How To Wear Double Denim Without Looking Like A Fashion Victim
Wearing double denim is an advanced-level move that sets stylish men apart from the rest. Here's how to get it right every time.
Double denim often gets a bad rap, which is unfair. On the face of it, it’s an easy look given that it simply involves combining two garments both made from the famously durable fabric. But don’t pay attention to the details and things can quickly go south.
Unlike other fabrics such as cotton and wool, denim (particularly indigo denim) is often too bold when worn together and can make the wearer appear as though they’re trying hard. On the flipside, when done well double denim can channel the kind of effortless American cool usually reserved for mid-century movie stars.
How to achieve the latter, then? From styling tips to go-to outfits, here’s everything you need to ensure you don’t go the same way as Justin Timberlake.
Double denim: general styling tips
Styles of garment
Which style of denim garment you choose and how you wear will result in dramatically different looks. However, where things won’t change is down below. Unless you manage to find a pair of denim trousers or chinos (which we don’t advise), you’re going to be wearing jeans. That means the classic five-pocket design beloved by everyone from hipsters to Jeremy Clarkson.
What you can do though is mix up the cut. For something relaxed and laid back, a pair of regular or wide-fit jeans offer both comfort and a more casual look, whereas slimmer fits produce a streamlined, slightly sharper feel.
It’s up top where things get interesting as there are a few options in this regard. There’s the jean jacket, a classic piece of Americana that looks as cool now as it did back in the gold rush era where it first originated. Featuring two chest pockets, front darts and a short, cropped fit, it’s perfect for transitional weather and adds a rugged edge to most outfits.
Then there’s denim shirts, which come in many shapes and sizes. Continuing the American theme, the western-style shirt boasts front and back yokes and twin buttoned chest pockets for an equally rugged feel. If you want something slightly smarter, try a denim work shirt, which features simple squared pockets and a slightly boxy fit.
Regardless of the garments you choose, the success of any double denim outfit often comes down to the colour (or washes) of the denim pieces you wear together.
There’s no doubt about it, double denim can be tricky to pull off. Which is mostly down to the fact that two garments cut from the same fabric can look bold and a bit matchy-matchy. It doesn’t help that it comes with plenty of negative connotations, from the aforementioned Justin Timberlake (and Britney) taking double denim too literally in the early 2000s, to the trope of the ‘Canadian tuxedo’.
Yet things get a whole lot easier when you mix it up – i.e. when your top and bottom half are in completely different denim shades/washes. Consider, for example, a pair of black denim jeans with a raw denim chore jacket, or off-white jeans and a mid-wash denim shirt. These are looks that are surprisingly easy to wear, and quickly shun any notion that double denim has to be cringe-worthy and deeply uncool.
The denim itself
Something else to consider is the denim itself. Known for being durable and hardwearing, it is the ultimate labourer’s fabric. It was originally designed to take a beating, intended for use in the gold mines on the American west coast at the turn of the 20th century. Levi’s logo even features two horses attempting (and failing) to pull a pair of jeans apart.
Traditionally then, denim is coarse and takes a while to break in. Raw denim, as it’s known, is the fabric as it was the day it left the mill: unwashed, freshly dyed and ready to be worn to death. Raw denim takes on its own unique character with repeated wear, so if you’re looking for a crisp pair of jeans that will fade and mould to your body with time, this is the kind of denim to go for.
Raw denim jackets and shirts offer the same appeal, but the fabric tends to feel stiff and uncomfortable (until broken in), so if you’re impatient or prioritise comfort it would be best to look elsewhere.
Washed denim is easy to spot. It’ll be lighter in tone than raw denim, varying from mid and dark blue all the way to pale blue and near-white. Aside from skipping the often painful process of wearing in denim, the washed variety is far more comfortable straight off the bat. Soft yet still durable, washed denim is perfect for those who don’t care about making jeans or a shirt ‘your own’.
Even comfier still is stretch denim, which is blended with 1-2% elastane. While it may not have the authentic charm of raw denim, stretch denim is as comfortable as the fabric gets – put on a pair of stretch denim jeans and they’ll practically feel like sweatpants.
