Suits have been around for a while—about 400 years actually. They were the traditional clothing of choice for noblemen both in and out of the King’s Court, and have undergone many transformations to become the suits that we know today.
On the other hand, jeans were invented much later. It was during the California Gold Rush of the 19th century that Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis partnered up to make the first pair of denim jeans. These were made to withstand the manual labor of their time and became instant hits.
Two very different items of clothing worn in very different settings by very different people—suits used to be worn only during formal occasions, while jeans have always been decidedly casual. So how have they come to be paired together?
Well, fashion, like the times, is always evolving. Business attire used to be strictly formal but has slowly been incorporating more casual themes into the look. These days, an office where everyone is required to wear a suit isn’t as commonplace as it used to be. You’re likely to find people wearing t-shirts instead.
Wearing a suit jacket over jeans is simply a good compromise between business and casual attire.
A suit is made up of a jacket with a matching pair of pants, both of which are usually made from the same material.
Suit jackets used to be long—aptly called long coats—but have since been trimmed down to today’s standard hip height. They always used to be paired with a cravat or a necktie. Nowadays, however, neckties are only worn during formal occasions, and it’s become acceptable to forego them for everyday wear.
As mentioned earlier, jeans were invented to keep up with the manual workload of the 19th century labor force since workers back then wanted a pair of pants that they could wear for a long time that didn’t rip at the seams every so often. Since then—worker or not—they’ve become a must-have clothing item in everyone’s wardrobe.
Jeans are made of denim, which is a fabric made from cotton. They are usually blue but can come in other colors and shades. They have also undergone their own transformation to include a wide array of styles—straight-leg, bell-bottoms, skinny, flared, jogger, bootcut, just to name a few.
Guidelines on Wearing Suit Jackets with Jeans
Now the question is, how do we match the arguably inflexible suit jacket with the more versatile denim jeans?
The trick is to find just the right balance between formal and casual. To do this, we must first find out just what constitutes formal and casual for both clothing items.
Styles of Jackets That Are Best Paired with Jeans
There are three types of adaptable formal jackets available in the market, and they were all created for different reasons.
From the most to the least formal, they are the suit jacket, the blazer, and the sport coat. Below, I’ll be giving you a brief history on each, as well as their defining features for you to better understand how to pair them with jeans later on.
Basic Suit Jacket
As aforementioned, a suit jacket already comes with a matching pair of trousers that it’s best worn with. So—and I cannot stress this enough—only pair your suit jacket with a different set of jeans if you’ve no other options available. It’ll be obvious to a more experienced dresser that the jacket you have on is the top half of a suit.
But if you’re adamant about using your suit jacket, then only use the basic single breasted suit jacket with two or three buttons. These are the most commonly used in business and social gatherings.
Single breasted suit jackets with a single button are meant for tuxedos—the most formal of the bunch where less is more. I don’t need to tell you that tuxedo jackets should never be paired with denim jeans, not even if your life depended on it. Don’t do it. Please.
Double breasted suit jackets are also more elaborate than single breasted ones but considered less formal than tuxedos. I recommend that you don’t try to match it with a pair of jeans if only because it’s rarer to find double breasted suits in today’s world.
As for pockets, anything goes, but consider the following tips.
- If you’re lacking in height, slanted pockets can give the illusion of you being taller than you really are.
- Flaps on pockets are good for ensuring that your things don’t fall out.
- Go for a jacket that has a ticket pocket, which is half the size of your hip pocket and found right above it. Having this breaks the monotonous look of long jackets—perfect for men whose torsos look endlessly long.
The second type of jacket is the blazer. I’m sure you’ve heard of this term before, and you probably already have one in your arsenal.
Blazers come on solid colors. They can be navy blue, black, red, even pink! But not multicolored.
What sets them apart from a suit is the fact that they don’t come with a matching pair of trousers, but they do come with shiny, metal buttons. They’re also not as tailored to fit as a suit and will hang somewhat more loosely around you.
