Style Upgrade: Dark Denim

A quick and easy style upgrade that only involves knowing your pant size. Dark denim pictured from Mott & Bow. Olive leather slip-ons by GREATS Brand. Organic cotton pocket T-shirt  by United By Blue. Glasses by Warby Parker. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.
A quick and easy style upgrade that only involves knowing your pant size. Dark denim pictured from Mott & Bow. Olive leather slip-ons by GREATS Brand. Organic cotton pocket T-shirt by United By Blue. Glasses by Warby Parker. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.

Editor’s note: If you read this blog regularly, you might recall this post was supposed to cover Taylor Stitch chinos. However, they’re sold out for right now. Oops! So we move onto the next topic on The Style Guide. This is the second in an ongoing series covering quick and easy upgrades to dilemmas a guy might face once in a while. For more entries in the series, click here.

When I first started writing about men’s style for this site about two years ago, one of the first topics I covered was the idea of Style Essentials — basics that can help any guy look good in nearly any situation. That’s a topic that’s still near and dear to my heart, and it’s certainly still relevant when plotting out ways to look one’s best. While I’m still learning a lot about the ever-evolving world of men’s style, I thought it about high time to revisit this topic — from a slightly wiser, slightly older perspective (perhaps?). And there might not be a better style upgrade to make than switching out your pants — maybe from something a bit baggier or faded to something cleaner, trimmer and darker. We’re talking, of course, about the indispensable pair of dark denim you should hopefully have in your closet, folks.

My friend Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent showing off one way to style dark denim.
My friend Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent showing off one way to style dark denim.

No matter what stage you might be at in  your style evolution, something as crisp as dark denim can act as a style catalyst or a rejuvenator from which to build all kinds of outfits. That goes for weekend wear — like with white sneakers and a slub T-shirt, and makes its way to office wear during the week — alongside a crisp blazer and a chambray shirt, for instance. My friend from Barron of Effortless Gent nails this concept perfectly. It’s one of the  only things you can do to change up your wardrobe that just involves knowing your pant size (and maybe what brand you might prefer to wear).

Every discussion about upgrading the denim in your closet should probably start with the originator of the classic blue jean — Levi’s. Although its styles have undergone some changes through the years, there are few style upgrades that can’t be met with a classic like the Levi’s 513 jean — the slim-straight fit flatters lots of body types, while the dark, crisp color looks better year-round than other overly distressed jeans. On a looser but still fitted front, the Levi’s 514 jean is available for under $40 — a heck of a price.

J. Crew's take on the classic blue jean features a tailored fit and crisp color.
J. Crew’s take on the classic blue jean features a tailored fit and crisp color.

Keep in mind that the brand also does tapered fits like the 511 jean, too. Modern-day #menswear mainstay J. Crew has plenty to say about denim upgrades too, and its 484 jean in a deep “Resin Crinkle Wash” fits the bill perfectly. And although it’s been a very hot seller, the 770 jean in that same wash would provide the roomier (yet still somewhat tailored) fit that athletic guys might prefer. Ponying up a pretty penny could also nab you a pair of The Blue Jean from Bonobos, featuring fits ranging from Bootcut (preferably avoided, however!) to Tailored (a trim fit similar to a Levi’s 511). The Slim Crosby Jean from Mott & Bow would also be a particularly agreeable purchase (check out more on the brand here), as would something in a slimmer fit — like the Mosco seen below (Editor’s note: Get 15% your first purchase with the brand using this link).

Dark denim with a hint of stretch, like the Mosco Skinny fit from Mott & Bow, also works well for  this style upgrade. Spring Plaid Shirt by Gustin. Brown leather watch by Stuhrling. Glasses by Warby Parker.
Dark denim with a hint of stretch, like the Mosco Skinny fit from Mott & Bow, also works well for this style upgrade. Spring Plaid Shirt by Gustin. Brown leather watch by Stuhrling. Glasses by Warby Parker.

And to expand the pool of options even further, even Old Navy is now peddling dark denim — this time, for under $30 on sale. While those might not last as long as a hefty pair from iconic denim purveyor Gustin, they’d certainly get the job done. But if you feel like going all out on this particular style upgrade and won’t have anything less than the best, brands like 3Sixteen have developed a cult-ish following for the quality of their denim (and the resulting jean fades).
Ernest Alexander
Whichever option you might decide to go with — whether it’s time for a denim restock or the first purchase — reaching for something with a clean navy color and a trimmer fit won’t lead you astray. Dark denim is the type of pant that works virtually anywhere — unless, of course, it’s presentation time in the boardroom or time to suit up for the red carpet. Other than that though — reach for a great pair or two and see how you style them.

Have you made this Style Upgrade yet? What’s your go-to pair of dark denim?
Ben Sherman US

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