The power of the denim shirt has to be in its supreme flexibility. Can you wear them during the week and over the weekend? Yes. With other jeans? Sure. With chinos? You bet. You can even dress one up with a blazer, cardigan and maybe a tie. Sure, there may be a few dos and don’ts, but the part to remember is that the option is always on the table.
All you have to do is find the right one for your style – which is where our guide comes in. From slim fit to oversized, long sleeves to short and black to light blue, we’ll cover the most prominent style choices you have to make. We’ll then share our top picks for denim dress shirts, Western shirts, work shirts and more from the best brands in the business such as Levi’s, Nudie Jeans and Lyle & Scott.
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While many denim shirts can be very similar, we’ve tried to put together a buying guide that offers practical and style-based advice. Hopefully, this information will make you feel more comfortable buying and wearing your new garment, ensuring that you get value for money and possibly a boost of confidence!
The first factor you need to think about is the colour wash. While we’re all for the Canadian tuxedo (a denim shirt or jacket paired with jeans of the same wash), it isn't a look everyone wants to rock, so you’ll want to think about how you’re going to combine your top and bottom pieces.
There are two ways to do this – either opt for a lighter upper if you want to wear darker jeans and vice versa for lighter pairs. Got plenty of trouser options and don't want to buy two different shirts? Opt for a medium wash, as this will be both darker than light and lighter than dark, giving your garment more versatility.
Of course, you could also go for a brighter colour like green or a classic neutral such as grey or black if you feel more at home working with these. That being said, the traditional denim blue is certainly a large part of a shirt's appeal, as it gives it that working, everyman sort of vibe.
Once you’ve decided on the type of wash you wish to go for, it’s time to consider the fit, which is something a lot of us overlook. Thankfully, when it comes to denim shirts, there isn’t too much to think about – they're usually either regular or oversized.
The regular fit can be slimmer but is designed to fall straight, rather than getting narrower the closer it gets to the waistline. This fit is a safe bet for almost every bloke as it works well with a range of different body shapes, and you won't have to do too much styling. This is also the most versatile and can work for casual or smart-casual occasions.
Or, for a relaxed look that's infinitely more casual than proper, consider an oversized shirt. If you’re looking to purchase something that won’t be worn to any evening events and, instead, want something that keeps you comfy and can work as a layer, oversized denim could be just the thing.
Another factor that determines the versatility and formality of a denim shirt is its sleeve length. Longer-sleeved shirts do tend to be more of an all-rounder as they work for various dress codes and events, as well as during more weather conditions. Plus, if you do get warm, you can always roll your sleeves up or unbutton them a bit.
If you already have a long-sleeved denim shirt or you have a specific look in mind, why not try out short sleeves? While these aren't as common and are generally better suited to holidays and brief British summers, the laid-back connotations of denim mixed with their sharper look can be a winning smart-casual combo. Or, layer over a classic white t-shirt and leave it open.
While on your search, you may have noticed that whatever their cut and sleeve length, most denim shirts come with at least one breast pocket. But, aside from being handy for storing sunglasses, keys or pens, they also influence the style of the shirt.
For instance, a single breast pocket makes the piece look more like a regular, everyday shirt, whereas two breast pockets deliver more of a workwear vibe, or if they're shaped a certain way, a Western edge.
Usually, if a denim shirt doesn't have any pockets, it's because you’re opting for a brand that has chosen to put its logo in place of it. This will diminish the traditional style somewhat, but can instead result in a cleaner, more minimalist look.
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Hebbe Denim Shirt
A Cut Above the Rest for the Modern Man
Jackson Denim Worker Shirt
Based on Workwear, but Comfier
Organic Cotton Denim Overshirt
Hilfiger Denim Showing Their Street Side
Lyle & Scott
Short Sleeved Denim Shirt
Vintage Style With a Modern Edge
The Ultimate Throw-On Appeal
Striped Denim to Keep It Fresh
90s Oversized Organic Denim Shirt
An Affordable Multi-Season Staple in Black
Western Denim Shirt
Classic Western Meets Contemporary Wash
A Minimalist and Modern Take
Oversized Short Sleeve Shirt
A Laid-Back Blend of Two Unusual Denim Looks
We're sure you'll understand why this is our top pick when you lay your eyes on the beauty that is the Nudie Jeans Hebbe. This simple yet incredibly stylish shirt is ideal for the modern man and practical for pretty much any occasion due to the cut and the wash.
In addition to that, the denim used is both durable and easy flowing, so you won't be in a rush to replace it, but neither will it be annoying or awkward to wear. Plus, there are some nice extra touches, like the brown buttons and the stitched branding on the breast pocket. A real cut above the rest.
There was no way there wasn't going to be Levi's product right near the very top of our recommendations, but the standout in their collection is surely the Jackson Worker Shirt. As the name suggests, this design is inspired by traditional workwear and has a rugged aesthetic perfect for everyday wear.
