An Answer To “Are Jeans Business Casual Attire?”

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While the classic Filson briefcase is nice, you deserve a closer look at that watch...

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It's a brand new, limited edition double chronograph pilot's watch (a.k.a. "Antoine de Saint Exupéry") from IWC, Ref. 371808)

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Tommy Hilfiger blazer, Al Bazar shirt, Luciano Barbera tie, J.Crew jeans

Yes, but they’ve got to be the right pair…

As with all most things business casual-related, there seem to be debates, arguments and possibly even worse surrounding the question of whether jeans should be considered business casual attire.

More than anything, however, the rub seems to be the juxtaposition of a blazer, button-up and tie with denim. For some, that look – business casual context or not – is straight blasphemous. Sort of like a fashion mullet where you’ve got business up top and a party down below. (Blame J.Crew, that side.) Though for others, dressing up denim is de rigueur.

dark wash jeans business casual

I can’t really recall when “dressing up denim” became a thing. It was before hashtags, that much I’m certain. However, I do remember that the very first time I thought jeans looked beyond awesome with a blazer was sometime in the mid- to late-1980s or early 1990s.

Van Halen won some award at the MTV video music awards and when they came up on stage, Eddie Van Halen was wearing the most amazing looking burgundy blazer with a pair of faded (and probably ripped) denim. Sadly, I can’t find evidence of this via Google image search, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I was so smitten with and inspired by this pairing by one of my guitar heroes, that I dedicated a lot of time to finding a similar blazer. Which I eventually found. And wore in my candid high school senior yearbook photo, which I wager my friend Steve will graciously post in the comments.

dark wash jeans business casual

| WEARING | Blazer c/o Tommy Hilfiger, Al Bazar shirt, J.Crew jeans, Filson briefcase, IWC watch, Luciano Barbera tie, Drake’s pocket square, Boots c/o Allen Edmonds | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

Back to the question hand: can you wear jeans as business casual attire? At the risk of sounding like a broken record if you’ve been following our previous, similarly styled discussions, it depends. And it’s likely that you know whether or not this would be acceptable in your workplace.

However, for the unsure, I’m going to lay it out there: yes, you can wear jeans as business casual attire. You’ve just got to make sure they’re the right pair of jeans. Assuming you’ve done your homework here on HSS and know the requisite pairs of jeans you should already own, let’s drill down and get a little more specific.

Your business casual jeans should fit well. That’s a given. Your business casual jeans should be hemmed properly. We endorse no break or a slight break. The business casual blazer and jeans look is always done a terrible disservice by dudes just throwing a blazer on over their ratty, long, frayed leg-opening jeans.

dark wash jeans business casual

However, most of all, the best pair of business casual jeans will be one that has a dark wash. Slim, dark denim is a wardrobe essential and whether you’re willing to invest in a serious pair of esoteric brand selvedge or will plunk down a little extra for an easier to find pair, you need to have them.

If ever there was a pair of jeans to “dress up” it is a pair of dark denim. With a complete lack of fade ad signs of wear, they complement a blazer very well. (Speaking of dark jeans as dressy, don’t forget that black denim is your in-between dress pant.)

dark wash jeans business casual

Thanks for reading,

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style


Chime In

  • Paul Loudon

    This topic has finally encouraged a long time reader to comment! Fitted jeans and chinos are my go-to when it comes to leg-wear. Dress them up with a blazer and leather shoes or throw on a pair of sneakers for a more casual feel on Fridays and the weekend!

    • Brian Sacawa

      Paul, thanks for chiming in! Would love to have your input more regularly.

  • Bill Tourangeau

    I remember Eddie Van Halen wearing that, and managed to find a couple of pictures. It looks a little dated now, but that transition between 80’s fashion and 90’s fashion always seemed to be a sartorially dark age, in my opinion.

    I want to make fun of Sammy Hagar, too, but if it were David Lee Roth, he would have been in spandex, so I’ll let it go!

    • Brian Sacawa

      Yes! I didn’t remember it being a 4×1 double-breasted number, but then again, I wasn’t really hip to double-breasted back then anyway. The one I found – which I think I got at Structure – was single-breasted, notch lapel.

