Fashion trends come and go, with very few able to transition from season to season. Still, a select few continue to stand the test of time. Topping that list: the iconic denim jacket.
When preparing our wardrobes for warmer weather, a denim jacket makes a great lightweight option for those unexpected, cooler days. Plus, it easily pairs with jeans, leggings and statement-making summer dresses.
The original denim jacket look has since expanded into different styles, colors and trends — but if you want to stick to tradition, you can go the classic route and embrace the look that has been around for more than 100 years.
Why are denim jackets a wardrobe staple?
There's simply something about the silhouette and the style that make denim jackets something we constantly reach for, says celebrity and personal stylist Basia Richard, adding that it's why almost everyone has one (or multiple!) in their closet.
"No matter what the trends are, it’s just something that we can wear no matter what," she adds.
The overall versatility of the jacket make them easy to grab in a pinch, even when looking to transform an outfit.
"It’s a very classic silhouette that we can really wear with sort of anything," Richard explains. "It goes with those clothes and looks that are a little bit dressier; that [denim] jacket is going to turn them into more casual looks."
If you don't own this wardrobe essential already — or if you're wanting to add more denim jackets to your collection — we found top-rated picks below that can easily become your year-round staples. Plus, style expert Olivia Perez, stopped by the 3rd Hour of TODAY to introduce us to the different styles of denim and how to incorporate them into our everyday wardrobe. Keep scrolling or use the links below to learn more.
What to look for | Jean jackets seen on TODAY | Budget picks | Best overall | Cropped picks | Distressed picks | Colored picks | Embellished picks | Oversized picks | Plus-size picks | FAQs | Meet our experts
What to look for when shopping for a denim jacket?
Richard notes that there are a few key factors shoppers should keep in mind when searching for the right denim jacket:
Function. "It really depends on the function and where you’re going to wear it," Richard says. Are you going to be dressing up a casual summer outfit? Or throwing it over your shoulder to layer over an airport outfit?
Style. Are you going for a more light-washed look? Or are you looking to darken the hues of your closet with a dark-washed jacket? Do you prefer oversized or fitted? What kind of collar, sleeves or silhouette are you looking for? These are all questions Richard recommends keeping in mind.
Body type and fit. Richard also suggests evaluating your body type and how a denim jacket might feel, fit and look. "[Keep] in mind the styles overall just to make sure we don’t blindly follow the trends. ... When you pick the jacket, [make sure] it’s actually going to fit your silhouette," she says. Richard adds that those with wider hips might opt for a shorter jacket that will help accentuate their silhouette. On the other hand, those who like "boyish" oversized tees might instead go for oversized jackets that will provide a similar style and structure.
Durability. Finally, while it's difficult to determine the quality of a jacket while online shopping or viewing it on the hanger in a store, Richard says that finding one that has longevity means you won't ruin it after a wash, nor will you have to buy a new one often.
Jean jackets seen on TODAY
If there is one clothing item you can always count on, it's a cropped denim jacket. This fitted jacket from Mango, with a lapel collar, adds structure and formality to a casual look. You can count on this jacket to complement almost any item in your wardrobe.
When dressing for a summer day at the office, layering will be your best friend. We all can relate to sweating on your way to the office only to then be freezing inside. Add an oversized denim jacket to your wardrobe to help you out! It is a staple piece that will go with any outfit you choose.
If a lighter wash is calling your name, we have a perfect — and more affordable — option for you. The best thing about an oversized denim jacket is it will go with anything. You can pair it with a fitted dress underneath or even activewear.
Looking for a light jacket for your little one? We've got you covered. This puff-sleve jacket from Gap will be that perfect layering piece for a chilly summer night. The sleeve detail adds some extra fun and the made-to-stretch material will keep your kiddo comfortable all night long!
Match your mini-me with your very own puff-sleeve jean jacket. This feminine piece will balence out your porportions by giving you a strong shoulder. Pair this jacket with your favorite dress or go neutral underneath — either way you will make a statement.
We all have seen cargo pants rise in popularity this season, so why not take the trend a step further? This denim jacket from Banana Republic Factory has all the unique characteristics you never knew you needed and is on a major discount! It's pointed collar, straight hem and center back seam are details that may seem minor but will elevate your look in a major way.
A utility styled jacket in a darker wash is the ultimate choice to set yourself apart. A dark washed denim will provide a polished apperance and keep you looking chic on any occasion.
There is nothing that says versatile than a denim blazer. This denim blazer will take you from the office to drinks with friends with no changes necessary. This is a perfect option for a comfortable material in a put-together silhouette.
