Essential Men’s Styles | How To Wear Dark Wash Denim

Introducing a new series, Essential Men’s Styles. This first edition features the classic workhorse—dark wash denim.

Why is dark wash denim a men’s style essential? Mainly because of its versatility, durability and timelessness.

It serves as the anchor for a myriad of outfit combinations. You can dress it down with a t-shirt or dress it up with a blazer. It’s appropriate for more casual workplaces and after work happy hours. Have an exciting date coming up? Dark blue jeans is always a smart choice.

Essential Men's Styles Series | Dark Wash Denim | Gentleman Within

Not to be mistaken for dark rinse denim, which is typically darker, almost appearing black. The “rinse” and “wash” refer specifically to the way the jeans are treated during the production process.

The dark rinse is a fabric that’s dipped in darker dye after the jeans are actually sewn together, allowing for the dye to saturate all the seams for a soft feel and deep color.

The dark wash is dark colored denim that’s washed during production, which gives it a soft touch and adds unique texture.

For simplicity—since they look similar, wash and rinse will be used interchangeably in this article.

Here’s some more interesting facts about jeans if you’re curious. If not…you can skip this ‘Did You Know’ section.

Did You Know?

Original Levi's Logo

Jeans was the creation of Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873. Davis with a knack for innovation and Strauss an entrepreneurial spirit, together they changed the face of fashion forever.

Jeans as name for trousers come from city of Genoa in Italy, a place where cotton corduroy, called either jean or jeane, was manufactured.

Jeans were working clothes at first, made from durable materials that could withstand the rigors of rough working conditions.

Blue jeans were banned at certain places like schools, theaters, and restaurants in the ‘50s because they were seen as a form of rebellion against conformism.

Rivets are used on jeans to make them stronger especially on pockets and other places where the jeans would tend to rip.

Making of one pair of Levi 501s requires 37 separate sewing operations.

About 450 million pairs of jeans are sold in the United States every year.

Now that you’ve learned some cool facts about jeans, let’s move on to a few ways you can wear your dark blue jeans.


Scenario #1: The casual weekender

Casual Weekender Outfit
SHOP THIS LOOK—Shirt: Tailor Store | Vest: J.Crew Factory | Jeans: Gap | Boots: Cole Haan | Watch: Timex

Whether you’re running a few errands or meeting up with buddies for drinks—dark blue jeans can serve you well.

This simple look is made casual from the top all the way down to the bottom.

The white/gray check flannel shirt is inherently casual. Also notice the rounded ‘club’ collar which gives it more of a modern appeal. Pair this shirt with a light, quilted vest, suede desert boots, and dark jeans, and you’ve got a rugged, yet still refined combo.

The Timex Weekender watch with a casual leather strap completes this simple getup. Of course this is meant to be a well-fitting outfit which helps to further streamline the look.

Dark Blue Jeans Casual Weekend Looks
Maxin’, relaxin’ all casually cool | credit: Pinterest

Scenario #2: The casual office

Casual Office Outfit
SHOP THIS LOOK—Shirt: Uniqlo | Cardigan: H&M | Jeans: Gap | Boots: Banana Republic | Watch: Daniel Wellington | Belt: Dockers

Find yourself in a more casual work environment? This look can work well in the office.

The shawl neck sweater is a casual piece that ventures into rugged territory depending on what you pair it with.

In this case, the addition of a white oxford shirt helps to increase the level of formality a tiny bit. And a clean pair of suede chukkas, in navy keeps the look balanced with earth tones, of dark blues and the teal of the cardigan.

You’ll look on point style wise with this simple getup, topped off with a minimalist brown leather watch.

Dark Blue Jeans Casual Office Looks
Be the most stylish guy in the office | credit: Pinterest

Scenario #3: Date night

Date night
SHOP THIS LOOK—Shirt: Black Lapel | Blazer: Indochino | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Allen Edmonds | Watch: Stuhrling | Tie: Knots Apparel

Quick aside: Stay away from the blazer and tie combo if you’re only a few dates in. You might come off as too try-hard. This is more for a longer term relationship of say 6 months+.

So it’s date night with your special lady? Give this look a try.

In this scenario, I dressed up our trusty dark blue jeans with a silk blended charcoal blazer (yours doesn’t have to be silk) to up the class factor. The silk blend gives off an air of elegance that is perfect for a fancy date or anniversary.

Though hard to see, the shirt is light blue with thin white stripes. The navy, speckled tie is made of a wool fabric that contrasts nicely against the lighter shirt. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures.