Double denim outfits for men
White trucker jacket
An unconventional but inspired choice, a white denim trucker jacket is a worthy wardrobe investment and one that combines excellently with raw denim jeans. An ideal spring or summer look, this take on double denim channels effortless Americana, especially when finished with canvas low tops and tortoiseshell sunglasses.
Mix in knitwear
Double denim doesn’t have to mean you only wear denim. It’s entirely possible to mix in some knitwear to break things up, as evidenced with this jeans, denim shirt and cardigan combination. Knitwear in a contrasting shade provides a welcome visual distraction from what is otherwise a predominantly blue outfit.
A bold addition to your wardrobe, sure, but one that will likely get much more wear than you might first imagine. Off-white jeans aren’t as stark as pure white, and the softness of the shade wears perfectly with deep blues, making for an ideal alternative double denim outfit.
Try a work shirt tucked into a relaxed pair of jeans and finish with some minimal white sneakers for an outfit that’s sharp and rugged all at once.
Smart casual off-white
Double denim doesn’t have to be super relaxed though, and it is possible to dress it up. Take this combo as a case in point – the off-white jeans are slimmer in cut, while the denim (or chambray) shirt features a lighter weight and smart cutaway collar, referencing classic tailored shirts.
The loafers and leather belt complete the outfit, which is as appropriate for a fancy dinner reservation as it is a creative office environment.
As you might have guessed by now, we would always advise novices sticking to contrasting top and bottom shades with double denim. However, for an advanced level move, it can work with similar ones, as proven by this dark blue jeans and boxy shirt pairing.
The contrast of the T-shirt and boots is what makes it, so if trying this for yourself consider investing in some brown suede Chelseas and a well-fitting white T-shirt.
The open denim shirt
Wearing a shirt open can often look sloppy and ill thought out, but this is rarely the case when it comes to denim designs. A simple, mid-blue denim shirt worn open over dark jeans is a classic look and one that will see you through the weekend in style.
Monochrome double denim
Double denim doesn’t have to mean ‘blue’. Black and grey denim works especially well together if you’re looking for a bit of monochrome action. Try a black trucker jacket and a pair of washed grey jeans, and finish with black Chelsea boots and a black tee.
With a lightweight jacket
A lightweight jacket is perfect for softening a double denim look. For something spring ready, try a pair of white denim jeans, a light blue denim shirt and a light brown suede jacket, which complements the two both in texture and tonality.
Finish with matching blue suede sneakers and belt for an added yacht owner feel.
Denim chore jacket
Chore jackets are often found in cotton twill, but go for one in denim and you’ll stand out for all the right reasons. Mid-wash denim is arguably the most versatile – combine it with black jeans or a pair in off white to add a workwear edge to your double denim outfit.
Tonal top half
One way to wear double denim is by eschewing contrast and opting for a tonal top half, like in the case of this light blue denim shirt and T-shirt combination. Finish the look with some darker denim down below and try either loafers or trainers depending on how smart you want to go.
Classic double denim
For an old school dose of preppy Americana, a double denim look consisting of a dark blue work shirt, white T-shirt and tapered raw jeans is hard to beat.
Finish the outfit with burgundy penny loafers for an extra dose of Ivy League cool, and wear it with confidence.
Western double denim
The western double yoke shirt is one of menswear’s finest. With a heritage to back up its classic design, it’s as easy to wear as it is versatile and can be layered up or down virtually all year round.
Try combining a raw denim version with pale wash jeans and canvas high-tops for a look that borrows from day’s gone by while remaining thoroughly contemporary.
With Chelsea boots
It can be tricky to decide which shoes to wear with double denim. White sneakers are an obvious choice but for something smarter the water quickly gets muddied. The ideal in-between shoe is arguably the Chelsea boot – it wears well with any colour jeans and adds a smart yet relaxed edge to trucker jackets, western shirts and tees.
White, grey & blue
A classic colour combination, keep white, blue and pale grey in mind when looking to try double denim for yourself. Although more suited to the warmer months, a white pair of jeans combined with a heather grey T-shirt and mid-blue denim shirt is a surprisingly easy look to pull off.
Finish the outfit with minimal sneakers and you can’t really go wrong.