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Your Ultimate Guide to Denim Jackets

Jean jackets are about as classic as baseball and apple pie – you really can’t go wrong with them. Ever since Levi Strauss debuted his version in the late 19th century, they’ve come in and out of style, and ultimately evolved into the beloved wardrobe staple we know and love today. Want one of these classic pieces for yourself, but just don’t know where to start? Fret no further, because we’ve got all the inside tips you’ll need to be stylin’ and profilin’ in no time.

Related: 5 Ways to Add Velvet to Your Wardrobe This Winter

1. Where to look

If you’re looking for a jacket that you’ll be able to wear and love for a long time, places like Madewell or the OG Levi’s are excellent options.

Katie Walsh, a sophomore at Davidson College, says, “Thrift shopping (in the men’s section) is best, [but] I also love Madewell’s classic dark wash denim jackets.”  

The oversized jean jacket: sherpa edition ($175 at Madewell)

A good denim jacket is an investment, so take the time to look through your favorite stores and compare quality. Or, hit up a ton of thrift stores and you might just score a jackpot piece for cheap! 

2. How to find the fit for you

Katie says bigger jackets are her “personal favorite”. Crystal Riley, an alum of Kings College, adds, “Don’t be afraid to try on several [jackets] at a time. It can sometimes take a while for you to find the perfect fit. My advice? Try going one size up!” 

Honestly, it’s all up to your own personal taste and the look you’re going for! Take a friend along and make a fun day out of trying on different styles!

3.Which wash? 

Ah, perhaps the hardest question to answer! A good rule of thumb is to match the wash of your denim jacket with your hair – so darker hair ladies, that means a darker jacket for you, and vise versa for you lighter haired gals.

If you’re looking for a piece that will more than likely go with anything, a medium wash is a safe bet. 

Levi’s Ex-Boyfriend Denim Trucker Jacket ($89.50 at Urban Outfitters

Feel free to forgo the rules and experiment with light, medium, and dark washes! Also keep in mind whether the jacket you’re looking at has gold, silver, or rose gold accents – different metals look better on different people. 

4. How to style your jacket

Now that you have your super chic jacket, how the heck are you supposed to wear it?

Erica Galluscio, a collegiette from Hunter College, thinks pins are the way to go. “The enamel pin trend honestly revolutionized my denim jacket. People LOVE looking at how it’s decorated and I can switch it up whenever I want. Plus, when I buy pins and patches from Etsy, I’m supporting local artists,” she says. Katie agrees, saying “I personally like patches and pins as accents – it gives me a reason to collect knick knacks, etc.”

Not a fan of pins? Try pairing a plain denim jacket with your favorite summer dress! Or, step it up to business casual with a pencil skirt. 

The possibilities are pretty much limitless, but if you want a roll-out-of-bed-and-go outfit that can work for school or hanging out, pair your jacket with a pair of black leggings, your favorite white or black t-shirt, and some cute booties. When the weather outside gets frightful, switch out that t-shirt for a sweater or turtleneck. 

One last suggestion — don’t double down on the denim, unless you’re going for the cowgirl look.

Good luck and have fun finding the perfect jacket for you! 


Claire Biggerstaff is a senior at Davidson College where she's pursuing a major in English. Since her sophomore year, she's been heavily involved with Her Campus and has written for her school's chapter, interned with Her Campus Media, and eventually became the Editor in Chief of her home chapter. Her work as also appeared on publications like Babe.net and The Odyssey. When she's not researching news stories or holding editing workshops with her writers, you can find her enjoying an episode of The X-Files and thinking about how much she loves autumn.