Though, as discussed in this previous post, the suit vest can be worn in a more casual manner for different occasions, the duo that is the suit jacket and matching pants is often considered a “sacred” pair that must never be separated. With that said, this is where the choice of wearing a suit jacket with jeans in a more casual manner becomes rather tricky. While some would view this combination as bizarre and inappropriate, others would say that, though possible, it depends greatly on how the pairing is done.
On the side of those against wearing a suit jacket with jeans, there is GQ’s “Style Guy”, Glenn O’Brien, who believes that when it comes to mixing the formality of a suit jacket with the casual nature of jeans, “a plain suit jacket might work, but often it just looks awkward” because the extreme contrasting levels of formality of both pieces cannot be combined. Though the basis for this more traditional approach to menswear is certainly logical, the main problem with it is that it is not truly adapted to our modern and fast-changing times where the codes of dressing are much more liberal and open to personal interpretation.
Accordingly, that’s where the idea of wearing a suit jacket with jeans comes along. Despite being a simple demonstration of versatile style savviness, the combination of a formal suit jacket with jeans remains relatively intricate in the sense that it must follow certain strict guidelines.
In response to the question if any type of suit jacket can be worn with jeans, the answer is no. As frank as that may sound, it is highly unrecommended to wear something like a classic black suit jacket with a pair of jeans because it places too great an emphasis on the contrast between the formality of the upper half, and the casual nature of the bottom. My main issue with wearing a black suit jacket with jeans is that, as mentioned by Real Men Real Style, “it will be too obvious this is a suit jacket unless you have it altered“, something that would defeat the purpose of economical versatility that makes this pairing so enticing.
On the subject of which type of suit jacket can be worn with jeans, I would recommend wearing one that could easily pass for a casual sports jacket. To accomplish that task, it is important to consider the fabric that composes the suit jacket. The best materials for wearing a suit jacket with jeans are certainly the more classic fabrics like wool or even tweed because of their understated yet timeless nature.
Another rule that must be respected has to do with the notion that “the darker the denim, the better”. Following that concept, it would be advised to wear a suit jacket in a lighter colour, like grey or beige, when pairing it with jeans. The intentional contrast between the two would actually make the suit jacket seem more like a casual sports jacket while making the jeans look somewhat more formal. However, if it were with classic khakis, I would then recommend the inverse (i.e. a navy suit jacket with beige khakis) in order to retain that essential contrast.
Another rule for wearing suit jackets with jeans is to only wear them with jeans that have a more slim-fitting look to them. Seeing as suit jackets are naturally supposed to be tailored, it would be completely inappropriate to ruin that streamlined effect by pairing the suit jacket with a pair of ill-fitting jeans. As stated on EzineMark.com, “this means avoiding men jeans that hang down too low or are too loose.” Therefore, the slimmer the jeans, the more seamless the pairing.
The final rule to observe when wearing a suit jacket with jeans is the most simple of all: the dress code. If being casual is what is expected, then its much simpler to stick to a casual blazer or a sports jacket, instead of venturing into the tricky territory of the formal suit jacket.