Jean Jackets an Ageless Wardrobe Staple.

Denim jackets or jean jackets, whatever you call them, they’re something many of us have had in our wardrobes since we were kids. Back in the day, I had one embroidered with “Do The Hustle” Total 70’s child, right? Maybe colors and washes have changed a little over the years but denim jackets have been a constant workhorse in every decade. On top of that, they’re ageless. I have clients from age 13 to age 83 that can vouch, it’s a tried and true piece. A wardrobe must-have for women (and yes, even men) of any age. 

But here’s the thing, just like the silhouette of denim on the bottom, aka jeans, changes over time, so does denim on the top, aka the jean jacket. To keep up with the times, the denim jacket can end up being long, short, frayed, dark, light, stitched, or embellished. But a good old fashioned medium wash jean jacket ain’t goin’ nowhere.  It’s a piece that always works no matter the year, month, or day. 

The Jean Jacket Questions

A few weeks ago, I posted a question on Instagram, asking for jean jacket styling questions. And btw, if you’re not following me there, you really should. I’m posting in-depth jean jacket styling videos this week.

There were so many good questions,  let’s start by answering some.

What Style Jean Jacket Should I Have? What are the Differences, Styles, Lengths?

There are 4 basic styles of denim jackets. And IMHO there’s a hierarchy in terms of which should be part of your wardrobe first (ie most useful and versatile) and then which can be added later if you find yourself to be a jean jacket addict, like me. I go into the particulars of each style below…

Can I wear a Jean Jacket with Jeans?

Good question. It can be done but it’s difficult to get right. The washes have to totally match or be completely different (confusing right?) Really, even for me, it’s hard. The foolproof way to get a jean on jean vibe, and know it will look good, is to pair your blue denim jacket back to either white, black or grey jeans. That way you don’t need to worry about the washes harmonizing.

Can you wear it multiple days in a row with different outfits? Or does it need to be rotated?

This kind of goes back to the hierarchy of styles. A basic denim jacket can be worn multiple days in a row. That’s a big reason my jean jacket comes on every vacation with me. But more styled jackets (think, holes, fringe, appliques, color) are more memorable and therefore worn less often.

What’s in or out? Distressed? Denim in Color? Washes?

Both distressed and denim in color are still “in”. But they fall into the overstyled denim category. So they are less versatile and more memorable, but absolutely can still be worn. A medium wash is the most all-purpose because it goes with everything.

What Are Your Favorite Brands?

To me the brands are secondary. It’s the style and washes that matters most. Then I think about stretch/comfort. For a classic denim jacket, I like Gap, Levi’s, and J Crew. If you want a little stretch in a classic style AG makes a great option. And for a highly styled, more unique iteration the Retrofete puffed sleeve jacket is fabulous.

There are a few types of denim jackets that will give you maximum versatility in your outfit pairings... I have 8 jean jackets in my rotation (don’t judge me) but they fall into 4 main categories…Different styles receive more action depending on the season, style, or vibe. 

The 4 Best Denim Jacket Styles

1. Classic Medium Wash Jean Jacket

This is the style to start with as it is timeless. Consider it a basic building block to a versatile wardrobe.

2. Cropped Denim Jacket

Perfect to wear with skirts and dresses. This is the next most important style to have. I found mine in the boy’s department. What is important is where the jacket hits. Just like a dress cardigan, where the jean jacket hits with a dress or skirt is what makes or breaks the outfit. It needs to hit between the lowest rib and the hip and be slightly cropped to look stylish and not frumpy.

3. Overstyled Denim Jacket.

Once you have the classic and cropped you can start adding styles that are “more fun”. With shearling, sleeve detail, or applique.

4. Longer Style jacket. 

This can be the longer trucker style or an oversized jacket. In the last few seasons, we’ve seen jackets (including jean jackets) getting longer. These proportions look good with skinny pants and also great over a slim slip dress.

If I Was Going to Add a New Style to My Collection…

As an aside, if I was going to add a new jean jacket to my collection for Fall 2020 it would be one with a puff sleeve. The femininity of the shape juxtaposed with the roughness of denim feels new and special. Technically this falls under the over-styled heading, so it’s not essential, consider it more of a frosting piece. But frosting is good sometimes. Funny, as I’m searching, it seems these jackets are available either for $30 or $230 and not much in between. However, Stella, from THD Shoppe is stocking a great one for $74, I’m linking it here. And use code HALLIETHD15 to save 15% on your order!

Here are some other great puff-sleeved denim jackets that caught my eye, at various price points. 

I could probably do a whole other post on how to style jean jackets – there really are so many ways. But instead, I’m going to show you. I made a video styling the various types of jean jackets. Check it out here. And if there are any jean jacket questions that didn’t get answered, pop them in the comments below.

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Photos: Becky Cormell

The jacket I’m wearing in the photo above is from Lisa Moran Ltd. Please contact them directly with inquiries  (216) 464-0800 And make sure to tell them you saw it here!


Cleveland-based personal stylist and fashion blogger.

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