Wednesday, 29 January 2020

How to Style Denim-on-Denim

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Cassandra Hamer - Unsplash

The denim-on-denim look has had its fair share of time behind the camera.

Think Martin Sheen in Badlands, or Robert Redford in Little Fauss and Big Halsy. In both cases, the actors pulled it off and contributed to the look becoming somewhat of a sartorial staple. But most of us tend to associate denim-on-denim with more unsightly attempts.

Remember Justin Timberlake’s look for the 2001 American Music Awards? It was far from an isolated case, as most related blunders took place in the same time period. Fashion has come far since then, and much of its hard-line rules have fallen by the wayside; limiting denim to a single item being one of them.

Denim’s unique ability to transcend different styles makes it an ideal material for doubling up on. However, there are still some rules worth keeping in mind if you want to pull off the Canadian Tuxedo in style. Here’s what you need to know about wearing the denim-on-denim look.

Complement New with Old

Varying the amount of wear between pieces is a great way to create the contrast needed for a good denim-on-denim look. Think modern black jeans with a vintage trucker jacket, or faded jeans with a new denim shirt. This creates a look that’s both fresh and timeless. It’s also a good way to create balance and pare back louder pieces.

Mix Light and Dark

Another way to create contrast is to mix different tones, such as a lighter coloured jean with a darker coloured shirt. Going back to Timberlake’s Canadian Tuxedo, it was two shades of the same denim. What made it worse was that it was washed down to the same, flat tone, which did nothing to help with contrast. Be sure to mix it up with different washes.

The shade or tone of your denim can also set a certain mood. Lighter jeans are more casual, while darker tones are better for dressing up. However, that’s not to say monochrome isn’t completely out of the question - it just depends on the colour. For instance, rinsed black jeans with a black denim shirt is a great look.

You can further improve on monochrome ensembles by varying the texture. For instance, the above-mentioned look can be elevated with a black leather jacket. But remember, this is risky territory, which is why mixing tones is generally a better idea. The last thing you want is to look like a walking wall of navy.

Focus on Quality

Denim mainly falls into two categories. The word itself is more synonymous with the hardy, utilitarian workwear from the early days of industry. Then there are jeans, which are better classed as mass-produced everyday wear from the early 1980s onwards. The latter is focused more on appearance than function.

But most people want a balance of both - to make a statement with what they’re wearing, but also for that fabric to stand up to everything they put it through. One type of denim that fits the bill comes from Japan, where brands like EDWIN source their top-quality, precisely-fitted jeans.

Mens slim fit jeans, as well as a variety of other fits and pieces, can be bought from their website at You might be paying more than you would at your average fast-fashion chain, but it’s an investment that will far outlast any denim found elsewhere, not to mention the uniqueness of the design.

The Importance of a Good Fit

When pairing two types of denim together, you need to ensure your proportions are in tandem. If you’re going for skinny jeans, you’ll need a slim-fitted shirt. In the same light, you don’t want to ruin your low-rise jeans with a cropped denim jacket. Think about the look you’re going for and choose your sizing appropriately.

Don’t forget about stitching. Denim looks most like denim when adorned in a contrast stitch. This makes overdyed and garment-dyed pieces where the stitching isn’t visible a great way to fly under the radar. Because they don’t scream ‘denim’ like traditionally stitched pieces do, you can wear them with just about anything.


A noteworthy advantage of denim-on-denim is that it can really make your footwear shine. Given the material’s versatility, there isn’t really a wrong kind of shoe here - except anything that you wouldn’t traditionally wear socks with, of course. Sneakers are one option, but they’re better suited for light tones and casual outfits.

If you’re slipping on a denim jacket or heading somewhere more formal, then an appropriately formal shoe will fit the bill. Consider a chelsea boot, either in dark brown suede or black leather. Doc Martens work just as well. That said, you’re better off sticking to boots here, as anything with a low cut can mess with your proportions.

There’s really only one thing left to say, which is that you should feel free to break the rules here. After all, it’s 2020, fashion rules are done and gone, and you shouldn’t hesitate to pioneer the next big trend.