A pair of brown brogues like that of Allen Edmond’s Strand in Walnut always looks great with dark blue jeans. You can of course go darker with your shoe shade according to your personal taste.

Show her that you care and put in a little extra effort to wow her like in the beginning.

Dark Blue Jeans Date Night Looks
Some more date night inspiration | credit: Pinterest


Quick preface: Like the many different body types, the fit of different brands can vary a great deal. I suggest getting off the internet and actually visit the individual stores you like and try on the various types of fit to see which is best for you.

It’s also worth noting that over the years, pants fit have gotten slimmer across the board. So even the relaxed or bootcuts of today aren’t as ill-fitting as days gone by.

Jeans Fit


Remember not so long ago when skinny jeans were all the rage? I admit to falling for this trend even though skinny jeans aren’t the most flattering for my body type. I don’t exactly have thunder thighs, but skinny is not a good look for me. Skinny fit jeans are most appropriate for skinny guys. It shouldn’t be a struggle to squeeze into your jeans, though many skinny/slim fitting jeans have 1 or 2% elastane, giving it a bit of stretch, which is more comfortable than a pair without it.


Depending on the brand, you may fall under a slim or a straight fit. For example a GAP or H&M straight fit is comparable to other brands’ slims. Again, it’s best to try for yourself to see if slim or straight works for you. The primary difference between slim and straight is that slim tends to fit slightly more snug and tapers down towards the ankle.


Straight fit is a good choice for the majority of men. It’s the most flattering fit for a wide range of body types and is a safe choice if you are unsure of which fit is most appropriate for you. Think of straight fit as a happy medium, not too tight, not too loose, but just right.

Boot cut:

This fit is meant to be worn with boots, hence the name. An indicator of a boot cut is a widening of the pant leg opening that gives ample room to cover up the bulkiest of boots. These types of jeans tend to be more relaxed at the thigh and down the leg as well.


As the name suggests, this fit is relaxed alright. Perhaps too relaxed, bordering lazy with your style. Not to hate on this relaxed fit, but it’s not the most flattering for any body type. The Brett Favre for Wrangler, dad jeans look can be real comfortable, but can also make you appear real sloppy. But hey, to each his own.


A common question is, “how do I wash dark blue jeans without it fading?”

So, how often should you wash your dark blue jeans? The short answer—as little as possible.

A rule of thumb is to go for as long as possible without washing. When will you know it’s time? A good old fashioned smell test never fails.

First, here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  • Wash your jeans after every wear
  • Put your jeans in the dryer
  • Put your jeans in the freezer

Washing after every wear is not only bad for the environment, but will shorten the life of your jeans. And the heat from a dryer can actually damage your jeans, causing extreme fading.

Forget about freezing your jeans to kill bacteria, it doesn’t work.

how often do I wash dark blue jeans care

If you want to preserve the dark color of your jeans and prevent fading, the best method I found is courtesy of Bespoke Post. Granted, it’s advice for treating raw denim, it works perfectly on regular dark wash denim as well.

I’ll let them tell it.

“Turn them inside-out, then put them in the washing machine by themselves. Wash on cold with just a little bit of Woolite Dark detergent. Hang ‘em up to dry.

This is the method we swear by. With just a few minor adjustments, cleaning your jeans is just as easy as doing a normal load of laundry, but they won’t fade too much or mess with the color of your other clothes.

Turning them inside-out protects any fades you’ve already developed, the cold water is less likely to bleed the indigo, and Woolite works well to keep an inky hue on dark clothes.

Don’t go crazy and wash every time you do your laundry, but you can rest easy knowing that when you do need to give your favorite denim a thorough clean, it won’t involve any complicated processes or do too much damage to the dye.”

For more on caring for your jeans. Via Levi’s Unzipped blog.


A clean pair of dark blue jeans is the ultimate smart casual wardrobe piece. It’s the first item I would recommend any guy pick up if he doesn’t already own a pair.

Lighter wash denim is always casual. The power of dark blue jeans is its ability to be worn casually or ultra elegant.

Its versatility and durability is unmatched. It has stood the test of time and I believe will continue to be a staple long before you and I are gone.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a quality pair…you won’t regret it.

I’d be remiss not to mention a few brands to get you started if you’re new to dark wash denim.

Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Levi’s, Uniqlo.

If you liked this article, you can check the out the other features in our Essential Men’s Styles Series.



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