During a recent meeting with Mike R., a Silicon Valley insurance executive, after we finished talking about his new suit, he said, “And you’re going to like this. I want to get another pair of those jeans we did last year.” As he spoke those words I sat there with a feeling of humble satisfaction. “You were right,” he continued. “They cost a lot more (north of $200) than what I was used to paying for jeans, but they are totally worth it. They are more comfortable and still look like new….and I’ve worn them a lot…especially with my sport coats!”
I was pleased, but not surprised, by Mike’s experience. Better quality denim (in all of it’s varied blends, hues and finishes), coupled with a modern fit (whether trim or relaxed) is not (to borrow a phrase) your Daddy’s Cadillac.
A majority of the better quality or premium jeans sold and worn in the USA are 100% made in the USA. For the most part, the denim is woven on decades old looms by highly skilled artisans in North Carolina and other parts of the South, and the jeans are designed and made in California or other parts of the West Coast. Representing less than 5% of all jeans produced, the quality difference is easy to see and feel. An additional benefit is the inherent longevity. Like a fine custom suit, premium jeans will better retain their color, size and shape when properly cared for, lasting many years longer than a mass produced pair of jeans.
Note: If you are just getting started with better jeans, a good place to begin is with a dark wash or Indigo. That will be the most versatile with a range of jackets and the best shade of denim for business casual.
While it may never be favored by the most traditional among us, premium jeans paired with the right tailored jacket is de rigueur, epitomizing a modern sensibility for comfortable sophistication when more formal attire is not required.
As far as I can tell, the primary way that guys go wrong when putting together the jacket and jeans look is that either the jacket or the jeans don’t fit the way they should. Most jackets and blazers circa 1999 or even 2005 are likely too broad in the shoulders, too long, and too boxy to work well with a good pair of jeans. In other words, you can’t just update your jeans and consider it good. The jacket and shirt must also have a modern look and feel – which means they must fit!
Now, I realize that “fit” is a somewhat relative term. What one man considers trim may feel a bit too roomy for another. To be sure, most men who wear a size 44 jacket or larger and/or carry their weight in the hips and thighs should not be wearing trim fitting anything, but a modern fit should come closer to skimming your body than looking two sizes too big.
In addition to fit, the fabric for your jacket is a critical decision. Because you will be wearing it with jeans at least some of the time if not always, your jacket should have one or both of the following characteristics:
- If the cloth is solid (no pattern) or has a very small or subtle pattern, then it should have texture or nap, or what I like to call “surface interest.” Flannel, tweed, corduroy, cashmere, and some silk blends….cloth with some loft….. all fit that category.
- If the cloth has a pattern, but a relatively smooth texture, then the pattern should be of a size that you can still see from a few feet away. The larger pattern provides the illusion of texture, which also works well with jeans, even if the cloth is relatively smooth.
When you get the fit and fabric right, looking and feeling great in a jacket and jeans is a cinch.