The denim shirt is a go-anywhere, do-anything piece, which makes it surprising that it hasn’t earned certified closet staple status in quite the same way as a white t-shirt or hoodie. But the outfit-elevating potential of a denim shirt means that once you have one, you’ll reach for it as often as you do your favorite tees. Denim shirts are also a great all-season piece. They’re lighter than a denim jacket but warmer than a regular button-down; you can just as easily wear it over a tee on a warm summer evening as you can under a long coat in winter.
A denim shirt perfectly straddles the line between ruggedly casual and put-together. Pair a denim shirt with a white tee and swim trunks and you’ve got the perfect beach day outfit. Tuck that same denim shirt into a pair of charcoal wool pants or black jeans, and you’ve got your dinner date sorted. You can even wear a denim shirt with a more casual suit for the perfect wedding guest fit.
Some guys likely stay away from denim shirts because they might seem a little too San Francisco circa 1850. But wear it in a modern way and no one will assume you pulled your pearl-snap denim shirt off the back of a prospector. Plus, cowboy-inspired pearl snap shirts aren’t the only options — you can find denim shirts with the styling of an oxford-cloth button-down. Or, you can swap out denim for its more summery sibling, chambray. And even if you do end up looking like a cowboy, western wear has been riding a high for the past few years. Lil Nas X may have moved off the old town road, but brands like Saint Laurent, Tecovas, Ralph Lauren, and of course, Levis, are keeping the look going strong.
These are some of the best denim shirts to buy right now.
1. Levi’s Men’s Standard Fit Denim Western Shirt
Unsurprisingly, Levi’s is still one of the best places to look for denim, and that includes shirts. This shirt has a classic pearl-snap front with two snap chest pockets. It comes in a light or dark wash, and it’s made from 100% cotton for an authentic feel. It’s called standard fit, although many find it to be on the slimmer side.
2. Ralph Lauren Classic Fit Denim Shirt
Ralph Lauren’s denim shirt is dressy enough for the office and casual enough for the weekend. The shirt has subtly preppy details; there’s a Polo pony logo on the chest, and the collars can be buttoned down. The shirt is cut from lightweight cotton.
3. Todd Snyder Denim Button-Down Shirt
Todd Snyder’s take on the denim button-down has a single pocket with a button, putting it somewhere between a classic dress shirt and a workwear shirt. The shirt is made in Portugal from 100% cotton, and the simple styling makes it easy to wear in a variety of ways.
4. Billy Reid Denim Shirt
We feature Billy Reid’s wares quite frequently on this here site, and that’s because the brand reliably delivers clothes that are rugged yet sophisticated. This denim shirt embodies that ethos perfectly. The angular pockets and brass snaps lend a sturdy look to this shirt, while the natural ecru color makes it the perfect stand-in for an oxford shirt. It’s also available in various blue washes and black.
5. Calvin Klein Linear Denim Shirt
Calvin Klein offers one of the most modern takes on a snap-front denim shirt. This shirt swaps out mother-of-pearl for metal, and the customary triangular pockets are replaced by two oversized rectangular pockets. The boxy design and light wash make for a shirt that looks way more 1990s than 1890s.
6. Norse Projects Anton Denim Shirt
Leave it to Denmark’s Norse Projects to bring a Scandinavian twist to an American style. The black color, fine twill weave, and Oxford-shirt styling make this a much dressier shirt than your average pearl-snap shirt. It’s a denim shirt, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it just looking at it.
7. YMC Malick Camp-Collar Organic Denim Shirt
BEST WARM-WEATHER SHIRT
YMC’s denim shirt is the most summery option on this list, so while you might not get a chance to break it out for a while, you’ll be glad to have it when the time comes. The camp collar and short sleeves combined with the light denim color make for a shirt that’s at home in Southern California as it is in the south of France.
8. Frame Denim Shirt
Plenty of brands sell jeans, but denim is at the heart of LA-based label FRAME. The faded black wash and square pockets make for a modern take on workwear. The pockets have flaps with traditional flat buttons, while the placket has metal snap buttons.
9. Gap Denim Zipper-Front Jacket
Okay, so technically this is a jacket. But how about we split the difference and call it an overshirt. Either way, this piece from Gap is incredibly stylish. It has a zip-front with two oversized flap chest pockets. Plus, there are two hand pockets. You can layer it over knitwear or wear it under a warm coat.
10. Levi’s Western Denim Shirt
If you think Levi’s is only all about tradition, think again. This shirt might have classic styling with a pearl-snap closure and angular chest pockets, but the floral print keeps things interesting. The loopy petals of the floral design look like something a five-year-old would draw in chalk on the sidewalk, in the best way possible.