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Welcome to The Essentials, our series highlighting a must-have classic, key to building a timeless, pulled-together closet.
A denim jacket is a tried-and-true staple that deserves its rightful place in everyone's closet. I'm not afraid to admit I have a rotating collection in my closet, from a cropped trucker to a worn-in vintage relic to a particular shearling style that's become one of the best winter jackets in my wardrobe—the list goes on and on. Put simply, a jean jacket is that piece. The one so versatile it won't be tucked away when the seasons change and will adapt with you as your style evolves. (Itching for a personal fashion rebrand? Consult our favorite denim jacket outfits to see how the Americana staple can assist you on your style journey.)
Despite being a year-round, forever staple, Kendall Becker, Fashion & Beauty Trends Editor at Trendalytics (opens in new tab), observes a notable spike in interest for the classic piece coming into autumn. "This fall is all about the revitalization of nostalgic jackets—note the varsity jacket, leather moto, and, of course, the denim jacket. At the moment, searches for denim jackets are marked within the Trendalytics platform as 'extreme', noting an average of 105k weekly searches," she shares over email.
Courtney Busch, a Styling Team Lead (opens in new tab) at Stitch Fix (opens in new tab), substantiates Becker's findings: "In a recent trend report (opens in new tab) from Stitch Fix, denim jackets accounted for nearly 40 percent of sales for the jackets category, making a nearly 10 percent sales increase over last year. And it’s no wonder they’re in such high demand, as they’re extremely versatile—a denim jacket can be dressed up or dressed down, and can come in multiple washes and colors, with a variety of fits," offers the stylist.
Ahead, you'll find tips and tricks for navigating 2022's denim market from Becker and Busch, as well as our picks for the best jean jackets. We guarantee at least one of the below styles is bound to be your new forever favorite.
What to Look for in a Jean Jacket
"When choosing a jacket that’s right for you, there are no rules," Busch says emphatically. "Some clients prefer an oversized denim jacket (opens in new tab), while others opt for a cropped look." She does say, though, that a neutral pair in a non-denim wash offers astounding versatility, making it a solid wardrobe building block. "Having a black, white, or natural-wash jean jacket in your closet provides ample opportunity for styling any outfit no matter the time of year or occasion."
Should You Wash a Denim Jacket?
"Washing denim less than you might wash other garments is standard to maintain the garment’s color and structure, as washing new jean pieces, particularly those in dark washes, can cause the dye to bleed," explains Brusch. "Over time, true blue or black denim jackets can get more distressed from consistent wear and wash, which often lends itself to a perfectly worn-in look and feel"—which, if you're into, great! If not, Brusch advises you have your jean jackets occasionally sit out laundry day. "Ultimately, I always tell my clients to do what they’re most comfortable with, whether it comes to style, fit, or even as it relates to washing clothes!"
How to Style a Denim Jacket
"When it comes to styling, I love juxtaposition," gushes Becker. "Pairing a utilitarian style with unlikely partners like a feminine-detailed top, chic heels, and a handbag is always a win." For Busch, she references Britney and Justin circa 2001 and modern-day Julia Fox: "One of my favorite ways to style a denim jacket is creating a denim-on-denim look. Now that it’s fall, I’ll opt for classic straight-leg jeans paired with an oversized denim jacket," says the stylist.
The Best Denim Jackets of 2022
Best Oversized Denim Jacket
"As with much of the outerwear market, boxy, oversized silhouettes are key for fall and winter," details Becker. And Madewell's oversized denim jacket, with its roomy and trucker-inspired fit, is the piece to add to your rotation. Since it's made of 100 percent cotton, non-stretch denim, the silhouette offers structure, too, so the piece won't swallow your figure whole.
Best Minimalistic Jean Jacket
“Overall, we’re seeing a shift to other near-neutral shades (think cream, mauve, and sage) in denim jackets,” says Becker. In particular, the trend expert says the latter shade, soft mossy greens that border on khaki, is especially prevalent, “clocking in at a 26 percent increase in weekly searches in comparison to last year.”
