The Western Denim Shirt Is the Style Swerve Your Summer Deserves

SHOP $64.99, madewell.com


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There’s little left to say about denim, that most American of fabrics, that hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseam on some dusty forum in the early days of the Internet. For about as long as it’s been around, denim has been championed as an almost mythical material. Its durability is the stuff of legend. Embraced by icons of the big screen and elevated to luxury-item status by designers like Calvin Klein in the early ’80s, denim remains an essential element of classic American style (and all its complicated connotations).

But if you’re reading this (hey!) you probably knew all that. What in the hell, you’re likely wondering, does this have to do with how I should dress now? Glad you asked, friend. So crank up the AC, pour yourself a cool glass of water, and hear me out, because this is one hot take (heh) you definitely shouldn’t be sweating. A denim shirt is a true all-season staple, and if you don’t yet have one you consider a go-to, summer is the ideal time to invest in a style you’ll still be wearing when the temperatures drop this fall.

If you never bought one because you weren’t sure where to find the right version, Madewell’s lightweight, western-inspired shirt is here to solve all your problems. So get in, loser. We’re going shopping.

Matte snap buttons lend some serious cowboy energy.

It’s an old school style from a new-age master-in-the-making.

The first denim shirt I ever owned was some off-price Levi’s number that was long in the all places it should’ve been short and short in the all places it should’ve been long. (To be completely fair to both myself and the good people at Levi’s, it was the late aughts and I was in middle-school: I was long in the all places I should’ve been short and short in the all places I should’ve been long.) I loved it dearly and nearly wore it to death. When my long-suffering mother finally convinced me to get rid of the thing, the elbows were so threadbare they were practically see-through and the cuffs were fraying worse than a recently divorced Dad’s nerves the first weekend he has to take the kids.

Madewell might not have the same historic claim to the material as Levi’s (and really, who does?) but the brand’s denim shirt comes with a whole lot of details that pay tribute to the silhouette’s origins, so it’ll look as solid when you pass it on to your own churlish tween as it does now.

SHOP $64.99, madewell.com

madewell

Mmm, flap pockets.

It’s the shirt for me. And you. (And you, too.)

See, that’s the thing about the denim shirt: No matter where you fall on the style spectrum—whether you check sites like this one daily for new tips and tricks or do your shopping once a year, and all at once—the silhouette will slip seamlessly into your regular rotation, no alterations (proverbial or otherwise) necessary.

Not sure about what to wear on a first date when you want to make a solid impression but can’t come across as too try-hard? Throw on a denim shirt (and a mask). Got an important video interview coming up and need an above-torso look that straddles the line between way-too-WFH-ready and weirdly overdressed? Throw on a denim shirt. About to head out the door for a nice socially distanced stroll but worried it’ll get a bit chilly on the way back? C’mon, man—do I even need to say it?

madewell

Made out of a lightweight indigo denim that’ll only get better with age.

It’s the solution to (almost all) your wardrobe woes.

No matter how you wear it, a denim shirt will do you right. If you’re feeling fancy, make like the stylish men at Brunello Cuccinelli and wear yours with a silk knit tie (preferably navy; bonus points if you rock a rumpled linen blazer for added sprezzatura). Better yet, take advantage of the perfectly sized collar on this bad boy and snap (*extremely Fat Joe voice*) all the way up, and then let your placket do the talking. Or just throw the damn thing on over a threadbare tee and some slim black jeans and voila: Instant respectability!

Listen, I’m not saying a denim shirt will, like, suddenly improve your terrible posture or cure the sniffles you’ve had since February (you should really get those checked out, dog) but when owning one will make getting dressed each morning that much easier, why deny yourself the convenience? Live a little, man. You’ve earned it.

SHOP $64.99, madewell.com


Photography and prop styling by Allie Holloway

Avidan Grossman is the Style eCommerce Editor at Esquire, covering men’s fashion, shoes, grooming, and accessories.

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