Just as baseball and apple pie are a part of America’s fabric, so are denim jackets—quite literally. Created by Levi Strauss in 1880 as a follow-up to the brand’s most popular garment (jeans, obviously), denim jackets were made expressly for the working class. Ranchers, railroad workers, and miners all wore denim jackets because of the durability and breathability they offered.
Around the 1950s, though, the denim jacket made a shift from worker bee jacket to a symbol of teenage rebellion. James Dean wore one in Rebel Without a Cause and cemented the jacket’s rabble-rouser status, so much so that denim was banned in several schools across the US.
Today, everyone from your uncle in Montana to celebrities in Los Angeles wear denim jackets, making them both pedestrian and ultra-fashionable simultaneously—likely the reason why the jacket has endured in a world that’s so fickle about fashion. The jacket’s versatility is incredible—don a denim jacket and you can look like anything from a too-cool-for-school rebel, a rockstar, a ranch hand, or Justin Timberlake in a full denim suit at the 2001 American Music Awards. Choose your jacket carefully.
Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket
It’s only appropriate to start this list with a jacket from the creator of the first denim jacket, so check out this Commuter Trucker Jacket from Levi’s. An updated version of Levi’s original jacket, it comes in a variety of different washes (including army green and tan), has sturdy button closures and chest pockets with several high-tech upgrades for the modern guy on-the-go. A hood tucks into the jacket’s collar when not in use, the back has reflective accents to make you stand out in the dark, and the entire thing is coated with Levi’s EcoRepel protective finish.
Carhartt Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket
Michigan-based Carhartt has been making virtually indestructible clothes for workers since the late 1800s—you’ve seen your grandfather, father, and uncles all wear them—so buying a denim jacket from them is a good bet. The classic cut, heavy-duty jacket is lined with extra-soft Sherpa fleece, ensuring that you’ll be kept warm for the next century or so.
Roark Revival Enfield Denim Jacket
The Enfield Denim Jacket from California-based Roark Revival is made with an extra-dark washed denim that will never go out of style. It’s rugged stitching provides extra style and its classic button closures will keep you secure.
Lands’ End Denim Moto Jacket
With its Denim Moto Jacket, Lands’ End takes the traditional denim jacket and turns it on its head. Featuring an ultra dark wash and thin cotton twill material (along with multiple angled zippered pockets with gold accents), this jacket could easily stand-in for a blazer at the office.
Gap 1969 Heritage Denim Jacket
The Gap has gotten a lot of mileage out of its “1969 Denim” line, which was launched nearly a decade ago as a way to get back to basics and celebrate the styles the brand offered when it was founded in 1969 (fun fact: the Gap was named after the generation gap between young people who believed jeans could be worn everyday and older people who regarded that as totally inappropriate). Out of that heritage line comes this denim jacket, which is definitely a classic that you’ll be able to keep in your wardrobe for years to come.
Levi’s Sherpa Trucker Jacket
Another offering from Levi’s, this Sherpa Trucker Jacket takes the classic denim jacket silhouette and lines with it ultra-soft, extra-warm Sherpa fleece that goes all the way up to the collar, which is especially helpful on really cold Fall days. The jacket is available in a variety of different washes, and if you love the fit of your denim jacket, you can also invest in another one constructed out of corduroy or plaid wool.
Norse Projects Five Denim Jacket
Danish brand Norse Projects takes the classic denim jacket and tweaks it with some useful upgrades. The slim fit, dark-washed jacket features the classic buttoned chest pockets as well as two unbuttoned pockets at the sides to keep your hands protected from the elements, and a brown corduroy collar for a unique touch.
J. Crew Denim Jacket
J. Crew is a brand that does classic American pieces really well, which is why you should invest in its denim jacket. Made out of premium Japanese denim, you’ll buy it already broken-in, so it’ll fit like a glove from day one.
Bonobos Jean Jacket
You might think of Bonobos only when you’re trying to buy colorful shorts, but give them another thought, because the jean jacket they have on offer is top-notch. Made with durable American Cone denim (you can pick from a dark wash and a light wash), the jacket is slimmed down to ensure you won’t look boxy when you’re wearing it.
Taylor Stitch Long Haul Jacket
California-based Taylor Stitch specializes in making high-quality apparel, by hand, for limited runs, and that’s why you should snatch one of these Long Haul Jackets up while you still can. Crafted out of black Japanese selvedge denim, the jacket has streamlined features to ensure a clean look that will look great wherever you go.
Scotch & Soda Trucker Jacket
While New Amsterdam-based Scotch & Soda’s jacket is dubbed a “Trucker Jacket,” you’re not going to find any big rig drivers sporting this slim, nearly $200 jacket. It’ll look good on you, though, with it’s rugged wash, asymmetrical chest pockets, additional side pockets, and ornately stitched collar.
Jean Shop Ranch Slim-Fit Denim Jacket
If you don’t have time to spend doing manual labor to break in your brand-new denim jacket, get this one from the Jean Shop. The classic jacket is distressed in places that would experience natural wear, so it’ll look like you’ve spent some time home on the range in this thing, even if you’ve only worn it once.
Ralph Lauren Austin Denim Trucker Jacket
Featuring a light wash, a distressed look, and a corduroy-lined pointed collar, this Austin Denim Trucker Jacket from Ralph Lauren will easily become your favorite weekend jacket.
Acne Studios Jam Overdyed Denim Jacket
Stockholm-based Acne Studios specializes in creating quality, well-tailored products that will last a lifetime. With its Jam Overdyed Denim Jacket, the brand does exactly that. Sporting a dark, dark wash (when they say “overdyed,” they mean it) the jacket is a bit more formal than its lighter brethren, which means you may be able to get away with wearing it to the office. Try it out.
Ralph Lauren Cowboy Selvedge Denim Jacket
You might think of Ralph Lauren as more of a preppy brand than a brand that would specialize in cowboy ephemera, but remember this: Ralph Lauren is all about Americana, and there are few things (apparel-wise) that are more American than a denim jacket. Crafted from Japanese selvedge denim, this jacket apes cowboy-style denim jackets from the 1930s, and features a branded cowhide patch for extra flair.