When we talk about winter denim, it’s important to note that we’re not talking about fleece-lined jeans (yep, they exist). Instead, we’re thinking of heavier denim, full-length as opposed to cropped, and—dare we say it, even winter whites.

Maybe you hadn’t even considered alternating your denim for different seasons, but seeing as you change every other material in winter, it seems foolhardy to assume your summer jeans will work when it's cold and wet.

As Thread stylist Luke McDonald points out: “Denim isn’t the most insulating material, and wind tends to go through it.” All of which means that choosing denim to see you through until spring requires some extra legwork.

Not just jeans

For a start, think beyond trousers. “If you’re a guy that likes to wear a denim jacket, deepest winter is usually when you’re going to retire it,” says Luke. With that in mind, he recommends opting for a shearling-lined denim jacket instead. “The nice thing about this Carhartt one is that it’s a bit longer, so it offers more protection. It’s a good substitute for a work or a chore jacket.”

As Luke explains, they’re a super practical coat that looks lightweight and casual, but is in fact heavy enough to get you through the colder months.

Consider weight

If you’ve never thought about how much your denim weighs, then allow us to introduce you to a fascinating new world. Defined by how much a yard of the fabric weighs in ounces, denim weights span the scale from 9–10 oz. jeans (which are great for summer) to 11–12 oz. jeans (suitable for all year round). Anything between 13 to 16 oz. is classed as mid-heavyweight denim and that will provide extra warmth for winter.

The weightier the denim, the stiffer it is so this makes them a better choice for straight-leg jeans as opposed to skinny fits. Heavyweight denim will feel ‘rougher’ than lightweight denim or even cotton-blend jeans, but the benefit is that the denim lasts much longer if cared for properly. Some people also like the aesthetics of a heavier denim whiskering and fading over time as it moulds to their creases and movement.

Although as Luke says, "you definitely want the weight to be heavier, but that doesn’t mean the colour has to be dark."

Colour options

When it’s dark all the time, most men reach for darker clothes. But lightening up can make a big difference. “A paler, 90s-influenced wash has really come into style,” says Luke. “It can be a nice way to lighten up darker winter outfits.”

To make more of a statement, off-white jeans are a great base for wintry colours like mustard and rust. Just make sure to check the forecast first. Or for a less daunting option, mid-blue jeans are a touch easier to pull off. Try teaming them with a dark coat, hiking boots, or bright outerwear.

Keeping warm

You may have noticed the trend for cropped jeans and it can be quite refreshing to have your ankles exposed. “It creates a nice silhouette,” says Luke. The problem is when the mercury drops, you look pretty daft with frost-bitten ankles.

“When it’s freezing outside, I’d recommend pairing your cropped jeans with heavy, hiking socks,” says Luke. “Fashion only works if it looks effortless.” And goosebumped ankles are never on trend.

Don’t forget maintenance

Die-hard denim fans might swear by the sub-zero method of cleaning jeans (since machines can spoil their fades, they chuck them into the freezer to kill germs) but winter provides plenty of opportunities for mess. Mud, snow, rain, and salt stains can all lead to unsightly marks on your beloved denim, which no amount of time in the icebox can cure.

We’d suggest washing your denim on a cold wash, inside out, and as infrequently as possible. But as Luke says, “it depends on your lifestyle. You’re better off with a washed pair of jeans than a smelly pair.”

Shop winter denim


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Chris Howlett
Styling: Freddie Kemp