In concept, a blazer and jeans is an endlessly-wearable marriage of tailoring and workwear; a high-low hero. In execution, though, it can quickly go wrong. Witness the cursed combination of skinny-lapel jackets and aggressively stretchy denim beloved by slick-talking realtors and NFL owners. Or the Boomer penchant for a one-size-too-big suit jacket with puddled dad jeans. (All of them, for some reason, love those unholy hybrid dress shoe-sneaks.)
But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t take much to get the jacket-’n’-jeans combo right.
Start With These Pieces:
To start, acquaint yourself with a raft of ’80s and ’90s airport paparazzi pics. You’ll find men who wore slightly oversized blazers and free-flowing jeans—not to meet some vague business casual dress code, but simply because it was cool. Then go check out Ralph Lauren, the man who made the pairing a hallmark of his All-American look almost 50 years ago—and continues to teach us that a blazer and jeans can be elevated from a sure thing to aspirational. (He’s still rocking proper jackets over beat-up dungarees with gorped-out sneakers or some well-cooked cowboy boots to this day.)
In 2023, the blazer and jeans legacy is carried forward by dudes like Austin Butler, Elliot Page, and your friendly neighborhood menswear influencer. What hasn’t changed is that the combo draws its power from the interdependence of the two halves. You need two A-grades to pass the course, is what I’m saying—but there are plenty of ways to ace the test.
Below, we’ve assembled five head-to-toe permutations that nail the blazer-and-jeans duo. Depending on the pairing, you can channel a vibed-out Ivy League professor. Or become a club-going party god. Or simply be the best-dressed dude at the trade show. (Not hard, but still!)
The “Class Is Not In Session” Look
The neo-prep revival we keep talking about means campus classics like tweed jackets, sweater vests, and oxford shirts are back in session. In 2023, though, we’re not going full English Lit cosplay. A pair of dark, simple jeans is all you need to relax the Ivy-inflected situation you’ve got up top.
The Midnight Cowboy Look
If your goal is to wear a jacket and jeans in the least TEDx way possible, a leather blazer is a great place to start. Disrupt the status quo even more by going full nightclub cowboy: an all-black get-up consisting of a western shirt, belt, and proper honkey-tonk boots. Don’t be surprised if this combo leads to nights so late, you’re telling the Uber driver to “have a good morning” as you get out.
The Blue-ish Collar Look
Swapping out a tailored jacket and a pressed button-up shirt for pieces with more of a workwear sensibility makes for a no-brainer weekend wardrobe. An unstructured cotton twill jacket is basically a chore coat with class, while loose fitting painter pants remind everyone that, at least for the next 48 hours, you’re not on email duty. For dinner, lace up the pair of moc-toe derbies that you’ll pair with your office-ready chinos once you set your status back to “active” on Monday morning.
The Celebrity in Disguise Look
Back in the ’90s, Hollywood’s handsomest stars knew the blazer could instantly elevate a supporting cast—graphic tees, ball caps, beat-to-death-sneakers, and anything else—to paparazzi fodder. So let the jacket’s do all the heavy lifting. Try it: yank on a double-breasted number over your baggiest jeans and most toasted dog-walking kicks. It’s not dressing up—but it will take your laziest fits into new territory.
The New-Wave Classic Look
A shirt and tie never needs a reason, while jeans let everyone know you’re knotting up by choice, not necessity. But lately we’re trading out the go-to oxford button-down for lightly rumpled poplin shirts with pointy collars, teaming them with jeans that aspire to be dress pants, like this hard-creased pair from J.Crew.