      Hey, man, oversized coats were all the rage for about two weeks last winter! Fashion is cyclical…

      And, whoa, yeah, look at Sammy!

  • beardedman

    Must not wear jeans ever! :-)

    • Brian Sacawa

      Always anti-jean, beardedman! Any reason other than being on the West Coast?

      • beardedman

        Well… reasons, when it comes to fashions and personal style, can be hard to come by. At least good ones. ;-) But let me try.

        Jeans were and are physical work clothes to me. When I was aboard ship in the Marine Corps, the sailors wore “Dungarees” as a part of their work uniform. When I worked in retail auto parts, we wore jeans due to working with heavy, greasy parts. When I worked on a dairy farm in Minnesota, jeans were what you did chores and field work in. Ditto working at the home center and lumber yard. Heavy labor and work calls for denim in a lot of cases. It’s a tough, cheap fabric. But I don’t do hard labor anymore. I’m in an office with nicely dressed people. A nice pair of trousers and a collared shirt is the bare minimum uniform of the day if you are not meeting with clients. I bring my personal dress code up a whole order of magnitude by wearing not just suits, but bespoke. I want to look like I belong in the office, not the building environmental services. I’ve worked my way up and and I’m proud of it. Is that bad? Sorry about that!! :-)

        • David J. A. Foster

          I’m also in the “No jeans ever” camp which puts me in a tiny minority here in northern Alberta, where you see large numbers of people wearing jeans together with jean jackets every day. But I will only wear chinos or dress pants, and a blazer, sport jacket, sweater or traditional bomber jacket, when I am not in a suit and tie. As a law student who never does any type of physical labour ever I think this is the appropriate way for me to dress.

          • beardedman

            Welcome to our little club, David! Yes, I agree. When not in a suit but out and about, chinos, linen, seersucker, flannel; any material that can hold a crease is what I wear. I may wear a nice polo or a button-down with the French cuffs rolled up, or with a sport coat. If I’m going to be outside a lot, a hat is standard. Trilby or fedora, straw or felt, depending on weather. Always leather shoes, never sneakers. I’m a mature man at the top of my game, not a kid. I’ve earned this. :-)

  • Dan J.

    Don’t forget that jeans aren’t limited to blue jeans. I wear jeans and a blazer to work almost every day. (I have a couple of pairs of cords that I mix in during the colder months but other than that, it’s jeans all the time.) A couple of them are dark wash (Levi’s rigid) but today, I’m wearing white jeans with a sky blue bengal stripe shirt and a cream blazer. I have black, charcoal gray, light gray, dark green, dark brown, khaki, and red jeans as well that are business wear. I frequently wear the red jeans with a traditional gold-buttoned navy blue blazer, so sort of the reverse of the Eddie Van Halen look. Other than that navy blue one, the blazers I wear with jeans all have significant texture – things like tweed or cords in the winter, coarse silk or linen in the summer. I think the texture tones down the formality of the blazer and reduces the gap between the top and bottom. It works quite well for me.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for chiming in, Dan. Agreed on the black jeans – it’s why we call them your in-between dress pant. Good on you for owning the colored denim look. It’s not something I can pull off.

    • Rollo_the_Cat

      I agree. I never wear blue jeans with a blazer but frequently I pair my blazers with grey–all shades–and khaki, tan or brown jeans. I just can’t get the image of some famous blue jean and blazer wearing celebs who look like total slobs.

    • Gabe

      I completely agree and often wear jeans for business casual. I love my all black A.P.C. jeans. Any other suggestions on great fitted black jeans?

  • Paris92

    A bit off topic, but I have to tell you that I picked up a pair of those dark brown AE Dalton boots when you featured them a few seasons ago. One of the best investments in footwear I have ever made! So glad that the weather is starting to change – now I can pull them out. There is also an interesting story behind those boots you can find on the AE website. They were designed by an architect working in Frank Gehry’s firm at the time Gehry was designing retail store concepts for AE.

  • Pam Zgorski

    I love the jeans with blazer look. Here is link for the Eddie Van Halen MTV awards when he looked amazing!

  • Pam Zgorski