Although based on workwear, it does deviate slightly, ensuring that it's a little smoother and less rigid, and therefore, a little more comfortable. Wear it solo, as a mid-layer or even over a hoodie if you so desire. Whatever the case, it'll never look out of place.
Tommy Hilfiger might have a reputation for producing sporty, preppy attire, but the reality is that they're much more flexible than that. They've also been worn by many celebrities that tend to lean towards street fashion, and we believe that's where this denim shirt belongs.
You see, while this overshirt is described as having a regular fit, we'd be inclined to conclude it's a little roomier than many others, giving it an oversized vibe. Also, we know that an overshirt has a slightly different purpose to a regular one, but if you want to go for a boxy or roomy fit, then those lines can quickly become blurred – making this a great standalone shirt too.
Lyle & Scott has been around since the late 1800s, but it wasn't until the earlier 00s and the production of their vintage range, which introduced the golden bird, that they entered the public conscience. This short-sleeved denim sums up their style perfectly – it's the epitome of smart casual.
With its bold blue wash, flattering fit and embroidered logo in place of any pockets, it manages to incorporate those vintage styles while all the time maintaining a modern edge. The price is well justified by its quality, and we're sure it'll look great with most of what you already own.
While the Pull&Bear name might not have the same attraction on our shores, the brand is quite popular over in Europe and fill a space similar to that of H&M – they provide high-street quality clothes at competitive prices. So, if you're looking for a classic blue shirt for less, look no further.
This is about as traditional as a denim shirt gets, with a versatile medium wash, long sleeves, a spread collar and a single breast pocket. Also, it has to be said that all of this gives it a real throw-on appeal, making it perfect for lazy days, running errands and pub trips alike.
We're almost sure that no one doubts Levi's credentials when it comes to making denim in any capacity. That said, from time to time, every company has to spread their wings and be a little more experimental – which is where the Hickory enters the arena.
This worker-style shirt offers something fresh and different due to the pinstripe pattern that adorns it. While unique, however, it's not garish and could still easily work with most people's wardrobes. We love that it's different and not something people would expect when they think of denim.
ASOS is an excellent place to shop if you're looking for new gear on a smaller budget. Take this shirt, for instance. It's affordable, but it also comes with all the traits that many others do – a spread collar, breast pocket and a relaxed and roomy fit, which is both comfortable and bang on-trend.
Not only that, but as it's black, it's also one of the easiest options to pair, as the only trousers you might steer clear of would be those in the same black wash. Unless you're aiming for the Canadian tux look, of course. It might have the lifespan of some other pieces, but it's hard to complain at this price.
This offering from River Island aims to throw both classic and contemporary into the mixer and come out with something that resembles both, which we think it achieves. It does so effortlessly by combining classic Western-style stitching with a more modern colour wash.
Talking of the wash, the medium grey is an excellent choice for those with a sizeable trouser collection. This will work will both lighter and darker tones, making it a flexible option that allows you to get the best out of your wardrobe. It's worth noting that this is lightweight denim, so it won't suit those after a warm layer.
Selected Homme is a Danish fashion brand that has been around since the mid-70s. As you can see from this piece, they have a minimalist expression that focuses heavily on modern trends with a European or international touch. Furthermore, they aim to provide high-quality goods at affordable prices.
Now, if this doesn't encapsulate all of that, we don't know what will. It's a Scandi dream, even forgoing any visible stitching. It might stray a little too far from the traditional denim shirt path for some, but others will surely enjoy the subtle differences it offers.
The first denim shirt in our ranking is this offering from ASOS Design. We think it's fair to say that this is quite a unique garment for a few reasons. Firstly, it combines two quite unusual fashions – an oversized fit and short sleeves. Secondly, it comes in an '80s-style acid wash.
This is the sort of denim shirt that really comes into its own on holiday, but other than that, it's possibly a bit out there for most regular folks. Still, if you're into its old school look, then there should be nothing holding you back from giving it a go.
Looking for something warmer, cooler, smarter or more casual? Whatever your style and whatever the season, we've got plenty more shirt recommendations for year-round wear in the articles below. You don't even have to leave your laptop to buy them!
We hope after you've finished reading this, you've found a denim shirt that's caught your eye. Remember to find a piece that's constructed from a comfortable, robust fabric and to experiment with different fits to change your style up. By keeping all that in mind, you'll be rocking the denim in no time!
Author: Lewis Clark
No. 1: Nudie Jeans｜Hebbe Denim Shirt
No. 2: Levi's｜Jackson Denim Worker Shirt
No. 3: Hilfiger Denim｜Organic Cotton Denim Overshirt
No. 4: Lyle & Scott｜Short Sleeved Denim Shirt
No. 5: Pull&Bear｜Denim Shirt
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