There are a few simple pleasures a man has in life: his family, his morning coffee, and his first quality pair of denim jeans. Seriously though, there is nothing more reliable than a well-fitted, high-quality pair of denim. Having a go-to pair in your arsenal is crucial to your style.
Denim jeans have stood the test of time, and for good reason. They’re versatile, rugged, and, when worn with the right outfit, incredibly sharp. In this guide to denim jeans, I’ll walk you through what washes you should be wearing, what clothes you should wear denim with, how to take care of your denim, and we’ll wrap with a few outfit examples you can wear home with you. Ready?
The wash of your denim refers to its level of darkness — the amount of dye remaining — and its base dye color. After denim is dyed, it goes through a washing process to give it the desired fade — light, medium, or dark. If you’ve owned a pair of denim jeans for some time, you’ll notice that it gets lighter each time you wash it. This is why you should only wash your dark denim sparingly if you want to keep that rich, dark color. When it comes to the base dye color of the denim, there are two popular choices: indigo and black dye.
Indigo Dye and its Washes (Light/Mid/Dark)
Out of the two main dye colors, indigo is the more popular of the two. With an indigo-dyed pair of denim jeans, you will come across three main washes: light, mid, and dark. Each wash goes through a standard washing process. While it’s a very technical process, the best summary of it is that the more washing denim jeans go through, the lighter they turn out.
Black Dye and its Washes
When you look at black- and grey-wash denim, it’s really not that different from dark- and mid-wash denim. The only difference between black-dyed denim and indigo-dyed denim is, you guessed it, the dye used in the process.
Styling Denim Jeans
Denim is typically worn in more casual settings, though there are a few instances where putting on a pair of solid, dark jeans or a jacket is a great way to stand out.
Washes: Mid and Light Indigo, Grey
Pairings: T-shirts, Henleys, Polos, Button-down shirts
Washes: Dark Indigo, Black, and Grey
Pairings: T-shirts, Button-down shirts, Blazer
Check out our guide to Smart Casual.
Washes: Dark and Mid Indigo, Black
Pairings: Button-down shirts, Dress shirts, Blazer
Check out our guide to Business Casual.
Taking care of denim jeans
Before I launch into our denim care guide tips, the most important thing you can do is read the care label. For help, here is a quick diagram on what some of the most common symbols mean:
(In order: 40 degree single bar, Do not use bleach, One dot tumble dry, 3 dot iron, Do not dry clean)
The General Rules:
- Turn inside out pre-wash
- Most dye on denim is present on the outside, so turning your denim jeans inside out will prevent fading.
- Don’t overload your washer
- Denim is a heavy fabric, which can reduce the effectiveness of the washing process when loaded with too many other clothes.
- Wash before you wear (for darker denim)
- Dark indigo or black denim may rub off on your legs, so it’s best to let the washer get rid of any excess dye before you wear your jeans.
- Hang dry
- Dryers can shrink your denim as well as aid the fading process. By hang drying your denim, you can avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
Check out our full clothing care guide for men.
All things considered, you can’t go wrong wearing a nice pair of denim jeans. They’re considered one of the most versatile pieces of clothing for a reason. Having a couple of different washes in your wardrobe will give you a great variety to choose from and get you one step closer to the perfect outfit for any occasion.