Best Colorful Denim Jacket
GANNI's color-blocked, hot pink jean jacket makes it effortless for you to master 2022's s all-consuming Barbiecore trend (opens in new tab). And in addition to epitomizing 2022's leading color, this denim number is ethically and sustainably made, too. In line with the Scandi brand's eco-conscious tenet, this jacket is crafted from organic denim grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
Best Sherpa Denim Jacket
"As it gets colder," says Busch, "lean into the more insulated and textured denim jackets like this one from Blank NYC (opens in new tab) for a chic late fall look!"
Best Black Denim Jacket
"Tip: If you want to keep things semi-formal, opt for a more fitted denim jacket in black," Busch offers. Marine Serre's inky, printed style is an investment piece you'll reach for season after season.
The All-Year Fave
Danielle McNally, Deputy Editor, loves this jacket so much, she wrote an entire article about it. "The jacket has the all-important Very First Spot in my closet because I reach for it—I'd estimate—once a week. I wear it winter, spring, summer, and fall. I wear it to the office, over cocktail dresses, with minis, maxis, shorts, and pants," she says.
The Best Vintage Denim Jacket
"Another easy way to dress down a more formal dress or skirt is by simply throwing on a denim jacket to complete the look," says the expert stylist at Stitch Fix. We recommend reaching for an authentic vintage style—like this bona fide 1970s style available on the virtual thrifting marketplace, Thrilling.
The Best Cropped Jean Jacket
For those who've been keeping an eye on the overarching fashion themes as of late, you'll know that hemlines are getting shorter (call it the Miu Miu micro-mini effect) in a collective itch to show off as much skin as possible. Becker says this bare-it-all attitude even filters into denim, too. "Cropped denim jackets are up 19 percent from last year," she explains.
The Best Unisex Option
Don't shy away from color. Wear a bright crimson denim jacket with red-hot bottoms for an early-fall look that is total fire. Plus, Calvin Klein's ruby red denim jacket is a genderless silhouette, meaning it's an option truly anyone can wear.
The Tried-and-True Classic
Keep it simple with a classic denim jacket—like J. Crew's—that pairs perfectly with all of your favorite worn-in tees. Its faded medium-blue wash achieves a well-loved look that vintage fans will be fond of.
Best Printed Denim Jacket
"If you already have the classic denim jackets in your closet and are looking for a more adventurous version this season, try a patterned style," says Stitch Fix's Busch. "I’m loving this bold animal print style from Sanctuary."
Best Patchwork Jean Jacket
"The luxury market is setting the tone for revitalizing denim jackets—and personally, I’m seeing patchwork as a strong style in the market," says the Trendalytics editor. "They’re currently up 33 percent from last year." Tap into the patch phenomenon with Desigual's crafty style.
Best Belted Denim Jacket
This belted denim jacket from A.P.C. gives an ultra-cinched shape to an otherwise longline, utilitarian style. Teamed with skinny jeans—yes, that's right! I'm still wearing the Gen-Z-loathed style—it's the perfect one-and-done top for any crisp fall day.
Best White Denim Jacket
A white denim style is a trusty transitional jacket option for fall. Throw it over anything and everything—from slip dresses to jeans to pleated skirts.
Best Denim Shacket
I present to you, the humble denim shacket! Made from a breathable organic cotton, this is your go-to lightweight layer for Saturday morning coffee runs. Layer it over a hoodie and designer sweatpants for a stylized athleisure look.
Best Denim Blazer
Lest we forget about the denim that doubles as a blazer—a.k.a. your new go-to work staple. Team this funky Rejino Pyo number with a pencil skirt and kitten heels for a polished ensemble with just the right amount of office-appropriate quirk.
For The '80s Aficionado
This puff-sleeved denim jacket from Retrofête is tailored for all your '80s style fantasies. Wear with bright high-waisted trousers and an ab-baring bralette for an updated yet retro-feeling look.
Best Studded Jean Jacket
What a stud! Clearly, this jacket is the fun one in the group. Chuck it over a floral dress to sass up an otherwise sweet look.