We say denim shirt and you say what? Blue jeans workwear? Spaghetti westerns? Texan tuxedos? Whatever blue-hued vision springs to mind, we’d wager that you don’t normally associate these pearl-poppered, shoulder-panelled stalwarts of the western wardrobe with formalwear. But we’re here to tell you that you rootin’ tootin’ should do.
Denim gets a bad rap in the evening wear stakes. Seen as rough, ready and rugged, no-one tends to think to even pair denim or chambray shirts with a simple suit let alone black tie. But brands have been working to overhaul the reputation of this blue cotton twill of late — and rebrand it for smarter sartorial situations.
With neat pleats, a denim dress shirt is your new black tie must-have
No, this isn’t an April Fools. Denim dress shirts are genuinely a thing, and we think they look great. Adding a little individuality to your tuxedo uniform, the blue hue brings sophistication to your get-up, and the pleats honour the traditional design.
From Turnbull & Asser, this dark blue denim-cashmere shirt is the perfect blend of innovation and luxury. Richard James has paired things back with its classic chambray — complete with the western pearl buttons. And Eton has a reliably chic take on the idea, with soft lightweight denim available in two fits.
Turnbull & Asser Dark Blue Denim Dress Shirt
Richard James Chambray Dress Shirt
Eton Lightweight Denim Shirt
These customisable, office-ready button-ups will bring denim to your desk
And then there’s the office. Despite companies across the world relaxing their in-house dress codes, the humble denim shirt can add a frisson of formality to your office wear. An easy way to add more texture to the duds you wear behind your desk, choose a straight collar and single breast pocket for that practical touch.
Emma Willis is the gold standard here. Hand cut and finished in its Gloucester factory using single-needle stitching, you can choose a fit and collar size that complements your existing workwear. Apposta offers a similar level of customisation, all rendered in 100 per cent pure cotton denim. And Gieves & Hawkes will ensure you stay sharp throughout summer with a light denim linen chambray offering.
Emma Willis Denim Blue Brushed Cotton
Apposta Blue Denim Shirt
Gieves & Hawkes Navy Chambray Shirt
Up the formal factor a little with these smart casual denim shirts
Of course, there’s no need to go to extremes. If you feel most comfortable saving your denim for the weekends, but still want to elevate it above tinkering in the garage or working in the garden, there are smart casual shirts that refine the fabric — without turning it into a full-blown, front-pleated, wing-collared dress garment.
Rubinacci, for example, has tailored this shirt to the same high standard as one of its impeccable suits, but cut it from cotton-chambray for that off-duty look. YMC has kept the refined fit and contrast buttons, but trimmed down the collar to create a smart but relaxed style. And Scandi style king A Day’s March has worked wonders with a vivid blue colour, looser fit and button-down pocket.
Rubinacci Cotton Chambray Shirt
YMC Curtis Denim Shirt
A Day’s March Denim Shirt
More into your T-shirts? Here’s why the long-sleeved polo shirt will up your layering game…
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