Three things to consider when deciding if you should wear a suit jacket with jeans:
1. What type of suit jacket are we talking about?
2. What type of jeans are we talking about?
3. Where are you wearing this?
First – Examine the Suit Jacket
Does it fit you?
If no, then go no further. You cannot wear this with anything.
Is the style classic?
I don’t refer to something made in 1950, rather is it timeless in design. Think 2 or 3 button single breasted, notch or peak lapels, 3 pockets (two hip, one left breast). If this is a zoot suit jacket that hangs to your knees or a 1974 Saturday night Fever special, save it for Halloween and go no further.
Is the fabric something that could have been used for a sport jacket or blazer?
Navy Blue – If your jacket is solid navy, and meets all the criteria above, you’re in luck. Simply remove the buttons and replace them with buttons (silver – brass – gold – mother-of-pearl). You now have a blazer.
Solid Black – If the suit jacket is black, and you are medium to high contrast, you can wear it as a night sport jacket. However, to the 1% who pay attention to details, it will be obvious this is a suit jacket unless you have it altered (special buttons, accent stitching). My advice is to just say screw it and wear the jacket with confidence and have a great time.
Charcoal Grey Solid – Solid charcoal jackets is rarely seen in sport coats. I will just say no here.
Light Grey Solid – Like black, except more for daytime wear. The lighter the better, as since most men don’t even own a light colored grey suit they won’t wise up to this jacket’s origins.
Invest in non-plastic horn or smoked mother-of-pearl buttons, and maybe look to have a tailor add a ticket pocket. And even though if I saw you I would know what’s going on, wear with confidence and I’ll realize you’re stylish yet thrifty.
Tweed or a Classic Patterned Fabric – You are in luck my friend; you have found a suit jacket that can easily be used as a sport coat. Upgrade the buttons if they are cheap looking, ensure the boutonniere hole is functional, and possibly even add patch elbow or another casual touch.
Other fabrics – case by case basis.
Second – Examine the Denim Jeans
The jeans on the left are sport jacket or blazer safe – the jeans on the right less so, although if you have a solid understanding of style you can pull this off.
I prefer to always wear dark jeans with a jacket – the simple act of wearing the jacket raises the formality of the ensemble.
However if the weather is warm lighter jeans that are well kept can be matched with a dark blazer or seasonal jacket (think brown in fall). Unless you are a musician or artist, avoid torn jeans with a jacket.
Also pay attention to your blue jean fit – loose or low hanging jeans are too informal to ever wear with a jacket.
You want denim that fits you in a similar manner to how dress slacks would fit – close to the body and comfortable. Skinny tight jeans are too fashion forward – leave these at the hipster store and run away quickly:)
Seriously – you have to be in decent shape to pull off jeans and a jacket – it’s a youthful look and requires a body type whose chest is bigger than the waist. Once the reverse is true, the look becomes a poor one no matter your age as the jeans look forced and will certainly be the wrong style.
Third – Does a suit jacket and jean combination fit the occasion?
No matter how you dress them up, jeans are informal.
That being said, wear a jacket and jeans only when a suit or higher level of appearance is not expected, and jeans and a dress shirt would suffice. In this way wearing the jacket is just icing on the cake and simply makes you look more masculine versus looking like a wanna-be rebel.
Finally, always wear this combination with confidence.