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The Do's and Don'ts of Denim

Posted on 17 April 2023

A brief history...

“Denim” usually refers to a cotton twill fabric, whereby two threads in one direction (the weft) pass under two or more warp threads to create a subtle diagonal appearance. The name of the fabric originates from the French “de Nimes,” - place where the weave originated. Despite its French origins, Denim was first used extensively in Britain before it saw explosive popularity in the United States via jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss.

Denim exists in various weights. The type of denim used in mens shirting would be a lighter weight than the kind used for making jeans. 
Denim is usually thought of as being dyed blue with indigo, but it can appear in many colours - not exclusively shades of blues.

The strength of denim is its durability, which historically made it the cloth of choice for labourers, farmers, and cowboys. By the same token, the affiliation of denim with workwear has traditionally excluded denim from the world of mens tailoring on the principle of dressing appropriately for the occasion. A man who wanted to dress up for an event would not consider wearing ‘work clothes’, and at a time when one’s dress was a strong indication of his social class, a self-respecting gentleman who was not of the working class would not debase his status by dressing as one.

The term “blue-collar worker,” which arose in the United States during the early 20th century, relates to the usage of denim shirts by manual labourers. No single article of clothing has such a direct connection to workwear, which has presented a considerable obstacle to accepting the denim shirt as part of a tailored style.

Denim, in the form of jeans, also featured strongly as the uniform of the rock n’ roll counterculture that began in the 1950s. This was the start of the casual culture in which we are still mired today and stood in direct opposition to traditional men’s style, which, again, seems to draw a distinct line between denim and formal menswear.

There is some resistance to wearing a denim shirt by those who do not wish to ‘sell out’ to the trend of casualisation. On the other hand, we can see it as a way of appropriating the fabric in the name of classic style. Furthermore, these days, the mixing of high and low style, formal and casual, has become commonplace in dressing, as the democratisation of clothing has mirrored the supposed equalisation of society.

Tips on How to Wear Your Denim Shirt:

1) Denim shirts work brilliantly when layered. Try wearing yours unbuttoned over a plain t-shirt, or buttoned up beneath a sweater.

2) Wear with a casual jacket (like a cotton bomber jacket, or a cutaway collar utility jacket) for a hipster look.
3) Avoid ‘double denim’ i.e wearing jeans with your denim shirt. 

4) Contrast stitching on your denim shirt is suitable for informal occasions, but not for formal ones
5) Details like metal buttons or snap buttons are great, but avoid tassels, suede elbow or shoulder patches - too Wild West
6) Experiment with different shades of denim - red, dark green, cream. 

7) Pair with off-white or camel coloured chinos for a more classic look.

8) For formal occasions or nights out, try pairing your denim shirt with a blazer jacket. Avoid thicker denim shirts, opt for very lightweight denim.
  1. Is a denim shirt formal?
The denim shirt matching jeans are usually considered casual wear, but they can be dressed up for formal events by pairing them with a suit or blazer. Opt for a well-tailored suit to keep the look sharp and sophisticated.
  1. Can I wear a denim shirt with formal pants?
Yes, you can! A denim shirt can be paired with formal pants for a smart casual look. Opt for darker shades of formal pants to balance out the denim shirt's lighter tone, and create a dapper denim shirt matching pants look. 
  1. What color pants light blue denim shirt goes with?
Denim blue shirts can be paired with a variety of pants colors, but neutral colors like black, grey, and navy are the safest options. You can also experiment with earthy tones like khaki and brown for a more laid-back look, or off-white for a classic style.
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