The 10 best denim shirts

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ByAndrea Gale

No wardrobe is complete without a good denim shirt. The best denim shirts are all durable and versatile, but they come in so many cuts, washes, and styles, selecting the perfect one for you depends on the where and how you want to wear yours.

First, consider how the shirt is made. Just like your favorite pair of jeans, denim shirts are often made of 100% cotton and constructed with a twill weave, which involves weaving two or more warp threads together in a diagonal pattern, resulting in a sturdy, stiff fabric that stands up to rigorous wear and defies creasing. However, some denim shirts are blended with a small percentage of elastane for a little extra give. You may prefer that bit of stretch if you’re purchasing a slim-fitting shirt and want freedom of movement. Chambray is a great option for people seeking a lighter-weight shirt; unlike denim, chambray is constructed with a square weave, resulting in a lighter cloth.

Cut is another important factor in selecting the best denim shirt, and choosing the right cut for you has everything to do with how and where you’ll be wearing yours. If you need a denim shirt that can facilitate movement — maybe you’ll be gardening, or playing games with friends at the park — look for a shirt with a looser fit. Plus, relaxed-fit denim shirts can double as jackets, especially if you choose one with a heavier weight. Alternatively, a slim-fitting shirt looks a bit more polished — and layers nicely under a jacket or sweater — so it can make an appearance at the office, after-work drinks, or even a casual wedding.

Finally, check out details like collars, pockets, buttons, and wash. Details reminiscent of a dress shirt, like a button-down collar, single or no pocket, and a crisp, dark rinse will look more formal; light or distressed washes or Western detailing — like pearl buttons, snap-front pockets, and contrast stitching — feel a little more relaxed.

Whether you’ll be wearing your new denim shirt to a backyard BBQ or the office, scroll on for some of the best denim shirts to get you there.

The classic one


What’s great about it: This denim shirt by Lee has a medium wash that’s dark enough to handle a little dirt and grime, but it’s light enough that you can wear it year round. A tab collar keeps it from feeling overly formal, and the single front pocket (featuring the Lee logo) allows you to stash your keys or phone. And Lee is a classic brand that has been around since the 1800s, so you know they know a thing or two about denim. The fit is classic, and it’s made with 3% spandex for stretch. Tortoiseshell buttons add a hint of polish.

One reviewer wrote: “The shirt fit perfectly. The material is very comfortable, not too delicate and not too rugged, just what I wanted.”

  • Available sizes: S — X-Large
  • Available colors: 7


What’s great about it: The Western-influenced snap-front pockets of this Levi’s denim shirt are just one of the details that make it a classic. (The pearl snaps and contrast stitching are classic, too.) The material is a blend of 68% cotton and 32% polyester. The dark indigo wash pictured above adds some polish, and it’ll complement any other denim wash, if you want to pair it with jeans (though it’s also available in a black or light wash). It’s long-sleeved and has a relaxed fit, so you can layer it over a shirt or a slim-fit sweater.

One reviewer wrote: “This shirt is THE BEST. [...] Perfect fit, just the right amount of stretch. Great color. Snaps are a great touch. Soooooo worth the extra money.”

  • Available sizes: X-Small — XX-Large; 1X — 4X
  • Available colors: 5

The budget one


What’s great about it: This long-sleeved denim shirt by PORT AND COMPANY is just over $20, but it’s got all the trappings of pricier options. Made of 100% cotton, it features elevated details like horn buttons and a button-down collar. It also has a front patch pocket where you can stash your keys or phone. Reviewers indicated the fit of this shirt is more relaxed than fitted. According to the brand, the shirt has a “sturdy construction,” but reviewers also commented that the material feels mid-weight yet soft. In fact, one wrote: “unlike most denim products, I did not need to launder it multiple times for it to be 'wearable'....It was soft and comfy from the get go.” It comes in several dark or medium washes, which also gives it a refined feel.

One reviewer wrote: “[I] was pleasantly surprised at how well it fit. The shirt has been laundered several times with no signs of shrinkage or color fade. As soon as I finish typing this review I will be ordering a couple more. Great shirt for the price point ......... actually, better than great for the price point.”

  • Available sizes: X-Small — 6X-Large
  • Available colors: 5


What’s great about it: The women’s version of PORT AND COMPANY’S classic denim shirt is equally budget-friendly. Also made of 100% cotton, it has a tab collar and horn buttons, and it comes in four versatile, classic denim washes. The fit is relaxed (size down if you seek a slimmer fit), and is free of pockets, which lends the shirt a more dressed up appearance, making this a good option for the workplace. And it is constructed using double-needle stitching, which contributes to the sturdiness of the shirt.

One reviewer wrote: “I had pretty high expectations for this shirt, even though I was harboring a small remnant of skepticism because of its very reasonable price. When I took it out of the package, I was downright amazed. The fabric is soft and beautiful, just the right weight and drape for a comfortable weekend denim shirt. The color is and finish are flawless. and a great deal of care went into quality stitching.”

  • Available sizes: X-Small — 4X-Large
  • Available colors: 4

The short-sleeved one


What’s great about it: Wrangler’s short-sleeved denim shirt has two button-front pockets, so you can stash your keys or phone. It has a lighter wash, so this shirt will feel more casual and low-key than one in a darker wash. Thanks to the relaxed fit, you can wear it unbuttoned over a short-sleeved shirt for a light over-layer. The collar folds down, and the material is 98% cotton blended with 2% spandex for a hint of give. (It’s available in a chambray wash, too, if you prefer something lighter-weight.) And this shirt is a fan-favorite on Amazon, with over 7,000 five-star ratings on the site.

