The Case Against Denim Jackets
Here at Father Style, in our “The Case Against…” series we will periodically discuss certain menswear pieces that are considered “darlings” or “essentials” and why you probably shouldn’t buy into the hype. These are pieces you will regularly see splashed across menswear sites as items you NEED to have in your wardrobe. We aren’t being contrarian for the sake of it, though. We are trying to help you save money and time.
I’m just going to say it: Don’t bother buying a denim jacket. I know this one will garner some flak, but I just can’t get behind denim jackets. The denim jacket is a darling of the menswear world praised for its rugged good looks and versatility, but after owning one for a few years, I’m not bought in. There are just so many better alternatives.
It makes total sense why the denim jacket became popular. It is a rough wearing, durable, inexpensive garment whose cropped hem, generous collar/lapel, and set-in shoulders flatter most men’s physiques. And honestly, it does look super cool and I feel handsome wearing it. However, it gained popularity out west from those who wore it in the desert. The fact that it’s made solely from cotton means water goes right through it. If you live anywhere that gets any rainfall (as I do in the Northeast), you’re better off reaching for something else or putting your money elsewhere. Here are my picks for denim jacket alternatives:
Harrington jacket: Depending on which way your personal style leans, you may find the Harrington to be the most versatile jacket in your closet. While not too dissimilar from the denim jacket in general cut (or appearance really if you have one in navy), where the Harrington has the leg up is in weather resistance. Get caught in the rain in your denim jacket and you’ll be soaked through to your skin. What good is that?! You’ll be perfectly comfortable in your Harrington. It’s also lighter in weight so you can wear it further into the warm weather months than you can a denim jacket. A Harrington is my go-to travel jacket for this reason. And don’t worry about trading in your tough guy denim jacket look for a lame windbreaker. Plenty of cool guys have worn a Harrington (McQueen, Dean, Elvis). If you don’t want to spend the money for the original Baracuta, Orvis does a great Harrington for roughly the same amount you would pay for a denim jacket and it comes in a handful of colors. My only gripe is that the tartan plaid lining doesn’t extend all the way to the zipper (meaning it shows less when worn open, which is something you may want or not).
Leather Jacket: Same rough and tumble connotations but with much more weather resistance. An Indy-style jacket (basically a classic A-2 but without the knitted hem and cuffs) is basically a leather version of a denim jacket anyway. The big downside here is price. You’ll be shelling out way more for a good leather jacket than you will for most denim jackets. But save that $150 and put it towards a jacket you can wear on more than just the driest of days. This is something your kids will fight over when you’re dead. U.S. Wings has everything leather jacket related you could possibly want. I have had mixed results with their customer service but the quality of their products is unmatched.
Sport Coat: Yes, a sport coat is a viable alternative to a denim jacket as it performs better in inclement weather and can worn in both casual and more formal environments. I’ve been caught in the rain many times in my tweed jackets and have been totally fine. Now this option definitely depends on your personal style. If you’re usually tossing your denim jacket over a t-shirt and jeans, then a sport coat may not be your best choice. But if you find yourself in OCBDs or denim shirts then a casual sport coat is definitely something to consider. Not only does the wool of a tweed jacket protect the wearer from the elements better than a denim jacket, but a sport coat boasts a similar amount of pockets as a denim jacket for all your EDC. My Brooks Brothers Harris tweed jacket has never let me down. Same for my wool/polyester blend tweed jacket from Aran Sweater Market. The small amount of polyester in the wool helps shed water and resist wrinkling. The purists may scoff, but wool/poly blends are very practical for garments you intend to use heavily.
Waxed Cotton Jacket: This can either be a classic Barbour jacket or a trucker version. Some Barbours like the Dalkeith closely mimic a blazer, which makes it feel less like a wintery jacket. On the trucker side of things, Flint and Tinder has a waxed jacket with flannel or wool lining that comes in a myriad of colors. The waxed shell of these jackets resists abrasions and sheds water. Again, much more practical than a denim jacket.
Chore Coat – Most chore coats are cotton or some sort of cotton blend, so they aren’t any better in the rain than a denim jacket. The big selling point for the chore coat over the denim jacket is its weight. Chore coats tend to be a bit lighter. Almost an overshirt. This means they can be worn in warmer weather when you may not necessarily need the coverage, but you DO need the pockets! My chore coat is always an incredible companion on family outings to the park or the children’s museum. I can keep it on during most activities and, unlike a denim jacket, I won’t overheat.
How can you possibly classify a jacket as “versatile” if you can’t wear it when the weather turns sour? We have all seen the IG shots of dudes layering a denim jacket under a more practical coat. Seriously? Does anyone do this in the real world?
To give you an idea of where my denim jacket falls in my “jacket hierarchy” in spring/summer/early fall, just look at what’s hanging by the front door: Harrington, Barbour, leather bomber. I don’t have time to faff around with fashion. I need something to get the job done when I bolt out the door with the kids or chuck in the car to keep me dry if I blow a tire on the drive to the store. Sorry, denim jacket, I’ll only pull you out of the back of the closet when I know there is a 0% chance of precipitation, which is approximately 0 days a year.
Buuut… you do look pretty badass, so maybe I’ll give you one more chance…