I’m a firm adherent to the adage that the clothes make the man. Usually people see this in the sense that the clothes you wear mark your position in society (which is true, whatever), but MORE IMPORTANTLY I think that putting on a uniform somehow mentally prepares the wearer for the task they are about to perform. As such it pains me that right now, as I sit in my office chair and look around I am the only person to not be wearing jeans.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love jeans. I just think that if you’re at work and your job doesn’t involve manual labor, then you have no business in denim. My father was a welder, my grandfather built ships, and family lore has it that my great grandfather immigrated west in a covered wagon—they could wear jeans to work. I spend all day having meetings about leveraging brand equity through social media engagement—I don’t get to wear jeans. If you are reading this at work then you (probably) don’t get to wear jeans; and if you are wearing jeans, my ghostly lumberjack forbearers are shaking their heads at you from the gates of tough guy Valhalla. So I guess my first bit of advice about wearing jeans to work is don’t…but since it’s a sad fact of modern life that jeans have entered the vernacular of ‘business casual ‘ here are some points to keep in mind so as to avoid any run-ins with HR.
Go Dark or Go Home
Rule number one: the darker the denim, the more dressy it is. I come from the South West (not Texas), a place where it is literally ok to wear jeans at any occasion—weddings, funerals, job interviews, etc. But as such we know how to dress up denim. It is from here I take most of my cues.
Now jeans naturally fade with each washing, forming patters of wear that make a well broken in pair of jeans as unique and beautiful as a baby snowflake. This being antithetical to the point I’m trying to make here, you can either retain the dye three ways. You can, prior to their first washing, soak them in cold water mixed with a little bit of vinegar. You can have them dry cleaned (if you can stand looking at yourself in the mirror after having DRY CLEANED A PAIR OF JEANS). Or you can never wash them (not acceptable).
Keep it Clean, and No More Than 5 Pockets Max
Rule number deuce: jeans have to be clean, unruffled and plain. That is to say and stains or tears impeach the jeans as a candidate for your office wear rotation. Equally, stay away from jeans that are skin tight or baggy, have novelty pockets, or have a low waist. Since I was raised on Levis I tend to think of jeans in terms of their products, so your ideal pair of jeans should be something like the regular fit 505, straight 504, and if you are a bit lanky maybe the slim 511.
Keep It Classy, Cincinnati!
Depending on how you look at it jeans are either going to force you/ let you step up your sartorial game everywhere else. In terms of shoes anything in brown/tan leather or suede works. My personal favorites are tan desert boots, brown penny loafers and wingtips in brown or black. Depending on how relaxed your office dress code is you might be able to get away with boots, but since we are trying to dress up jeans here let’s forget about that.
In terms of the rest of you, a shirt with a collar is now your only basis for even pretending you’re a professional. Now layer up with a blazer or cardigan. If you’ve always been itching to test drive a waist coat, now’s the time since your poor choice of trouser will anchor you sufficiently in the hackneyed to try something a bit new.
There are lots of offices out there with lots of different dress codes. If your office forbids denim then good for them; if they say jeans are ok that still doesn’t mean that you should wear them and it certainly doesn’t mean you should wear whatever jeans you scrape off your moldy bedroom floor in the morning. Having a bit of decorum and looking well put together communicates a lot about a person, especially in the work place. If you don’t believe me and you are a jeans type person try a nice pair of khakis and see what happens.