I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest J.Crew fan. For certain basics, it’s great. The clothes are priced well and they somehow almost always seem to find a reason to have a 30-percent-off sale. The trade-off though is that since a lot of its stuff is so generally appealing (and on sale), there’s a high probability you’ll end up wearing the same thing as someone else. But when I think about the best clothing purchase I’ve ever made, in terms of value, it has to be this J.Crew denim shirt.
I first spotted it about four years ago, while browsing the J.Crew men’s shop in Soho, where the shirt immediately stood out among the sea of chambray and gingham. I’m very tactile when I’m shopping; I tend to run my hands over clothes, and this felt substantial and a little vintage-y — between the exposed stitching, the dark wash, and the heavier denim fabric, it seemed like someone turned a pair of Levi’s 501s into a shirt. I wasn’t sure how I would wear it, but it was 30 percent off so I bought it. Needless to say, I’m glad I did.
When I wear it I feel like I’m channeling some sort of ’90s Jay Leno dad energy, but in a good way. Although it’s vintage-looking, it’s cut in a contemporary style so it’s still slim and form-fitting and cropped enough to wear untucked. I get compliments pretty much every time I wear it — and I wear it a lot, because it’s the ideal shirt for days when I want to dress up a bit, but not look too formal or generic. Neither too business casual nor too casual casual, the shirt hits a sartorial sweet spot. The dark wash and trim fit give it a dressier feel, but it’s still a denim shirt, so you look like you’re dressing up even though you aren’t really. It’s great for dates, nice restaurants, plays, or pretty much any situation when I’m not totally sure of the dress code. I even wore it to my job interview for the Strategist.
A funny thing that’s happened since I began wearing the shirt is I’ve started noticing it on a small group of guys with very specific — and in my opinion, very good — taste. You know how you always have that one friend whose style you want to copy? Well that friend of mine also has the shirt, and ever since we both wore it to the same party, I’ve taken to texting him in advance when I know we’re going to be in the same place: “FYI, I’m wearing THE SHIRT.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shirt has a few fans here at the Strategist, too. I was wearing it at the office one day and our senior editor Anthony Rotunno asked me about it; turns out he has it, too. As does our Resident Cool Guy Chris Black (who is wearing it in this picture). It’s like a denim shirt secret society.
J.Crew calls it “midweight” which I think is accurate. It’s not quite heavy enough to be an overshirt, but I’ve definitely worn it open over a T-shirt when it’s too cool out for short sleeves but too warm for a jacket. I think it’s probably at its best layered under a light jacket, but there are lots of options. If the slim fit sounds too trim for you, the shirt also comes in classic and tall cuts, too. J.Crew actually stopped carrying the shirt soon after I bought it, because I would look for it in store and online to no avail. But now, somehow, this fall, it’s back. The latest iteration of the shirt, I should note, isn’t exactly the same as mine, but it’s almost identical. I say this after going into a J.Crew store last week to see — and touch — the shirt, and confirming that the denim is the same heavy-but-not-too-heavy weight. The only discernible difference is that mine has that orangey stitching you see on Levi’s, whereas the new one has white stitching. In some ways I actually like the white better, because it’s a little more subtle. I’m a little worried the denim shirt mafia will be mad at me for sharing this with the world, but I feel like it’s my journalistic duty now that it’s back in stock. And right now, of course, you can get it on sale.
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