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The Best Denim Shirts Are a Cheat Code for Good Style

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Dennis Hopper, Paul Newman, Marvin Gaye: Are you ready to join the ranks of the most legendary denim-shirt men? Those fellas understood that the right denim shirt won’t just make you look rugged and handsome and all kinds of confident—it’ll also solve virtually any wardrobe-related dilemma that comes your way. For instance:

  • Got your sixth wedding of the summer coming up and fully tapped out of dress-shirt-and-tie combos you like? Throw a denim shirt into the mix, and your tired cotton suit’s suddenly supercharged with rugged sex appeal.

  • Copped some wild patterned pants on a whim and now concerned you can’t pull them off? A classically handsome denim shirt will lock ’em down and balance out the swerviness.

  • Want to look good on the weekend but too damn lazy to really think about it? Denim shirt, white T-shirt, black jeans, can’t lose.

  • Giving an important presentation at work when your trousers embarrassingly split right down the seat? Okay, well, a denim shirt probably can’t help you there. That’s when you ask yourself question number two: What’s my tailor’s phone number again?

So, yeah: Denim shirts are useful. Like, having-a-sibling-who’s-a-contractor useful. And the two most useful kinds of denim shirts are button-down and Western, which you’ll probably want in a medium-to-light wash for maximum versatility. Here are 17 perfect denim shirts that’ll help to really tie your fits together.

The Gold Standard Denim Shirt

Levi’s “Barstow” Western shirt

You knew it was coming. More than 160 years into their run, it’s hard to picture anybody coming for Levi’s’ crown. The first name in jeans still makes one of the best Western shirts you’ll find anywhere: The fit is just right for layering, the details are on point, and the fabric of this particular version is made sustainably, using way less water than regular denim. Add in a super-reasonable $70 price tag, and you’ve got yourself a wardrobe staple for the ages. 

The Best ’90s-Infused Denim Shirt

Martine Rose “Yalta” denim shirt in indigo stripe

$400

Martine Rose

If you took every denim shirt that Zack Morris ever wore on Saved by the Bell and tossed ’em in a blender, this would be the outcome. It’s relaxed enough to wear as an overshirt, with a hoodie or sweater, but it’ll also look incredible if you choose to go full Zack Attack and tuck it into your jeans (which, as it happens, are also tucked into your Converse ERX 260s). The denim is heavily washed to a super-light shade, with printed stripes serving as the time-machine fuel that rockets this thing all the way back to ’91.

The OG Western Shirt

Rockmount denim floral Western embroidered cowboy shirt

$190

Amazon

You know those pearly snap buttons on the front of every yeehaw-ready Western shirt you’ve ever worn? You can thank Rockmount Ranch Wear for them. The Denver outfitter’s original snap-front long-sleeves have been donned by everyone from Bob Dylan (during his Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, no less) to the entire cast of Brokeback Mountain. The label makes their fair share of frill-free denim numbers, too, but ornate embroidery is a part of Rockmount’s essential DNA. So if you’re gonna go for it, why not really go for it?

The Best-Fitting Denim Work Shirt

Dickies “Paincourtville” denim shirt

Whether you know Dickies from the guys at the construction yard or your local skatepark, you know their gear is built to take a thrashing. This seriously tough denim shirt is no exception. Though it hails from the workwear OG’s lifestyle sublabel, it’s still packed with plenty of durable details, like reinforced elbows and bartacks. The all-cotton denim twill comes in a nearly raw dark rinse, so you can really lean into fading it yourself.

The East-Meets-West-Meets-Food Denim Shirt

Kapital “Sukiyaki” Western shirt

$514

Standard & Strange

Food photos on Instagram: annoying, right? Food-inspired shirts, though? Bangin’ as hell. Kapital’s Hiro Kirata named this grail after the famed Japanese hot-pot dish, which makes sense: The “Sukiyaki” shirt tosses distinctly American elements and traditional Japanese spice into the same pot. The result is a perfect blend of a cowboy shirt and a kimono, held together with enough snaps for two shirts.

The A-List Denim Shirt

Brunello Cucinelli Western chambray denim button-down shirt

$845

Mr Porter

Ever see paparazzi snaps of dudes like Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling and wonder how their seemingly regular clothes always look so damn crisp and impeccably just-so? Well, for starters, they’re much, much better-looking than you. That tends to help. But the good genetics also extend to their wardrobes: Guys like that can afford shirts like this one, exactingly engineered by Italian tailoring god Brunello Cucinelli to make anyone—even mere mortals like you—look and feel like a matinee idol. The chambray is the ideal weight—light enough to be comfortable, thick enough for some structure—and the cut is trim and sharp like a dress shirt, which means you can wear it tucked in with a suit, or rolled up and rumpled with chinos, and it’ll never not radiate perfectly imperfect movie-star cool.

The Office-Ready Denim Shirt

Abercrombie & Fitch denim button-up shirt

$69$35

Abercrombie & Fitch

Thanks to designer Aaron Levine’s Midas touch, Abercrombie is suddenly a treasure trove of elevated, wallet-friendly essentials. The rebooted A&F already makes some of our fave affordable jeans and rugby shirts, and now you can add this shirt to the list. It’s got the same silhouette and button-down collar as your go-to oxford shirt, only beefed up in hardy washed denim to give all your office looks a little extra texture and character. Another big win for the Moose.

10 More Denim Shirts We Like

AG “Benning” utility shirt

Heavy workwear vibes with the burly denim, robust construction, and perfectly worn-in wash to match.

$142

Amazon

Red Kap deluxe men’s denim shirt

A hard-wearing workhorse of a denim shirt.

J.Crew slim stretch organic cotton chambray shirt

Okay, this isn’t technically denim. But if you’re looking for something that’s better suited to warm climates, this slim-fit chambray is a good option.

$80$40

J.Crew

RRL indigo denim workshirt

All the trappings of a workwear grail, like triple-needle stitching, cat-eye buttons, hand-distressing, and Japanese denim.

$265

Ralph Lauren

Warehouse “Longhorn” denim shirt

For the hardcore DIY denimheads.

$270

Self Edge

orSlow button-down denim shirt

Dennis Quaid in The Parent Trap–type beat.

Our Legacy “New Frontier” shirt

The relaxed shirt of choice for off-duty cowboys.

$307

Our Legacy

Bianca Saunders oversized denim shirt

A more sculptural take on the denim shirt.

$385$269

Matches Fashion

Lemaire black denim military shirt

The bigger the shirt, the bigger the fit.

$495$297

SSENSE

Visvim “Lumber” distressed denim shirt

Subtle distressing in a vintage cropped silhouette.

$1,305

Mr Porter


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