They used to be double breasted but not anymore these days. They also form part of the uniform in some schools, especially in places where the climate is colder.
As they are considered less formal than a suit, it is acceptable to wear them with jeans.
The last and the least formal is the sport coat. I’m not talking about the jacket that accompanies a sports jersey, but the sport coats that used to be worn in the late 19th century for outdoor sports such as hunting and horseback riding.
Of all the jackets listed, this is the one I highly recommend you get and use with jeans.
A sport coat is more durable since it’s thicker and built to withstand the viciousness of the outdoors. At the same time, because these coats are casual, they’re easier to dress down than the other jackets on the list.
Sport coats also do not have padded shoulders and sometimes have elbow patches. So if your sport coat tears at the elbow for one reason or another, you won’t have to immediately throw it out like you would a blazer or a suit. Instead, you can patch it up on your own, leaving others none the wiser.
Lastly, there’s a wider variety to choose from. They come in more patterns, colors, and materials, unlike suits that are mainly made out of the finer worsted wool.
Being a more flexible garment, you can wear a sport coat in the office, at the movies, in a bar with friends, and even during ostentatious events such as weddings. They are that adaptable.
I’m basically saying that the sport coat is the best option of the three, and it’s really not difficult to see why.
Rules in Wearing Formal Jackets with Jeans
The only time you should consider matching a suit jacket with jeans is when you wish to raise the formality of your attire from casual to business casual.
So now that we’ve sufficiently covered suit jackets, here are some rules you’ll need to remember when pairing them with jeans.
Make Sure You Have an Extra Suit
If you only have one suit in your wardrobe, I suggest that you do not separate the jacket from the trousers. Instead, wear them as the set they were meant to be.
If you wear your suit jacket in a social setting such as a party or a get-together, you could end up unnecessarily staining your one and only jacket with soup or sauce. And even if the stain does come off, frequent and forceful washing can still alter the color of your jacket.
As suit jackets are meant to match the trousers that they come with, a slight discoloration will completely ruin your set, rendering it unusable for dressier occasions in the future.
Avoid jet black shoes as they are considered very formal and will clash with the casualness of your jeans. Instead, go for the more casual brown shoes. They can be found in different shades ranging from dark to light.
You may opt for other shoe colors as well such as oxblood and olive if you think they will pair better with the color of your suit jacket.
When choosing a type of shoes, avoid the extremely laid-back ones such as rubber shoes, sneakers, or boat shoes. Instead, try to go for the dressier but slightly casual alternatives like loafers, monk straps, and Chelsea boots.
Remember that you’re supposed to be dressing up your look, not dressing down.
Avoid wearing casual t-shirts with large prints as they will look incredibly odd with your suit jacket. You’re better off simply wearing the shirt and jeans and leaving your jacket at home.
Ideally, you should go for colored dress shirts to bring down the level of formality while still keeping it more than casual. You can even try patterned ones, provided that the colors match with your overall look.
Unembellished tees can also be paired with your suit and jeans. Plain white works, as well as grey, black and dark blue. But if you’re feeling more bold and adventurous, you could test the waters and try other colors.
Henleys and polo shirts can also work when paired with a suit jacket. They both have buttons, but unlike dress shirts, their buttons don’t go all the way down. They’re like a cross between dress shirts and t-shirts, which kinda makes them perfect.
In the end, it’ll all boil down to how you mix and match all the items of your outfit.
Tuck Your Shirt In
That’s right, tuck it in! Having your shirt dangle underneath your suit makes for a very sloppy appearance. It just won’t look good. ‘Nuff said.
The Color of the Suit Jacket
You’ll want a jacket that will contrast with your jeans. Wearing a jacket that’s the same color as your trousers will only look weird as people will wonder why you didn’t just wear your suit’s matching trousers to begin with.
When it comes to suit colors, the general rule is—the darker it is, the more formal. Hence why black tie events are the most formal out there.
This means that suit jackets that are differently colored—such as green, brown, or navy blue—are more on the casual side than formal. For that matter, so are patterned ones!
