Denim on denim: It’s a tricky beast. When done correctly, it looks amazing—but one minor misstep and you can wind up with a situation similar to the Justin Timberlake/Britney Spears debacle of 2001. Luckily, there are some denim-on-denim rules to follow if you want to avoid a double denim nightmare, and we’ve taken the liberty of laying them out below.
Something about the double-denim trend—often referred to as a Canadian tuxedo—feels innately wrong fashion-wise. Even when we see street style stars execute the look flawlessly, it can still be intimidating to try to pull it off ourselves. That said, we needn’t fear what is essentially the unexpected pairing of two total staples! Throwing your favorite jeans on with your go-to denim jacket or chambray shirt shouldn’t feel so daunting. After all, if the look really wasn’t cute, why would denim jumpsuits and boiler suits even exist?
Mastering the denim on denim trend can be done, and you’re the one that can do it. Just be sure you give yourself some time to plan your look, so you don’t end up with two jean items that really clash. To make things easier, we’ve dissected the ultimate Dos and Don’ts of putting together a denim-on-denim outfit. Word is still out on whether Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake approve these tips, but for the most part, you can guarantee they’ll help you to avoid any major fashion faux pas.
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1. DO Play with Colors If You’re A Beginner
Before delving into head-to-toe shades of blue, ease into the look by pairing different shades of denim together, like white jeans and a blue denim jacket, or black jeans and a chambray shirt. It’s almost impossible to go wrong this way.
2. DON’T Add Denim Accessories
Designer labels like Chanel have given denim handbags the OK, and we all remember that time Kim Kardashian wore thigh-high denim boots, but if you’re already wearing denim as part of your outfit, don’t add jean accessories to the mix, too. Talk about overkill! Keep the jeans confined to your clothing, and just say “no” to denim shoes, a denim hat, a denim handbag or any other accessory.
That said, you can feel totally free to add denim accessories to your look when you aren’t wearing jeans, like this adorable and practical Coach Shopper Bag, which features its own denim-on-denim design.
3. DO Use Denim Shades To Flatter Your Body
You can wear whatever wash you like, of course, but as a general rule, lighter shades of denim draw attention to the body parts they cover, while darker washes create a slimming effect. For many people, this means that dark denim jeans paired with and a lighter denim top or jacket is the most flattering way to go.
Here’s one easy outfit recipe: pair a light-wash denim jacket with some high-waisted, cropped black jeans, and white tee to break it up. Finish off with white kicks and a cute crossbody and you’re good to go.
4. DON’T Wear The Same Shade From Head To Toe
Wearing a look that’s the same weight or wash from head to toe is (almost always) a huge no-no. You don’t want to look too matchy-matchy. Your denim-on-denim look should appear as effortless as any other, so you don’t want your friends to think you spent the morning comparing jeans until you found a few pieces that perfectly matched.
The only exception to this rule, of course, is opting to wear a denim jumpsuit, in which case it’s perfectly acceptable. Pair with funky boots or a statement bag if you’re really a fashion risk-taker.
5. DO Opt For Distressed Details
Something about distressed denim just lends itself well to the denim-on-denim look, as it adds a little contrast to the material. Don’t be afraid to rip away, but make sure only one of your denim pieces is distressed. Too many rips can be overkill.
I highly recommend getting a cute, oversized ripped denim jacket to throw on with everything from dark-wash skinnies to mom jeans. This piece instantly gives any look a relaxed, slightly edgy feel. Total rockstar vibes!
6. DON’T Look To The Wild West For Inspiration
If images of cowboys come to mind when you think of denim-on-denim, that’s not necessarily a good thing. You don’t want to end up looking like a caricature! That means staying away from accessories like cowboy boots, cowboy hats, bolo ties and Western belts.
If you’re looking for a good belt that breaks up your outfit but doesn’t give off Wild West vibes, a black band and a gold buckle feel unmistakably chic—a cowboy could never!
7. DO Dress up Your Double Denim
Denim doesn’t have to be casual, people! Don’t be afraid to elevate your outfit with luxe-looking elements, from statement heels to a stylish clutch to a fabulous red lip. This is also a great way to take your double-denim look from day to night!
8. DON’T Channel Britney & Justin With Your Boo
…You know what I’m talking about! I love Spears and Timberlake as much as the next person, but their denim-on-denim debut was just. too. much. It’ll probably be impossible for you to ever go this wrong, but still, make sure you coordinate with your partner to avoid any double denim disasters.
A version of this article was originally published in August 2014.