Is there a garment more universally loved and worn than a classic pair of blue jeans? Farmers wear them. Models wear them. Even former presidents wear them (and somehow manage to make “mom jeans” look cool in the process).
Despite their popularity, blue jeans have historically been shunned from the office for being too casual.
While we’re happy to say that times are changing, wearing blue jeans to work is still considered a risky sartorial move that could get you sent to HR if you’re not careful.
How do you rock your favourite pair of denim without crossing any lines? Before you make jeans a permanent part of your business casual wardrobe, check out these simple dos and don’ts for wearing jeans at work.
Do: Choose Dark Wash Jeans
If you fancy yourself something of a jeans connoisseur, then you probably own jeans in a variety of washes.
From acid wash jeans that were popular in the ’80s to grey and black denim, jeans now come in a large range of washes and finishes.
When it comes to your business casual wardrobe, there is no question that dark wash jeans rule the roost. Dark wash jeans look the most professional by far and come with the added bonus of being super flattering.
Oh yeah, and did we mention that they look good with virtually everything? From your favorite striped polo shirt to your edgiest t-shirt, dark wash jeans are ready for casual and dressy pairings alike.
Don’t: Choose Distressed Denim
This probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it louder for the people in the back: No matter how relaxed and chill your office might be, wearing ripped jeans to work is generally not a smart style move. Even if your hipster-loving, kombucha-drinking office is A-OK with you wearing distressed denim at work, it can still make you appear unprofessional to others.
Besides, there are arguably much better ways to put your incredible sense of style on full display. For instance, consider showcasing your personality with a fun pair of patterned dress socks and cuff your jeans to show ’em off in all their funky, stylish glory.
Do: Get a Pair of Well-Fitting Jeans
Jeans that fit you just right will instantly boost your style by several few notches while making your entire outfit appear dressier (read: appropriate for work). For your 9-5 grind, we recommend staying far away from skinny jeans and opting for slim fit jeans instead.
Slim fit jeans are usually tapered in the waist and provide a snug fit through the legs without being too tight. Wear them with a sleek sport coat, a fancy wristwatch, a stylish pair of Chelsea boots and boom—business casual perfection at its finest.
Don’t: Wear Baggy Jeans
Grab your beloved pair of baggy jeans. Got them? Perfect. Now, we want you to kiss them farewell, donate them to Goodwill and solemnly swear to never buy a pair of baggy jeans again.
Yes, we know baggy jeans are next-level comfortable. The problem is that they don’t look good—like, at all. If you actually want to be taken seriously at work, start investing in a few pairs of high-quality jeans that flatter your shape and pair well with dress shoes.
Do: Class Up Your Jeans with a Button-Down Shirt
There is no better duo than a well-fitting button down shirt and dark wash jeans. For years, this classic pairing has been helping regular guys achieve a work-ready look with almost zero effort.
The beauty of the button-down shirt lies in its simplicity. Whether you wear it with jeans at work or with shorts on the weekend, this Ivy League icon can instantly refresh your style for the better.
Don’t: Wear a Suit Jacket with Jeans
To be fair, the suit jacket and jeans combo remain a heated style debate. However, even those who say that wearing a suit jacket and jeans can be done will readily admit that this style pairing is decidedly tricky to pull off.
In our humble opinion, wearing a suit jacket with jeans will just make you look like you forgot the bottom part of your business suit. Besides, why even take this unnecessary fashion risk when the more casual sport jacket is clearly the superior choice?
Do: Invest in a Quality Pair of Denim
You pay the bills, you have a 401K—heck, maybe you even manage to keep a few houseplants alive. Basically, all the evidence points to you being a legit adult now. So, why are you still buying cheaply-made jeans from fast fashion brands?
Fast fashion not only destroys the planet, it destroys your wallet as well. While it might seem strange to buy jeans for three or four times the price of what you typically pay, quality always wins over quantity—especially in the workplace.
Don’t: Equate “Expensive” with “Office-Appropriate”
So, you splurged on a pair of $100 distressed jeans and think that this somehow makes them acceptable for your business casual work environment. Well, all we have to say is that we look forward to hearing HR’s response when you explain your reasoning for wearing them.
But in all honesty, don’t make the mistake of believing that the price tag of your clothes somehow influences their formality. Instead, spend your money wisely by investing in classic jeans that won’t cross any lines at work.
Do: Wear Jeans with a Dress Shirt
If you own a suit, it pretty much goes without saying that you also own at least a few dress shirts as well. While dress shirts are more commonly paired with a suit, they can also be worn with dark wash jeans for a classy, business casual look.
The key to nailing this combination is by choosing an interesting color or pattern. For instance, skip the boring white dress shirt and opt for a light blue gingham dress shirt instead.
Don’t: Forget Your Footwear
We get that athletic sneakers are super comfortable, especially if your job requires you to frequently stand. But if your ultimate goal is to ace the business casual look, dress shoes are pretty much non-negotiable.
Dress shoes can take your slim-fit jeans from casual to classy in a heartbeat. If you worry about your comfort level, just make sure to invest in a quality pair and consider adding gel insoles for added cushioning.
Jeans to Elevate Any Business Casual Wardrobe
With casual Friday becoming an everyday occurrence at work, jeans have been thrust into the business casual spotlight. Though we love donning our dark wash jeans for casual workdays, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to style them.
By following these simple dos and don’ts, you can rock your HR-approved denim with style and look every bit the professional.