5 Tips on Matching Jeans & Sweaters: A Man's Guide to Pairing a Sweater and Denim

 

It’s winter.

Sweaters are out in full force.

So are sturdy, heavyweight blue jeans.

That’s great news for casual dressers, because few things go together as easily as jeans and sweaters.

With the right jeans and the right sweaters in your closet, winter dressing can run itself on autopilot from the first flakes of snow to the last puddles of slush.

Still, even a simple look can go wrong, and it stands out all the more when it does. Tighten your sweater/jeans game up this winter with some simple tricks to keep everything looking laid back, casual, and stylish.

1. Keep Your Sweater Simple In Color and Design

There are no absolutes in fashion. However there are time-tested rules and guidelines that just make sense. One of these rules is to start building your sweater wardrobe from pieces that are simple in both color and pattern. Why? In one word – Versatility. A solid colored sweater from a traditionally masculine palette – grey, charcoal, off white, tan, brown, and colors or a sweater made from yarn with a dark hue in blue or green are simple to match. They’ll work with denim in light blue, dark blue, black, heck you pull of white jeans and blue sweater if you nail the time of year, occasion, and have the complexion for it. Keeping your sweater solid reduces it’s memorability.  You can spice things up a bit with stitching styles (such as an aran design as seen above), but a better option for your first 2 foundation pieces are simple smooth knits. A grey turtle neck or navy blue crew with raglan sleeves is going to work with almost all the jeans in our wardrobe. Sweaters in white, red, or heavily patterned designs CAN be matched with jeans – however the jeans need to compliment these stronger sweaters.

2. Chunky Jeans, Chunky Sweater. Slim Jeans, Slim Sweater.

Probably the most important thing you can remember with upper body/lower body combos like sweater/jean pairings is that you want to maintain proportion. A chunky roll neck sweater with raised decorative stitching adds a lot of bulk to your upper body, and you’ll need some heft down low to keep from looking like a cartoon character. Go for sturdy, wide-legged jeans when you wear those big, bulky sweaters. And by the same token, if you’re sporting a slim little cotton pullover or cardigan that’s just a single layer, with no bulky knitting or hems, go for a narrower leg and a tighter fit in your jeans, too. You can (and should) extend this logic to footwear: don’t wear your sleekest dress shoes with the smoothest surface and sharpest toes if you’re wearing a puffy knit sweater and a pair of boot-cut jeans. Wear slim shoes with slim sweater/jeans combos, and heavier shoes and boots with bigger jeans and sweaters.

3.  Add Something Interesting

One of the big dangers of a jeans/sweater combo is that it pairs two big, broad swaths of plain cloth. That can look boring and blocky if you don’t break it up a little. Get a little beyond the simplicity of a monochrome crew neck sweater and a plain pair of blue jeans. Either add some physical interest to the sweater (a loose shawl neck or cardigan style instead of the basic pullover, for example), wear a patterned sweater instead of a plain one, or add some extra layers and accent pieces. Or do all three! There’s no rule saying you can’t have a dark-colored cardigan with a lighter edge trim on top of a patterned dress shirt and under a sports jacket, all with your favorite pair of jeans. The point is to get away from a single-color top/single-color bottom combination with no shapes or textures breaking things up. When in doubt, throwing a sports jacket or blazer on is almost always a good way to add both visual interest and a flattering shape. The tapered chest opening helps make a guy’s chest look slim and well-defined, which can tame a bulky, shapeless sweater. (If you can avoid buying totally shapeless sweaters, that’ll help too, of course.)

4. Get Your Layering Details Right

Hand in hand with the above advice, this is the time of year for layered looks — so get them right. Know the basics of piling shirts, sweaters, and jackets one on top of another:

  • Every top layer should fall lower on your body than the layer beneath it. That means your jacket hem should end lower down than your sweater hem, your sweater hem lower than your shirttails (tucking them in to achieve this is fine), and so on.
  • Collar points go under the layers atop them, not over. If you’re having trouble with collar points popping loose, get some metal collar stays in there to hold them down.
  • Sweaters under sports or suit jackets are tricky. You want the sweater cuff to either extend beyond the jacket cuff but fall short of the shirt cuff (ideal) or else be hidden entirely by the jacket so that only the shirt cuff is visible (acceptable).
  • On the other hand, if the sweater is the top layer, you want the sweater cuffs to cover and hide the shirt cuffs.

It sounds a little nit-picky because it is, but getting all those collar and cuff edges in just the right place makes the outfit look sharp and deliberate instead of just tossed-on. When you’re dressing down with jeans on the lower half, a little sharpness up top goes a long way.

5. Vary Your Denim Colors

Remember, not all jeans are blue. Black denim, gray denim, and even brighter colors can all pair with the same sweater for very different looks. If you only own regular working blue jeans, try throwing something new in your closet. Start with a really deep, rich indigo with a little contrast stitching if you want to keep it classic, and venture from there into wilder offerings as your comfort levels allow. It adds a lot of versatility to your sweaters. Plain gray crewneck with a fairly slim, tight fit. Pair that puppy with medium blue jeans and a flat cap for an outdoor, working-man’s look, and then throw it on over dark navy slim cut jeans with a sports jacket and some colored sneakers for a funky “night out on the town” feel. A couple different colors for your top half and your bottom half adds up to a lot of outfits in the closet fast.

Play around and have some fun. Like we said at the beginning, this is a great season for casual dressers — it’s easier to get the jeans/sweater combination right than it is to get it wrong.

Originally published on Real Men Real Style.