discussion will be distilled, then argued about. I think it has been such a great thread because it’s just pictures and discussion. One thing I picked up from you was to not be limited to dark wash – why try to make jeans behave like dress trousers?
    -I’m not sure that you can get high-rise jeans that don’t have a dad-vibe about them
    Good read as always.

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