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Denim Western Wear Fashion Tips

Aug 16th 2022

Guide to Denim Western Wear

Denim is an ideal material for durable work clothes and carefree casual outfits—and it’s not just for jackets and jeans. Denim wear has expanded to include everything from shirts to sneakers and accessories. This rugged material is perfect for cowboys to wear to work, but it’s also a great-looking fabric that suits a variety of casual occasions. Explore our buying guide to learn more about denim Western wear and how to choose the right pieces for your wardrobe.

The History of Blue Jeans and Denim Wear

Denim Western wear all began with blue jeans: Levi Strauss invented men’s denim jeans in 1870 as workwear for sailors, coal miners, and laborers. Then, they became the unofficial uniform for cowboys and working men—which is where the term ‘blue-collar worker’ comes from. In the 1950s, Hollywood turned denim jeans into a wardrobe staple that represented bad boys, rock and roll, and rebellion. In the 1960s and 1970s, denim jeans were marketed to free-spirited hippies. Today, denim blue jeans are still worn by cowboys across the country but also by school teachers, punk rockers, and CEOs.

Jean jackets were invented by Levi Strauss about a decade after denim blue jeans, made for miners, railroad workers, and cowboys. Once again, Hollywood capitalized on this rugged Western wear trend and brought denim jackets to the rest of the world. In the late 1960s, denim jackets represented the same rebellious, cool, and relaxed culture as blue jeans. As denim jacket popularity spread out beyond cowboys, rock and rollers, and Hollywood icons, it landed in the mainstream where it has remained ever since.

Benefits of Denim Clothing

Denim has been a popular option for clothing since it first showed up in late 19th century America. Jeans, jackets, shirts, and other denim clothing items have remained favorites in the American West and in big cities worldwide thanks to these features:

  • It’s super comfortable and gets softer over time.
  • A special denim dying process allows fading for a characteristic well-worn look.
  • The more you wear denim, the more it conforms to your body for a personalized fit.
  • Denim requires less washing than other fabrics that soil more easily.
  • Easy-care denim is wrinkle-free, no ironing necessary.
  • Though the most popular cut or wash may change over time, denim is an iconic material that’s here to stay.

Trust the designer experts on this: Denim jackets are still in fashion—and they will never go out of style. When adding denim to your closet, follow our fashion tips for how to choose, fit, and style your jeans, jackets, or shirts.

Denim Western Wear Tips

How to Choose Denim Jeans

You have plenty of options when it comes to denim jeans, whether you’re shopping for kids or adults. Denim comes in different colors, washes, and finishes: A light or distressed wash is perfect for a long workday or hanging out with friends; opt for a dark solid wash to make jeans dressy enough for a night out. Choose the style and cut that offers the best fit and keeps you comfortable on the ranch or on the road. We know the feeling of slipping into a well-loved pair of jeans. As with any clothing item, finding the right size and the best jeans style for your body type can make all the difference.

Denim guide pro tip: Both men and women can dress up a pair of denim jeans by wearing them with a crisp white button-up shirt and a blazer or sports coat.

All About Denim Jackets

When to wear it: A denim jacket is fashionable in any season, but the best times of year to wear one are spring and fall. The material can be too warm in the summer and not warm enough in the winter. Some denim jackets come with an insulating lining for comfort on a chilly late fall or early spring day, but even this likely won’t cut it when snowflakes fly.

What color to pick: Though originally dark blue, denim jean jackets come in assorted colors from black to white, and everything in between. There are no rules when it comes to jean jacket color: The best color for a denim jacket is one that coordinates with your clothing or suits your personal style. Stick to blue if you prefer a classic look, branch out to a bright color for casual, carefree days, or choose basic black for a cool and collected vibe.

Denim guide pro tip: Ladies can dress up a casual denim jacket by pairing it with accessories from a printed scarf to a fringed handbag. Gentlemen, simply add a felt cowboy hat.

How To Wear a Denim Western Shirt

The first denim shirt actually came before the denim jacket: In 1905, Levi Strauss designed a denim “blouse” to wear with denim jeans. This rugged denim shirt became popular with working men. By 1930, the Levi Blouse morphed into the earliest version of the denim jacket, but the denim shirt remains a Western wear staple.

While it's easy to throw on a pair of jeans or jacket, some people find it tricky to wear and style a denim Western shirt. These shirts can be dressed down for the workday, up for a night out, or worn as a light jacket. The way you wear it is up to you, but here are a few tips on how to wear a denim shirt with other pieces of clothing.

To wear a denim shirt with jeans:

  • Coordinate black or dark indigo jeans with a dark blue denim shirt.
  • Top a pair of white or light stonewash jeans with a light denim shirt.
  • Pair dark jeans with a washed denim top, but most fashion experts caution against pairing light jeans with a dark denim top.

To wear a denim shirt with chinos or khaki pants:

  • Both dark and light denim shirts pair well with beige, tan, or light brown khaki pants.
  • Stick with dark denim when you sport black, gray, or navy chinos or trouser pants.
  • To keep it business-casual, tuck in the shirt and wear a belt and a pair of cowboy boots.

To wear a denim shirt with a dress or a skirt:

  • A dark denim shirt goes well with a dark skirt or dress; pair light-washed denim with light-colored pieces.
  • Wear your denim shirt tied at the waist for a laid-back-dressy look or open and flowing for an extra-casual style.
  • A women’s denim shirt over a dress looks cowgirl-chic when paired with cowgirl boots and Western-inspired jewelry.

Denim guide pro tip: A cotton or linen blazer or sports coat pairs with a denim shirt for a casual-yet-upscale look. If you wear a denim shirt under a suit, a slim-fit shirt with a cutaway collar better accommodates a necktie to complete this bold look.

Now that you know about the origins and benefits of denim wear, explore our blog for more Western fashion tips or discover how to build a Western wardrobe suitable for work, casual days, or dressier occasions.