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Ultimate Denim Guide: How to Wear Jeans Based on Style and Wash

Jeans are probably the most frequently worn pants on the planet. Now, with more companies allowing casual Friday five days a week during Zoom calls, denim has become a staple of both our on- and off-duty uniforms. Because of the seemingly bottomless pit of jeans at retail stores and online, it can be difficult finding the best options for you.

A great pair of jeans can be a man’s best friend. When you invest in quality denim, you will likely have them for years to come, as many get better with each wear and form to your body like a second skin.  This guide will help your quest to find the right jeans for you. First, let’s start with the basics.

Style, Fit, Wash

The style or cut of your jeans relates to how the fabric fits on your legs down to your ankles. The most common styles are skinny, slim, straight, and bootcut. All of these can come in a regular or relaxed fit, which refers to the amount of room the leg hole allows for.

Beyond style, these variations come in all different washes. The wash refers to the color and texture of the jeans. Some examples of the different washes that exist include dark indigo, acid or light. Many brands come up with their own style and wash names (there are hundreds). You’ll also notice wash options that include fading, which is a slight ombre color shift, that typically happens up around the knee for a “worn-in” look. In this space, you’ll also see an abundance of distressed denim with intentionally placed tears for aesthetic.

So, what does this all mean? And how do you know which styles appropriate for you? Fear not, we’re just getting started! Ahead, we break down the most popular denim styles and pair them with lifestyle examples for you. While you can take this information to any store, we also recommend some of our go-to denim brands.

The Best Skinny Jeans

Mavi James Black Brooklyn Jeans

Mavi Jeans

These jeans feature a silhouette that is narrow and form-fitting down the entire leg, with a slim ankle opening at the bottom. Skinny jeans are typically the tightest fitting jeans on the market. They usually have some sort of elastane woven into the cotton, which allows for a slight stretch in the denim. This design detail helps show off your thigh and calf muscles with full coverage and range of motion.

Frame L’homme Skinny Villain

Frame L'homme Skinny Villain

Skinny jeans are perfect for the anti-office environment (even on the most casual Fridays). The slight stretch makes them great for skateboarding around town or for a city night out. We recommend pairing skinnies with a slouchy tee or hoodie to balance the proportions in fit.

The Best Straight Jeans

Citizens of Humanity Gage Classic Straight Jeans

Citizens of Humanity Jeans

This is the most straight-forward fit of all denim (no pun intended). These are exactly what they sound like. The silhouette stays straight all the way down the leg, allowing for a bit of a relaxed and casual fit. They have been safely consistent in style over the years but have suddenly made a comeback with the nostalgic 90s surge.

Madewell Relaxed Straight Authentic Flex Jeans

Madewell Relaxed Straight Authentic Flex Jeans

Straight jeans are perfect for an off-duty, activity-filled weekend starting with a boozy brunch with friends. This shape is versatile to all body types, leaving room to move and grow. This silhouette is more conservative and safer than slimmer cuts, yet becomes more stylish in a medium wash with a clean cuff and fresh pair of white kicks. To further step up your fashion game you can achieve that 90s, dad-sneaker, cool-kid look in a relaxed-straight, light wash, raw denim fit.

The Best Slim Jeans

Warp + Weft AMS Slim Jeans

Warp + Weft AMS Slim Jeans

Every man without a doubt should have a pair of slim-leg jeans in his closet. They are the most modern looking, yet still timeless and trend-proof. Slim jeans are flattering, clean-cut and polished. They are similar to skinny jeans in the silhouette, but with more room to breathe and they don’t narrow in as much around the ankle holes.

Everlane Slim Fit Jean

Everlane Jeans

Slim jeans in darker washes are perfect for a casual office day or date night look. These are for the guy that cares about style and tailoring but doesn’t want to come off as trying too hard. Note, a lighter wash will make your outfit more causal, while a darker color dress it up. If you purchase anything from this article, make it be a pair of dark-wash slim leg jeans. And don’t forget to cuff the bottom here too, for the perfect pants to shoe ratio (yes that’s a thing).

The Best Bootcut Jeans

Levi’s 527 Slim Bootcut Jeans

Levi's Jeans

While bootcut jeans are typically known to be a fashion past time, they are worth mentioning because of the abundance that still exists on the market. These have a slim thigh down the leg but taper out around the bottom, allowing for a boot to comfortably fit underneath. Initially they were created for functionality, but over the years they have been worn merely for style without boots, as their name implies. Proceed in bootcut denim with caution. In today’s age they can make a cool 1970s-inspired fashion moment, but the styling must follow suit. These are not an easy wear.

Acne Studios Relaxed Bootcut Jeans

Acne Bootcut Jeans

These jeans are perfect for two types of people: the field worker that seeks function over fashion or the style risk-taker (see Acne Studios) committed to vintage-inspired dressing. Feel free to re-watch Dazed and Confused to gain inspo.

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