Best budget denim jackets for women
Fit: Relaxed | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: XS-3X | Care: Machine-wash, tumble-dry
When you think of denim jackets, the traditional, classic style most likely comes to mind. This means a jacket with sleeves that land perfectly at your wrists, two breast pockets, and buttons that give you the option to conceal or reveal your T-shirt underneath.
This jacket from Target checks all of those boxes — and it's under $40. "The value was excellent for the price," noted one reviewer, who enjoyed this jacket due to its great quality, color and fit.
Fit: Classic straight | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Lightweight | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Machine-wash cold, air-dry
This jacket comes in at under $40 and would pair well with any closet staple. Available in 10 colors and adorned with over 19,000 verified five-star ratings on AMazon, you're bound to find something that suits your style. With "just enough" stretch, reviewers rave about how comfortable and easy to wear this jacket is.
Best overall denim jackets for women
Fit: Slightly fitted, stretchy | Length: At the hip | Pockets: 6 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Machine-wash
This classic look from Wrangler can go with anything — and sometimes, the most timeless looks are the best. And it looks like plenty of shoppers agree: It's the No. 1 bestseller in Amazon's Women's Denim Jackets category.
"The price is amazing compared to what's out there," one reviewer said. Another noted that it's less boxy than other jean jackets they've tried.
Fit: Straight, snug | Length: At the hip | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Heavy | Sizes: XS-4X | Care: Machine-wash cold, air-dry
You can never go wrong with a good ol' Levi’s jacket. This cropped, fitted style looks great with a turtleneck, a fitted sweater or even a simple T-shirt. What's more, the brand vows it that it will "[get] better over time from natural wear with fading, stains and holes."
According to pleased reviewers, this denim jacket pick is "practical," a "great price" and "very flattering."
Best cropped denim jackets for women
Fit: Relaxed | Length: Above the hip | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Lightweight | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Machine-wash cold
This light-wash cropped denim jacket fits the bill when it comes to a traditional jean jacket, aside from its length. It comes in right above the hip, meaning you can let a longer T-shirt hang down or layer it over a sundress.
Reviewers noted that the sleeves are a bit longer than your normal denim jacket, warning that you might want to roll them up.
Best distressed denim jackets for women
Fit: Relaxed, oversized | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 6 | Fabric weight: Heavy | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Hand-wash, hang dry
Can't decide between a hoodie and a jacket? This oversized jacket leaves enough room for both! With pockets on the inside that provide enough room for your phone, keys or a small wallet, this new jacket will become your new go-to.
Fit: Relaxed | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: TK | Sizes: XS-4X (regular), S-XXL (tall), XS-XL (petite) | Care: Machine-wash gentle/cold, hang dry
This Old Navy pick is versatile: Cuff the long sleeves for warmer days and readjust with the button tabs at the back waist for either a loose or more fitted option.
Reviewers rave about this jacket's versatility and ability to be paired with anything within their wardrobe. With two options to choose from (either a light wash or their "birdie" darker option), select the jacket that will match your wardrobe perfectly.
"I haven't owned a jean jacket in over 15 years, and this one is amazing," said one reviewer, who also described it as comfortable and versatile.
Fit: Relaxed | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 6 | Fabric weight: Lightweight | Sizes: XS-L | Care: Machine-wash cold/gentle
Timeless with a little bit of a modern edge, this distressed, relaxed-fit denim jacket is the perfect layer to go with anything in your fall wardrobe. Plus, it has hidden pockets on the inside.
It comes in nine different colors and has nearly 2,000 verified five-star reviews, some of which describe the jacket as "beautiful," high-quality and "exactly the fall weather jacket" they were looking for.
Best color denim jackets for women
Fit: Relaxed | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Not listed | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Machine-wash cold
Perfect for a summer concert, picnics at the park or simply adding a new color to your layer lineup, this denim jacket provides a style that not many may own. Reviewers rave about the color of this jacket, saying it's different than anything else in their wardrobe.
Fit: Relaxed | Length: At the waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Lightweight | Sizes: XS-XXL| Care: Machine-wash
With colors that will likely match effortlessly with your existing spring and summer wardrobe, this denim jacket ensures that you have a fun outer layer without breaking the bank.
Available in 14 colors, from pastels to neutrals, this denim jacket is loved by reviewers because it's "soft, stretchy and comfortable."
Fit: Relaxed, oversized | Length: At the hip | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Heavy | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Machine-wash cold
With six colors to choose from, including orange, green, traditional denim blue and gray, this denim jacket can provide a pop of color to an otherwise neutral outfit.
One unique feature is that the double-breasted pockets don't include a button, meaning you can use them for keys or other smaller items.
"This was the perfect spring/summer jacket! It can be dressed up or down, and it was the most versatile jacket for our trip," said one reviewer.
