I remember when the jeans/blazer look first took off a few years ago. At first, I resisted—I was always a “If you’re wearing a suit, commit to the suit” kind of guy. But then as my professional life expanded beyond just sitting at a desk and into airplanes, conferences and meetings, I quickly came to embrace the combo.
But I have a feeling the blazer and jeans look is about to come to an end, for better or worse. We’re abusing it, consuming it like an endangered species, and we’re on the precipice of the look’s sad demise. But it’s not too late. We can save it as long as we treat it with respect.
Let’s be clear: The look can be great.
First, let’s get past the great things about donning a blazer with your jeans. You can look good from the waist up and then drop the jacket when you want to go casual. You can go extra casual with faded and distressed jeans or go a little more formal with dark jeans and an equally dark jacket. You can have more fun with your blazers with jeans: plaids, stripes, concert tees, etc. Quite simply, you can make it work. You can even wear sneakers since your lower half is jeaned out.
In short (as long as you’re not wearing shorts with a blazer, which is a topic for another day), the jeans/blazer look has stuck and it’s become a staple for the modern professional.
But there are cracks in the seemingly concrete edifice that is this style—cracks that are showing up a bit more every fall as men head back out to their favorite apparel outlets and gear up for the upcoming cooler weather. I wonder: Could this be the look’s final fall?
Let’s look at where we’re at with the blazed-up jeans look (I made that up).
We’re getting lazy.
Men have become lazy with the look. They think that if a blazer is involved, all is well. This isn’t true. Just because you’re wearing jeans with your blazer, that doesn’t mean you can pull it off with an ill-fitting jacket or jeans that show you don’t know your size (or don’t care to). The end look is just that: You look like you don’t care and you’re undermining the dressed up/dressed down contrast. What should be a combination effect turns out to be simply sloppy. You’re neither classy nor casual. You’re just a slob.
The jeans are all wrong.
Then the jeans. Oh, the jeans. The jeans/blazer look is increasingly being ruined by out-of-style jeans. If you want to look sharp, you still need to wear great jeans. In fact, in many cases the jeans you should be wearing should (at least at full retail) cost more than slacks that would match that blazer perfectly. This isn’t a money-saving fashion choice here, gentlemen. It’s a look like any other and it’s one in which you should strive to look good. If you’re wearing crappy jeans, you’re wearing crappy jeans, and no sports jacket will help with that.
The blazers are crusty.
It’s not just the jeans. Some men are running out the lives of their blazers a bit too long. I have a couple friends (I won’t name names) who have been sporting the same sport jacket for five or more years. I get it: It’s working for you. But you need to mix things up and keep things fresh. No matter how good you think that jacket still looks, chances are that by now everyone has seen it. Move on. Blazers and sports jackets, like any other article of clothing—in fact, probably more than any other article of clothing—change in fashion just about every year. Remember that blazer dad used to wear? Yeah.
We’re trying too hard.
And then there are those of us who are pushing the look too far in the interest of high fashion. I’m all for staying current, but when it comes to a suit-like look, one must tread lightly. I’ve seen flipped collars, hoodies, tank tops, inside-out T-shirts, heck—even no shirts. While these may look clubby and fun at first glance, they put a time stamp on the look and end up making it look dated.
You may be asking why this is a problem. And it might not be. Maybe the jeans and blazer look is here to stay. But ask yourself this: When was the last time a “look” stuck around forever? Usually they stick for a while, get used and abused until they no longer look good and they fade into history until we’ve all forgotten and it becomes cool all over again. Here’s the deal: The more men out there go lazy with this look, the more it will look lazy.
This look is quickly becoming our modern day leisure suit. Sure, the leisure suit lasted a long time—from the 1930s to the 1970s—but we all remember it for the ridiculous levels we took it to in the ’70s. Disco dudes wore it out (we can still smell the polyester on 54th street). Gangsters took it too far. Players played it out and just like that, we’ve hated the leisure suit for going on 50 years.
So what’s to be done, you ask?
Keep it simple, and keep it modern. Try to make it look sharp but don’t try too hard. No sloppy jeans or jackets but also no flipped collars, douchey undershirts or ironic hoodies poking out from under the jacket. This is a suit simulation and it’s meant to look both classy and unassuming. The moment you take it too far—either on the sloppy or over-styled spectrum, you’re pointing it out, and you’re setting us all up for a major loss of a great look.
Let’s not ruin this. Keep it fresh.