Jeans are a classic piece of menswear, right?
The startup billionaire CEOs in Silicon valley are wearing jeans with t-shirts and sport jackets.
Mid-west business owners wear jeans with a button down and blazer.
Even lawyers in LA are pairing stylish denim with fashionable dress shirts.
So that means jeans are safe to wear to work, right?
Depends on the situation?
When Is It Acceptable to Wear Jeans to Work?
This is a question I often get from gentlemen wondering where the line between smart denims and suitable professional attire lies.
These gentlemen share their situation with me telling me who they are, where they work and what they have going on in their work environment.
Invariably it comes down to:
“Antonio, I really like my jeans. I want to wear them to work. Can I make it happen?”
There is no Yes or No answer – you have to determine the answer to this question on a case-by-case basis.
To help you figure out when you can wear your jeans and when you can’t I’m going to provide you with 3 points you have to consider before making a choice.
3 Ways To Tell When You Can Wear Jeans To Work
1. Understand Your Office’s Unofficial Work Dress Code
One of the easiest ways to determine if you can get away with wearing denims is to look at your surroundings and the people in it.
Working in a fashion firm or a jean manufacturer wearing jeans will probably make you blend in but no matter how hard you try it probably won’t fly if you work in a bank.
In many situations jeans are perfectly acceptable and can be worn even in a dressier situation just adding a sports jacket and a nice pair of shoes.
Denim In The Office – Rural or Urban Workplace?
Another big factor is to look at whether you’re in the city or a small town setting since the rules on dress code vary so greatly in these locales. Where it may be perfectly acceptable to wear jeans in a rural business setting, in an urban location it may not be.
I’ve had a reader tell me he attended a social in a small town in North America where the the invite stated Semi-formal and found himself considerably overdressed in a Blazer and casual dress shirt. Local culture held Semi-formal to mean you had to wear long pants and not short.
Being in Brussels or Berlin is a different environment than in being in Wassau, Wisconsin which is a very laid-back town of about about 40,000 people about 30 minutes away from me. It comes back to location and if you’re in a more conservative setting like London or even a high-pressure place like New York City there are other options you’re going to want to consider.
Pay Attention To Your Country’s Denim Acceptance Level
Japan produces some of the finest denim in the world, but you’re never ever going to attend a business event wearing jeans in the land of the rising sun!
Despite their exports there simply is not a culture of even slightly informal wear in a business setting and unless it’s for a relevant fashion event or for a jean company.
Conservative or business-minded countries are not the only countries where you have to watch out – some countries like Italy are very focused on personal appearance and your jeans may be inappropriate for that reason.
Environment is going to be the biggest factor that determines whether you can wear your jeans to work or not.
2. Types Of Jeans You Can Wear To Work
Style, Cut and Fashion
Jeans come in a wide range of fashions, styles and cuts.
As a rule your office jeans should always:
- Be a dark & solid wash
- Not be faded or worn
- Not be torn
- Not have any type of wear or markings like embroidery
Diesel is a great company, and I love what they’re doing. I was just reading about founder Adriano Goldschmied, and when he founded the company he positioned himself in New York right across from the Levi store as he wanted to show how his jeans were beautiful works of art in contrast to Levis.
That being said – Diesel is a very fashion-forward type of jeans so not the top choice for office wear.
Office Jeans & Fit
The fit of your jeans is always important but more so if you want to wear them in a business environment.
Dad jeans are very big, usually way too large for the wearer.
Carpenter jeans are another example that may be stylish if you’re a carpenter, but you don’t want to wear them or a “dad jeans” fit if you’re in a business environment.
Remember that selecting an appropriate jean only applies after establishing that your location allows for you to wear it in the first place.
3. Does Denim “Fit” With Your Profession?
Even rural lawyers and bankers are expected to dress the part of being a professional.
Do not betray expectations – people expect a doctor to wear a white coat. If you have an industry “uniform”, be very careful introducing jeans as they are casual and could hurt your credibility!
If you are a white collar professional there is a reasonable expectation in people’s minds on what you should wear and that means you probably want to go with dark dress slacks (instead of denim). Be very careful about wearing jeans unless you are sure they are sure they’re part of the company culture.
However as a machine-tech in New York you can happily dismiss all the info above as it’s generally accepted that you need something functional for your job and for most people that means jeans. Though I’m not going to say jeans are the best choice; there are other choices out there like cotton work pants which look better and offer the same protection.
Of course, the one reason jeans became universally loved in the first place is durability, they can be washed often and take rough handling.
So to answer the question: Whether or not you can wear jeans in formal setting depends on each situation, but looking at these three factors you can make a decision about when and where you can wear your jeans.