Denim Jackets: Everything You Need To Know

In our 'Everything You Need To Know' series, we're exploring the history and design features behind our most-loved items here at Number Six. We're focusing on the best bits of each garment and how you can incorporate them into your ever-expanding wardrobe. Decent menswear can be a tricky beast to tame, but once you've got the basics down, you'll find your style evolving, sharpening up and becoming its own.

The Origins

As far as garments go, they don't get much more recognisable than a denim jacket. Usually heavyweight and hard-wearing, these pieces were born adjacent to denim jeans. Denim clothing first brought to the global masses in 1850 when Levi Strauss himself would ship denim to America from the French town Nîmes. It wasn't until 1905 that the first denim jacket as we know it today was made. Having passed away 3 years prior, the newly affirmed brand Levi Strauss & Co. constructed a work jacket using their signature denim.

This jacket became known as the Type I (or '506') and you might still see it around these days, then you're wandering into super-rare, vintage territory. It was the first of its kind, intended to be paired with work trousers and featuring reinforced seams, one front pocket, and a silver buckled cinch at the back. What made it so popular is it was specifically purpose-designed for the hardworking American. After ingeniously noticing a gap in the market, it was time for the introduction of high quality and durable design.

It stayed this way until 1936, when the boys at Levi Strauss & Co. decided it was time to reinvent. The Type II features two chest pockets, got rid of the back cinch, and swapped rivets for bar tacks at the chest pockets (sturdier and subtler). Our Levi's Made and Crafted range for SS17 showcases a Type II Worn-In Trucker with updated finer distressing details. It's things like this that just spell it out for us: you just cannot beat Levi's.

Enter: The Almighty Type III

Since 1962, the Type III hasn't changed. Aside from one or two alterations circa 1971, this is the style you're most likely to find these days. You might also find it under 'Trucker Jacket'. The Type III features two chest pockets with pointed flaps, darts to the hem giving a slightly more tailored fit, two angled welt pockets at the hips, and you'll also find a wider waistband. Previously, side pockets were considered unnecessary for the manual work denim jackets were initially created for. Both the angled pockets and the widened waistband came from the 1923 Slim Jacket, designed specifically for cowboys. If that's not a conversation starter, we don't know what is.

"purpose-designed for the hardworking American"

The Selvedge Levi's Trucker is a prime example of Levi's leading the way. Taking on the form of a Type III, you've got all the classic features: twin chest pockets, sturdy button fastenings, and a short, boxy cut. To make it even better, it's selvedge denim. If you're not sure what this means, think old-school, traditional-production denim cutting.

This is a topic us menswear-fanatics could discuss for hours, but we'll try to keep it simple. In a nutshell, producing selvedge denim is much more time-consuming and costly. The method used creates a superior finish to the ends of the fabric, essentially locking in the yarn and preventing fraying. It leaves clean, visible stitches, and a really pleasing finish. If you've ever noticed the little white & red/blue detail on the cuffs of turned up jeans, this is probably selvedge. It's higher quality, cleaner denim, as well as a little hat-tip to the traditional ways of menswear.

"higher quality, cleaner denim"

Levi's Type III Trucker paved the way in the 60s for other brands to follow to this day. Right across the other side of the world to the Americans, you've got Soulland in Copenhagen giving us their version. As part of their Kowloon-inspired SS17 collection, we've been fortunate enough to get our hands on the Shelton Denim Jacket. As you will immediately notice, the cut, design and detailing are largely inspired by a Type III. A stone wash takes away the intensity of the indigo and leaves it lighter. It successfully replicates the finish of a hard worn vintage piece. It's things like this which make Soulland stand out from the crowd, it's assured to be top design work as well as functional. Lighter washes favour a more contemporary look and lend themselves as great mid-layers.

 

The world is your oyster when it comes to a denim jacket. Now, which one to invest in first...

 

Previously in the 'Everything You Need To Know' series: Work Jackets