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How To: Wear Colored Denim

there's more to jeans than blue

True story: I still remember the day my very first boss wore colored denim to the office. I think, actually, that everyone in the office would remember it—at least, we all talked about it. The pants were salmon pink (an ol’ SG favorite), and he wore them with a gray jacket and a white button-down with fine gray stripes.

It was awesome.

Obviously, denim comes in more than just blue. For some reason, though, there’s something super button-pushing about colored denim. It gets attention—even if the rest of the look is super simple (which, in any case, is what I’d recommend.) They’re a brilliant push-pull in getting, and deflecting, attention: When we quizzed my old boss about his pink jeans, he just shrugged and said something super-cool and breezy like, “Relax, guys—I’m just wearing jeans.” Because he was.

Colored denim may look tricky, but it’s surprisingly easy to dress around. Here are three ways to wear it:

Option #1 (entry level)

 

Watch: Jack Spade, $98 | Belt: H&M, $18 | Jeans: H&M, $35
Shoes: Vans, $55 | Tee: Old Navy, $10 | Jacket: Everlane, $68

 Wear it with:

It doesn’t get any easier that this. Heather gray will nearly always work, as will a chambray shirt, but I’ll add that I often find colored denim plus the black versions of the above slightly problematic—something about it is just too saturated.

 

Option #2 (medium skills)

Shirt: Gant Rugger, $152 | Jeans:
Shoes: Converse, $70 | Watch: Tsovet, $275

Monochromatic: Purple pants get a lilac top. Teal pants get a light blue shirt. There’s one way to get this wrong: What you want to avoid is getting too close to the same color—you’re looking for variation, and trying to avoid anything too match-y.

Another plan of attack here is to work complementary colors. For a brief review, this means pairing one color with its opposite on the color wheel—so blue with orange, yellow with purple, and, officially, red with green, though I cannot recommend the latter situation during the holiday season, unless it’s a very carefully tended version of, say, olive green with peach. Otherwise you may end up looking like a walking wreath.

Option 3 (advanced level):

Shirt: Etro, $295 | Jeans: | Wallet: Rag & Bone, $125
Sneakers: 
Adidas, $75 | Sweater: Dolce and Gabbana, $750
Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs, $175

Incorporating pattern. On one level, this is easy enough—pair colored denim with a top that incorporates that color into its pattern. This gets more difficult when there’s multiple layers involved—for example, a patterned shirt with a blazer or jacket, because all of a sudden you’re not dealing with the clean palette that traditional denim provides. In this case, it can be easier to wear, say, a rich blue denim, or a colored denim in a neutral tone (like stone or tan).

And for the shoes

There’s a reason that nearly all of the pairs of colored denim are styled simply, and almost entirely paired with plain black sneakers or lace-ups. Your jeans have already done the heavy lifting, visual interest-wise; there’s no reason to overcomplicate things when you get to the finish line.

Tell me:

How do you wear colored denim (if at all)?

Want more “how to wear it” inspiration? Head here, and here, and here

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