Best embellished denim jackets for women
Fit: Snug | Length: At the waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Lightweight | Sizes: XS-XXL | Care: Machine-wash inside out
This adorable pick from Amazon is a budget-friendly way to enhance your denim jacket game. The pearls are attached with a metal piece, you won't have to worry about losing any throughout the day. Dress up a casual game day outfit, stay warm at an outdoor concert or pair it with studded sneakers for an elevated look.
"This jacket is so well made and comfortable," said one reviewer, adding, "The denim is soft and the pearls are securely placed!" Another reviewer mentioned they bought two more jackets for their friends after receiving theirs.
Best oversized denim jackets for women
Fit: Baggy | Length: At the hip | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: S-XL | Care: Machine-wash cold, hang dry
If they're heading back to campus, this oversized denim jacket with more than 2,000 verified five-star ratings on Amazon will be their go-to: whether they need to run out the door, are going to Friday night lights or for days when a just a simple T-shirt won't do.
Fit: Baggy | Length: At the hip | Pockets: 6 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: XXS-XL | Care: Machine-wash
For a different colored take on the classic denim jacket, opt for this oversized version from Madewell available in washed black. It's "large enough to allow for layering, without being too big," according to one reviewer, making it the perfect option for bonfires, pumpkin patch days and football games.
Best plus-size denim jackets for women
Fit: Relaxed (but size up) | Length: At the hip | Pockets: 6 | Fabric weight: Heavy | Sizes: XS-4X | Care: Machine-wash cold and dry inside out
This denim trucker style with over 1,700 verified five-star Amazon ratings is a versatile option that will pair well with just about anything in your closet.
A thicker option compared with other denim jackets, this one has pockets on the inside as well as on the outside. Loose, not too fitted and comfortable are all reasons reviewers say they love this denim jacket.
Fit: Relaxed | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: XS-XXL (regular, petite) | Care: Machine-wash
With a strong average rating of 4.7 and a price tag under $50 at Kohl's, it's hard to beat this bestselling denim jacket from LC Lauren Conrad.
Among over 1,000 five-star reviews, the verdict is unanimous: They report this denim jacket is comfortable, a great fit and good quality.
Fit: Straight | Length: At the waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: TK | Sizes: XS-4X | Care: Machine-wash
Tackle chilly temps in this sherpa-lined, cozy jean jacket. It's perfect for those in-between days when it's too hot for a down jacket but way too cold for a cardigan.
With over 1,700 verified five-star reviews on Amazon, one reviewer reported that this jacket is "well-made, warm and looks great with a flannel shirt or sweater and boots." Other reviewers recommend sizing up for a the best fit.
Fit: Fitted | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: XS-XL | Care: Machine-wash
Fans of hoodies will love this pick, also from Levi's. With knit sleeves and a denim body, this jacket was made for those in-between days when you don't necessarily know what to wear outside. With this, you won't have to decide!
Fit: Fitted | Length: Below waist | Pockets: 4 | Fabric weight: Midweight | Sizes: 4XS-4XL | Care: Machine-wash cold inside out, hang dry
You probably already have a LBD in your closet, but now you need the perfect LBJ — "little black jacket." Reviewers love how this stretchy denim jacket is perfect for "not too cold" days. Plus, this size-inclusive brand makes it in sizes up to 4X.
Questions about denim jackets, answered by experts
What makes the fabric of denim jackets so rigid?
Denim jackets tend to use "thicker, non-stretch denim," according to Richard.
"You can add a little bit of stretch to it, so it’s going to be a little more fitted, but their denim is really thick, well-structured. It will hold the shape. If you wash it, the denim is always going to hold the shape. That’s just very a trendy thing. It’s very classic," she explains, citing Levi's denim jackets as an example.
What's the difference between styling a leather jacket and styling a denim jacket?
According to Richard, leather jackets require more "specific" styling.
"It does fit into more of the rocker chic style, but denim is, again, so much more versatile. It’s a little bit more casual, it’s not as heavy as leather. Leather jackets can be very warm and heavy," she explains.
What makes denim jackets unique from other denim clothing?
"[Denim skirts have] one of those silhouettes that [are] more difficult. ... I hear from women, 'I don’t want to wear jeans because it’s ... very casual, everyone wears jeans; I want to dress it up,'" she says. Denim jackets, on the other hand, can function in a wider set of scenarios. "You can wear it in the winter; you can wear it in the summer," Richard adds.
How can I use denim to layer in the summer without being too hot?
When it comes to denim, "there are no rules to it," regardless of season, Richard says. "It is a layering piece, but you can throw it just on top of the shoulders. Think of it as an accessory, almost," she adds.
Meet the experts
Basia Richard is a freelance stylist who specializes in helping clients find professional clothing that both fits their personal style and can be worn at the office. She has also styled multiple celebrities.