Pinstripe suits are on the more formal end of the spectrum when it comes to patterned jackets, so you might want to steer clear of those. Instead, pick out patterns such as houndstooth, birdseye and herringbone.
To sum up, go for patterned and light colored jackets with dark blue jeans.
The Right Fit
Of course, none of these rules will matter in the end if you wear a suit jacket that is ill-fitting to your physique.
When it comes to the right fit, find a jacket whose collar rests gently against the back of your neck. There should be no gap between your neck and the collar, and it should definitely not tug at your neck. The former means it’s too big for you, while the latter means it’s too tight.
As for the length, the right jacket should just about cover your butt. Higher than that and it’s too small for you. Lower than that and it’s definitely too big.
The shoulders of your jacket should also fit just right so that you’re able to move freely in them without them draping over you like a poncho. As a rule, if you plan on buying a suit, you should consider how well it rests on your shoulders first. If the shoulders don’t fit, don’t buy it.
Lastly, a jacket that’s perfect for you will not crease in the middle when you button it up. It’s normal for jackets to crease when you’re seated—that’s why you’re supposed to unbutton them before doing so—but if they crease while you’re still standing, then you’ve got a problem.
The right jacket should match your figure and give your body a more-or-less hourglass shape.
Choosing the Right Jeans for Your Suit Jacket
There are a lot of jeans on the market, all with different styles and colors. Choosing the right jeans for your suit jacket is just as important as choosing the right jacket for your jeans.
When it comes to style, jeans have a lot of them. But since you’ll be matching them with dressy suit jackets, it’s best you pick out ones that are on the more formal side of the fence, too.
Here are a few rules to consider when choosing the right jeans for your suit jacket.
The Right Style and Fit
Baggy jeans are seriously to be avoided. Remember that the best suit jacket should have the right fit for you—not too tight, nor too loose. So matching it with baggy jeans is totally counterproductive.
Jeans that flare out at the end such as elephant jeans and bell-bottoms are another big no-no. They are too casual and will not match with the style of a suit jacket at all.
The best jeans are jeans that closely resemble the style and fit of your suit pants. This means that they should taper slightly towards the end and should not crumple in a heap at your shoes, nor be too short that they end up putting your ankles on display.
Stovepipe jeans can work as well since they are skinny at the thighs, but become straight-leg below the knee.
The younger men of today prefer pants with a tighter fit as compared to the older generation, who prefer their suit pants to be a bit looser. So purely straight-leg jeans and/or skinny jeans are other viable options, if there’s nothing else.
No Unnecessary Cuts and Accessories
Strictly no jeans with acid wash, rips or holes, or unnecessary accessories like large embroidered patterns and gem studs. These are considered extremely casual and must be kept as far away from your suit jacket as possible!
When it comes to formal wear, less is always more. Bridge the gap between formalities by pairing a more casually styled suit with more formal-looking jeans.
The Darker the Better
That said, since brighter suit jackets are considered less formal and are to be paired with jeans that clash with them in color, then pick out darker-colored jeans to wear them with.
You can’t go wrong with a pair of dark blue or navy blue denim jeans, for example. Even if you don’t plan on pairing them up with a suit jacket, they’re still great, chic additions to your repertoire of clothes.
However, if you only have dark suit jackets, then you’ll be needing a brighter shade of blue for your jeans. Off-white works, too!
Completing Your Outfit
No outfit is complete without a couple of accessories. Not only does every small, added detail do wonders for your overall look, but some of these embellishments are even functional!
Let’s talk about the kinds of accessories you can wear with a suit jacket and jeans.
Watches are great accessories for both men and women to have. They are sophisticated and functional, with an array of designs and materials to choose from.
That said, avoid wearing watches that have a plain white-faced dial and black leather straps. Such simple and elegant watches are too formal and best partnered with tuxedos for black tie events.
Instead, go for the more relaxed styles—metal, rubber, cloth, nylon straps, and even leather bands that are any color but black.