One reviewer wrote: “It's super soft and comfortable and made of quality fabric so it's going to hold up well. It's my new fave shirt!”

  • Available sizes: Small — 3X-Large
  • Available colors: 13


What’s great about it: This short-sleeved denim shirt has a loose fit, drop shoulders, and folded cuff sleeves, so it’s a great casual option. Like the previous short-sleeved shirt in men’s sizing, this can be worn unbuttoned over a T-shirt or tank, and the two front pockets offer some extra storage. The classic tab collar adds to the casual feel. It’s made of 100% cotton with no stretch, but reviewers reported that it feels lightweight and breathable.

One reviewer wrote: “The perfect lightweight denim shirt. It is so adorable and it’s so nice and light it’s perfect for spring or even summer nights with a tank underneath it looks great on it’s really soft and comfortable to wear.”

  • Available sizes: Small — XX-Large
  • Available styles: 10

The heavyweight one


What’s great about it: Carhartt is a classic workwear brand known for producing sturdy clothing, so this denim shirt was made to withstand some wear-and-tear. The long sleeves will protect your arms if you’re working in the yard, and two patch-front pockets offer a place to stash keys or tools. A small Carhartt logo is emblazoned on one of the pockets. Constructed of 100% cotton denim, this shirt is heavy enough that it can double as a jacket; try wearing it unbuttoned over a T-shirt. The fit is loose, so you’ll have freedom of movement, and the seams are triple-stitched for even more durability. Reviewers say the shirt remains sturdy even after several washes.

One reviewer wrote: “This best denim shirt I have ever owned... medium weight, built tough, nice color.”

  • Available sizes: S — 4X-Large Tall (available in big)
  • Available colors: 6


What’s great about it: This shirt by Levi’s is made from heavyweight cotton denim (the blue wash is made of 77% cotton and 33% hemp; the black wash is 100% cotton), so it’s breathable while still offering the heft of a thicker shirt. It has two patch-front pockets to offer a little extra storage, and the fit is loose, with a longer, tunic-like length, so this can double as a light jacket. Levi’s is a classic brand, so this is a shirt you can hold onto for years; the medium wash only adds to the versatility.

One reviewer wrote: “Nice heavy Jean material, and fits perfect”

  • Available sizes: X-Small — X-Large; 2X — 3X
  • Available colors: 3

The printed one


What’s great about it: If you’re looking for a denim shirt you can wear to the office or an event, this one is an excellent option. The collar and cuffs feature a plaid print and the fit is slim, lending it a formal feel (but you can keep the sleeves rolled down if you don’t want to reveal the print). A single patch pocket offers space for a handkerchief, if you want to take the dressiness up a notch (otherwise, it can fit your phone); some styles have a slit pocket with faux-leather detailing. The material is made of 50% cotton, 48% polyester, and 2% spandex, to prevent the slim fit from feeling too restrictive.

One reviewer wrote: “I bought these shirts for my husband after he lost weight. It's been hard for him to find shirts that don't look baggy on him but fit his broad shoulders. These were PERFECT! He loved how they were a slightly slim fit but also stretched, and he liked the weight or material of the shirts. I will be ordering more for him. I feel like I hit the jackpot!”

  • Available sizes: Small — 5X-Large
  • Available colors: 22


What’s great about it: This chambray shirt by Agnes Orinda features subtle white striping, reminiscent of a pinstripe, so it’s easy to dress up or down. Since it’s chambray, this shirt is lightweight, breathable, and thin enough to be worn tucked in. Other standout details include a single chest pocket with button closure and a slightly pointed yolk that offers a hint of Western flair. Reviews indicate that this shirt runs small, so this is a good option if you’re looking for a slimmer fit.

One reviewer wrote: “Love this shirt...very comfy!!”

  • Available sizes: 1X — 4X
  • Available colors: 6

The one that’s also a jacket


What’s great about it: Wrangler’s mid-weight denim shirt jacket (aka “shacket”) features a fuzzy sherpa lining, which makes it the warmest option on this list. It has a relaxed fit, so you can wear additional layers underneath or throw a heavier coat over it, and two patch-front pockets offer storage space. The machine-washable shirt has an exterior made of 100% cotton and a lining made of polyester, so it’ll offer just the right amount of warmth, without feeling stuffy.

One reviewer wrote: “Amazingly warm and so soft. Did not shrink. When gardening fibers don't stick to the jacket like they do with my fleece. Love it!”

  • Available sizes: Small — 3X-Large
  • Available colors: 1


What’s great about it: This 100% cotton denim shacket from Levi’s has large metal buttons, a longer length, and a thicker feel than your average denim shirt — all of which lend it more of a jacket-type feel. As shown in the image featured above, this option works well as a light jacket over sweaters, but it would perform equally as a heavy-weight shirt.

One reviewer wrote: “Nice item, a bit heavier than I expected but not too heavy or thick. It's cute and looks just like the pictures!”

  • Available sizes: X-Small — XX-Large
  • Available colors: 1