TREND: Do Work

Somewhere between Marlon Brando and Bob the Builder lies the iconic denim jacket. Dark wash, collar up, and you belong in a street gang from West Side Story. Baby blue, sleeves rolled, and you are a Marlboro man.

These are the obvious ways to wear denim, conveying a rugged lumber-and-Skoal look. So I was struck by the way this student, sophomore Alex Hong, carried off his denim in the opposite way. In this case denim becomes preppy and trim.

So how did he pull that off? First off, the jacket is boxy but cut close to the chest like a shirt, unlike those questionable billowy 1980’s styles or oversized Phat Farm looks from the 2000s. This government student from Seoul, Korea rocks the jacket buttoned to the hilt, giving it that nerdy-hip look. The wash is also interesting, and a black wash is an easy way to update denim so it sheds it functional associations.

But what does one wear a denim jacket with? The answer is never ever jeans. Unless you are on the Dries Van Noten runway or are actually operating a forklift, please refrain. Going along with the preppy vibe, these unusual golden russet khakis are a nice complement to the black denim.

Alex’s shoes are also in this vein, a preppy rust-colored moccasin but revamped to be sleeker. Although I didn’t capture his backpack, FYI it was also a schoolboy style freshened up — a crisp canvas sack with simple black leather trims.

The next question is what kind of tops to pair with a jean jacket? Judging by the menswear blogs, layering of contrasting styles is winning favor, like a puffer vest over a suit. (May I note that Dick Cheney, famous style progenitor, coined this look at a government event a while back!?)

So I can see a black denim jacket even over a black wool sports coat with a thin saffron sweater tucked beneath it all. This kind of mixed layering is tricky, take some hints from the Italians, who are pros.

In Alex’s case, he went for a typical chambray work shirt, which is actually very clever, considering it is the exact color and almost the same texture as the original jean jacket. But the jean jacket he has on couldn’t be further from the original. His shirt is mocking his coat! How’s that for intelligent dressing?

It might take a bit of work itself, but denim work styles can be updated by a sleek color and modern cut. Please note that this man’s socks were sky blue just like the shirt — only a little touch, but it looks awesome. Last week I commented on charcoal with neon orange, red, and pink. The color palette here is black, goldenrod, and sky blue — also unexpected but more subtle.

Another new way to wear denim is white jeans. I have a Ralph Lauren model-esque friend who pairs straight-cut white jeans with blue button-downs for spring and wears them with a navy pea coat and combat boots for winter. This look requires some swag, but I’m sure you got it. Just keep the rest of the look classic, so you can work that denim.

P.S. Think Levi's started this? Denim is not something new. Check it out.

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