And since you’re going for a business casual look here, it’ll be better if you wear an analog watch instead of a digital one. Digital watches are for purely informal settings.
When it comes to belts, there are also quite a lot of things to consider. Surprising, huh? But don’t worry because it’s really not that complicated.
For starters, remember that the thinner the belt, the more formal it is. For a business casual outfit, belts that are at least 1.5 inches thick are ideal.
For the buckle, it’s best to find one that has a frame buckle as it’s really the only belt buckle that’s acceptable to wear with formal to semi-formal attire. Everything else like the plate-style, snap buckles, and box-frames are more suited for the everyday outdoors.
When it comes to the actual material of the belt, try to avoid shiny black and brown leather belts. These are considered the most formal and will not complement your casual jeans at all.
However, there are laid-back leather work belts that you can use that are broader, stiffer, and not as shiny as their dressy counterparts. Stretchy belts and belts made out of canvas will work as well.
Also, consider getting yourself a braided or woven belt. They come in both plain color or multicolor and can be a great match to your business casual attire. The best part is they are the most adjustable of all the belt styles, as you can literally stick the prong of your belt buckle anywhere on it.
Lastly, the color of your belt should be in the same color spectrum as your shoes. So if you’re going for oxblood shoes, then use a belt that is also reddish. It doesn’t have to be just as red—just a hint is enough for both to match in a business casual setting.
If you’re thinking about adorning yourself with a piece of jewelry or two, the most important thing you have to remember is to make sure that all the metals match.
Acceptable jewelry for the modern man can include a ring, a bracelet, a necklace, cufflinks, tie clips, and—as already mentioned—a watch.
This means that if you’re going for a belt with a gold buckle, then it’s best to match it with a gold accessory, like a gold watch. If your belt buckle is silver, pair it with a silver necklace or bracelet.
However, I don’t recommend that you use all types of jewelry at once. It will clutter up your look unnecessarily and make you look more like a gangster.
Neckties are usually used in formal occasions, and pairing a suit and tie with jeans might look completely strange. However, not all ties are formal. In fact, some ties can even be playful depending on their design and color.
If you want to wear a tie, go for the brighter colored ones. Patterned ties are good, too! So are knit ties, which are decidedly casual.
And on the topic of knit ties, if you ever plan on matching your sport coat with a tie, this is the one to use. Formal ties will not work on sport coats.
If your necktie isn’t working out and you still think your suit needs a bit more character, try adorning it with a pocket square instead.
A pocket square is a tiny, square piece of cloth that should be light and small enough to fit easily inside the breast pocket of your suit. It’s purely for decorative purposes and is not to be confused with the more functional and larger handkerchief.
Plain white pocket squares are ideal for the most formal occasions like black tie events. Instead of these, go for the more colorful and patterned ones to complement your look as they are more casual.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Wear A Suit Jacket with Jeans
Can you wear a suit jacket as a blazer?
Yes, you can definitely wear a suit jacket as a blazer. The only real difference between a suit jacket and a blazer is that the latter has metal buttons and comes in solid colors. The difference is negligible.
What is the best jacket to wear with jeans?
The best type of jacket to wear with jeans is the sport jacket or sport coat. Of the three types of jackets mentioned—sport, blazer, suit—this is the most casual so it’s the best to match your jeans with.
Is it ok to wear a suit jacket with jeans?
Yes, it is ok to wear a suit jacket with jeans, provided that you follow the rules listed in this article. Honestly though, you can wear anything you want if it makes you feel good. But feeling good and looking good are two different things. So if you want to feel and look good at the same time, pay close attention to the details. Trust me, they matter.
A Final Word From The Trending Man
To sum up everything written here, you can totally pair your suit jacket with a pair of jeans provided that the former isn’t too formal, and the latter isn’t too casual.
It all really boils down to finding the right balance between the two conventions. You have to know your outfit in order to wear it well. So if you’ve read until the end of this article, then props to you! You’re on your way to becoming a more stylish version of yourself.