Denim Workwear: Tips for Wearing Jeans at the Office

There’s a certain irony to writing about wearing jeans with business clothes. Denim, after all, is 19th-century workers’ garb: It was made for Gold Rush prospectors, not modern-day gold-fund portfolio managers.

But rules today are fuzzy at best, and history’s greatest leaders of fashion — from Beau Brummell to the Duke of Windsor — always paired unexpected items together. One of the Duke’s most famous rule smashings was pairing suede lace-ups with suits. Today it’s considered ultra sophisticated, but at the time it was gauche bordering on scandalous.

So the first thing to consider when wearing jeans at the office is that it’s not technically “correct.” But you knew that. Still, some ways to go about it are better than others.

Simple, dark or even white denim works best for warm weather and one way to build an outfit is to think of your jeans as khakis. You wouldn’t wear khakis with a contrast-collar dress shirt, satin tie and double-breasted pinstriped suit jacket. But you’d certainly wear khakis with a blue buttondown, striped tie and a navy blazer.

So same for jeans. Stay true to their workwear roots by pairing them with casual sport shirts, sport coats and even a tie if you want. And for footwear, try a nice pair of leather loafers. You’ll have a business casual look that breaks old rules while establishing new standards.

For a business casual looks that’s both dressed up and dressed down, classic-with-a-twist is always a perfect fit.


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