in: Clothing, Style

How to Pull Off White Jeans

Man riding a motorcycle wearing white jeans with text overlay "how to pull off white jeans.

White jeans are a nice way to mix up the sartorial staple that is denim. 

Not everyone is a fan of white jeans on dudes, though. They don’t like how high maintenance they seem — that you have to keep them clean, since spills and stains will show up prominently on the white fabric. Or they think the look is too bold, too Euro, or too 80s. 

It’s true that white jeans are harder to keep spotless, but you don’t avoid wearing a white dress shirt just because it’s prone to stains, do you? Just be a little more vigilant. The intentionality and non-practicality of white jeans are part of what makes them look a little dressier and more stylish and refined than blue jeans, which makes them a great choice when you’re putting together a “smart casual” outfit.

It’s true too that they’re different, but they needn’t be different in a way that conforms to off-putting fashion stereotypes.

If you’re an average guy who’s thinking about trying white jeans for the first time, you’ve already summoned up the confidence to wear pants that will draw some extra attention, and probably don’t want additional attention due to the fact that you’re not wearing them well. 

If you want to wear white jeans in a way that will stand out, but only in a good way, just follow these guidelines:

1) Don’t wear them if you’re on the heavier side. Black is slimming. White is widening. White jeans on a big dude will just enlarge his legs and make him look bigger. Only wear white jeans if you’re on the trimmer side.

2) Choose white jeans with some heft and structure. There are other white pants out there — white chinos and trousers. But these are even harder to pull off than white jeans and can feel too country club and foo-fooey or too much like the garb of the neighborhood ice cream man or an asylum employee. It’s the texture and structure of white jeans that tip white pants into pull-off-able territory. So lean into that when choosing a pair, opting for ones that have some heft and structure (and won’t show your underwear).

3) Only wear them in the spring and summer. Some fashion-forward style gurus will tell you you can wear white jeans year-round. And it’s true that the “no white after Labor Day” rule has loosened in modern times. But white still reads very much as a warmer weather color. If white jeans attract attention in any season, they’re going to garner some head-scratching stares in the dregs of February. So only bust them out in spring and summer. It’s actually nice to have some seasonal clothes you take out and put away as the year progresses; it’s a hedge against the horror of the same old thing.

4) Wear them with a blue top. White jeans are a blank canvas; you can pair them with a top in pretty much any color, except white; a white tee or dress shirt + white jeans creates a look that’s too homogenousunless you’re also wearing a colored jacket on top (but then you won’t be able to remove the jacket without turning the outfit into a full-on white-out).

While you can pair your white jeans with a variety of colors, for the most foolproof, eye-pleasing combo, wear them with a blue top. You’re simply inverting your standard blue-jeans-on-bottom, white-shirt-on-top look.

Six men demonstrate how to pull off various casual outfits featuring white jeans, posing in different settings, from beachside to a studio backdrop.

This pairing can take the form of white jeans + a casual shirt like a blue henley or a blue and white striped tee. A navy polo + white jeans is a particularly good look.

Four men in stylish casual outfits, each wearing white jeans and various shirts, portrayed in different poses against neutral backdrops.

Another can’t-miss combination is white jeans + a blue button-down. Choose a light blue Oxford (you have added an OCBD to your wardrobe, haven’t you?) or a denim or chambray shirt. 

Four men in casual fashion styles wearing white jeans and blue blazers, each accessorized differently, posing on city streets.

To up the formality level, add an unstructured blue sports jacket over your lighter blue button-down. A brown jacket works as well.

Six men modeling different casual outfits featuring white jeans, each posing in various settings, ranging from urban environments to natural scenes.

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable wearing white jeans, you can branch out to different color tops. Neutral colors (black, brown, gray), earth tones (tan, moss, olive), and pastels (mint green, pink) work well. Black or another solid, bold color does create a starker look, but this kind of color blocking can also draw the viewer’s eye upward, making you appear taller. 

As far as footwear for any of these get-ups goes, it’s fine to wear white sneakers, though this monochrome look can create the visual effect of your pants melting into your shoes; if you go white/white, it’s best if your shoes are a different tone than your pants. Navy canvas sneakers, like Converse, look good when you’re wearing your white jeans with a blue top. When you’re wearing a button-down shirt, nicer sneakers still work for a more casual look, but when you’re trying to smarten the outfit up, opt for chukka boots or loafers. 

If, even with the above confidence-increasing guidelines in your back pocket, you’re still not ready to wear bright white jeans, but want to dip your toes into the world of light-colored denim, try a pair in cream or off-white instead. 

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