I don’t normally gush about specific products here, but Drake’s new line of jeans is worth mentioning. For decades now, Drake’s has mostly operated as a traditional men’s accessories manufacturer, specializing in things such as scarves, pocket squares, and four-in-hand ties. In the last couple of years, however, they’ve been slowly branching out into more casual items – waxed cotton field jackets, naval bridge coats, and brushed Shetland sweaters. Not exactly the coat-and-tie look they’ve always championed, but also not far from the kind of casualwear their clientele might wear on weekends.
This new line of jeans might be their most casual offering to-date. I recently picked up a pair – and while the world doesn’t need any more raw denim – these feel special.
At the heart of it, these are the first jeans I’ve worn that go well with tailoring. As I’ve written before, tailored jackets often don’t look right with jeans because they’re too formal. It helps if you can get something in tweed or corduroy, rather than a smooth, worsted wool. But it’s even better if you can find something in a more casual cut (i.e. slimmer and shorter than the stuff you might get at J. Press). See our friend Niyi in NYC for a good example of how this is done.
Most of my jackets, however, are more traditionally styled – a little longer in the length and fuller in the chest. Even my Neapolitan jackets are more structured than what you’d get from fashion brands such as Boglioli. With cuts like that, most jeans I’ve come across are just too slim and low rise. The proportions just get thrown off when you tuck in your shirt.
These Drake’s jeans, on the other hand, are perfect. A little higher in the rise and fuller in the leg, while still maintaining a gentle taper to keep them away from dad-territory. With a 1.5″ width belt and some suede chukkas, these are the only ones I’ve felt comfortable wearing with traditionally-cut sport coats. Plus, there’s a bunch of cool details: French seams, copper buttons, and a bit of subtle stitching at the back pockets. You can get them on Drake’s website, or through their new NYC pop-up shop. I find them to run comfortably true-to-size.
For alternatives, I reached out to two guys I know who wear sport coats with denim well. Gus in San Francisco does this kind of look all the time, and says his favorite models are from Levi’s Vintage Clothing (the company’s sub-line, which reproduces historical pieces from their archive):
“The 1947 version of their 501 cut is one of my favorites. It’s a slim, straight-leg cut, and comes in a ‘New Rinse’ wash that allows you to avoid any shrinkage issues. For those who prefer a zipper fly and a bit more room in the seat and thigh, try the 1962 551ZXX, made from a pre-shrunk sanforized denim. There’s also the 1954 501ZXX, which has a trimmer leg. If I had to choose one pair, it would probably by the 1954s in the company’s ‘New Rinse.’”
“I once picked up a pair of Levi’s 501s from Sid Mashburn. They’re the contemporary model, not vintage repros, but I like them with sport coats. They’re mid-rise, medium width, and best of all, only $65. I also wear sport coats with my Full Count 0105 jeans, which are little fuller in the leg. Those are a little softer than your average pair of raw denim, and the heavier fabric makes them perfect for winter.”
Regardless of what you go with, Gus advises focusing on the leg opening and inseam length. “You want a neat taper – not too skinny, not too loose – so that the fabric isn’t flopping around the top of your shoes. Keep very full cuts to workwear and heavy boots.”
For guys looking to wear sport coats with denim, start with these models. Then get slightly more casual dress shirts (oxford-cloth button-downs work well) and shoes that straddle the line between formal and casual (e.g. suede chukkas, pebble grained derbies, etc). Finally, make sure your jacket is on the softer side of things. A minimally padded sport coat, made from a causal fabric, will align with denim better than a structured suit jacket.