All Grown Up – The Denim Dress Shirt

The denim shirt has been an American staple since icons like Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley, and Marlon Brando popularized the look on and off the silver screen. And while it’s easy to see the appeal in trying to channel some of those no-fuss, no-nonsense vibes, the decidedly western styling hasn’t always been congruous with a polished, urban wardrobe. But there’s a new denim shirt in town – a slick, svelte re-tooling that still nods to the rough-and-tumble roots that made the garment so popular in the first place. The All-American bad boy has grown up, and this is what he’s wearing.

Trucker Style for the Sedan Set

The first thing you’ll notice about the new denim shirt is that it sports a trimmer fit than the first go-around. In the past, loggers and other heavy industry workers preferred a generous cut so that the shirt could be worn as a protective outer layer, almost like a jacket. However, if you aren’t looking to defend yourself from flying woodchips, a tailored silhouette will prove much more flattering.


A tailored fit will add more versatility to your wardrobe than a traditional, boxy cut.

Clean Up Your Act

Fit isn’t the only department where the re-envisioned denim takes cues from the modern dress shirt – gone are the snap-buttons, angled yoke, and decorative stitching, in favor of a more streamlined look. Tonal or mother-of-pearl buttons, along with an updated collar, go a long way in maturing the look. The collar can be a slimmed down version of the floppy button-down or forward point traditionally found, or a dressier option like a cutaway that never would have worked in the past. The denim itself is also more like fine shirting fabric: tightly woven and evenly dyed, it’s a big step in the right direction from the distressing and faux-fading we’ve seen in years past. We still get a nod to the functional heritage of the denim shirt with throwback details like chest pockets, and button-flap closures on more casual renditions.


Refined details and a dark rinse update the classic denim shirt.

Style to Go

The denim-dress hybrid is easy to dress up or down for any occasion in a pinch. Throw a leather jacket on top for a killer downtown look, or swap the leather for a suit and add some visual intrigue to your weekday uniform. Wear it untucked with a pair of chinos, and you’ve nailed the sweet spot between laid back and dressy.


Worn untucked, the denim dress shirt is a perfect pairing with some washed chinos.

Built to Last

Even though you can substitute the denim revamp for a dress shirt, don’t think you’ll have to pamper it like one. It’s still tough enough to make the hardiest oxford weak in the knees. So go ahead and skip the cleaner, you can put this shirt straight in the wash without a second thought. Don’t bother with ironing or pressing it afterward either, just throw it over the back of a chair till the weekend rolls around (like you weren’t going to do that anyway). The wrinkles only add to the carefree cool.

The denim dress shirt is an investment piece that you might be surprised to find yourself reaching for as often as the classic whites and pale blues. It’s next to impossible to look like you’re trying too hard while wearing one, and there’s a shade of indigo that goes with just about everything. Treading the line between trendy and timeless, rugged and refined, the reinvented denim is one of the most versatile shirts you can own this fall.


Customize or buy either of the ManuelRacim denim shirts featured in this post by clicking the icon below:

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