There’s something effortless about a denim shirt. This might have something to do with the durable fabric, which has bags of texture, elevating even the most basic of looks. Or perhaps it’s the shirt's design itself, which has been favoured by numerous style heroes over the years, from Robert Redford to Ryan Gosling. Denim shirts have a rugged quality thanks to their historical associations with workwear, which is only furthered by the handy pockets and boxy, comfortable fit they are often cut in. In short, if you’re looking for a versatile, easy-to-wear shirt, you could do worse than turn to one made from denim.
There are no tricks needed when it comes to styling a denim shirt. The beauty lies in their adaptability. Whether you go for a dark, raw indigo shirt or one in light-washed denim, they complement virtually everything, from chinos or shorts to jeans and even tailored trousers. There are a couple of pointers to look for, though.
Denim shirts are available in a range of different designs. There are the more workwear-inspired styles, which typically come complete with one or two pockets at the chest and straight-cut hems that are designed to be worn untucked. Alternatively, you can pick up smarter denim shirts, which are usually made from lighter-weight cotton and have more pared-back detailing. They might come with a soft, regular collar, just a single or no chest pocket and curved hems, which make it easier to tuck into trousers for a smarter look.
For the former, more workwear-inspired style, try going for one finished in a dark indigo blue. Combine it with a white T-shirt underneath and finish with stone chinos and Desert boots for an easy, versatile year-round look. Layer up in winter with a heavier coat on top, or leave the shirt unbuttoned in the warmer months.
When going for a sharper look, try a smarter denim shirt in a lighter wash fabric, and tuck it into dark blue tailored drawstring trousers, and complete the fit with a pair of minimal white leather trainers. Throw an unstructured blazer over the top to up the formal ante, and swap out the trainers for leather derbies or loafers.
Suit Supply is a great shout if you’re in the market for a suit cut from a range of beautiful fabrics from the world’s best mills. But the Dutch brand’s impressive attention to detail also extends to its wider range. Its denim shirts tend to sit on the more formal end of the spectrum and would make a great finishing touch to a tailored look consisting of off-white trousers and a navy blazer. This particular one is cut in lightweight Egyptian cotton denim, making it ideal for the warmer months.
If you can’t decide between a smarter or more casual shirt, this Beaufort & Blake design could be the answer. It’s cut from a soft, mid weight cotton and comes with a heavily washed look reminiscent of vintage garments. The regular fit ensures it works perfectly as a louche, untucked casual shirt, but the slight curve on the hem and lack of chest pockets gives it a slightly smarter edge that means it’ll look just as good tucked in.
Spoke London prides itself on delivering the perfect fit. With its denim shirts, you can choose between slim or straight fits and even between sizes for those who aren’t quite large but bigger than a medium. This particular one is finished in the brand’s ‘7-year wash’, which gives it a lived-in, retro look. It comes complete with twin buttoned chest pockets and a soft fabric developed by Candiani in Italy.
Asket’s range of considered staples is among the best around. This beautifully simple denim shirt shows why, with its pared-back detailing and expertly sourced cotton fabric. Finished in a stone wash, it comes with a single chest pocket, a button-down collar and single button cuffs. The box pleat on the rear of the shoulders allows for an increased range of movement, while the subtle curved hem ensures it works tucked in or left open.
Every one of Luca Faloni’s pieces is crafted in its homeland of Italy, attesting to the consistency of the brand’s quality. This shirt is a smart casual piece that will dress up chinos or finish off an unstructured suit with aplomb. Using light cotton from the prestigious Albini mill, it’s handmade in the north of the country and comes with mother-of-pearl buttons and a slim, flattering fit.
Specialists in lightweight, unstructured tailoring, Thom Sweeney is one of the UK’s great tailoring exports. This denim shirt channels the brand’s tailoring nous with a refined fit that’s cut close to the body and an elegant cutaway collar. With no chest pockets and a minimal placket, it’s an excellent alternative to traditional business shirting and will perfectly finish off your 9-5 work suit.
Nudie is among the world’s most respected jeans makers, so it’s fair to say the brand knows something about working with denim. For this shirt, it’s gone with a lightweight 5.75 oz cotton and has given it a vintage wash, resulting in a light blue shade that’s extraordinarily versatile. The soft fabric will feel great against the skin, while the relaxed fit ensures it works well with chinos, jeans or even shorts in summer.
Designed with a loose, comfortable fit, Arket’s denim shirt is built for comfort and style. Finished in a natural ecru shade, it’s made from a blend of recycled cotton, organic cotton and lyocell, for a more sustainable alternative to regular denim. It comes finished with a single chest pocket and slightly dropped shoulders to complete the relaxed, laid-back feel.
As far as prep-inspired, all-American staples go, you can’t go wrong with Ralph Lauren. This is the kind of denim shirt the brand has been making since its inception, with a comfortable regular fit, a button-down collar and the classic Polo logo at the chest.
The renowned Italian tailors are well regarded as one of the finest purveyors of unstructured tailoring around. This denim shirt gives a small taste of that with its soft-washed cotton fabric and impressive attention to detail. Notice the soft point collar, the subtly angled corners of the chest pocket and the slightly curved hem, which works well tucked into pleated trousers or left untucked over chinos.
For a slightly more subversive take on the denim shirt, look to Cherry LA. Taking inspiration from classic Western styles with its twin chest pockets and shoulder yokes, this design has been given a contemporary spin. Pay attention to the embroidered cherry logo at the chest, the relaxed, boxy cut and the unfinished hem, which gives a flash of gold thread, paying homage to the same colour used to stitch the earliest pairs of jeans.
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers makes every one of its pieces by hand in its Walthamstow workshop in the heart of East London. It uses time-honoured techniques and designs its jeans and shirts the old-fashioned way, with triple-stitched seams and selvedge fabrics. This shirt is modelled on mid-century American workwear and is produced with a 6oz chambray twill sourced by Collect Mills in Japan.
The Kooples has made its name off of updating menswear classics, and this shirt is no different. Based on classic Western shirts, it’s been cut from a blue and white striped cotton denim and boasts a more minimal look, coming without the style’s traditional shoulder yokes.
Crafted from a 7oz stonewash indigo denim, this &Sons design is as adaptable as it gets. Half western, half workshirt, it comes with two chest pockets which snap shut for added practicality, while its reinforced shoulders and elbows ensure it’s built to last.
With its light wash finish and relaxed, comfortable fit, this Massimo Dutti shirt is ideal for wearing with jeans or chinos on the weekend. Its spread collar gives it a refined look, while its slightly longer length looks great, either worn open over a white tee or tucked in.