High Low

Most men will dress casually unless they have a reason to do otherwise. And since casual has devolved into sloppy, most men dress sloppily unless they have a reason to do otherwise.

Transitioning from the jeans and t-shirt uniform to something more appealing is difficult and one of the main reasons why is you can feel overdressed and awkward by outdressing everyone else.

A good way to make the transition easier is by adopting the high-low mentality.

Essentially you mix elements of a dressier wardrobe with those of a more casual one. The go-to staple for this is jeans with a button-up shirt and blazer. It’s the perfect outfit for going out on the weekend, visiting family on Sunday or going to class. Casual enough that you never look out of place but dressy enough you don’t look like a slob.


But there are other iterations of this ideal as well. One that I’ve been toying with lately is wearing dress slacks and shoes with a t-shirt and a leather jacket. By going dressy on bottom and casual on top, you still accomplish the high-low effect but are able to do so in a way that separates you from other men. In a sea of dark jeans and navy blazers, a pair of tweed or flannel pants and some leather is going to stand out – in a good way.

Be careful in how you interpret casual though. Wearing a blazer and tie with holey, boot-cut jeans will still make you look goofy. Choosing more casual fabrics in dressier or more classic cuts is the key to pulling off the high-low. Here’s a good example from Primer.

Dress Better Instantly! Dark, Straight Leg Jeans

Same goes for the dressy element. A real sartorialist can pull off a tuxedo jacket with his jeans, but most of us are better off with a blue blazer instead.

By upping your casual and decreasing your dressy, your total overall appearance will look more uniform.

Here are some good examples of high-low


And some bad ones


Meet The Author

Tanner is the founder and primary author of Masculine Style. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and two kids, and helps run Beckett & Robb – a men’s clothing company built around custom suits and shirts.

  • Good stuff. A basic rule of thumb is that is you want to go the jeans-blazer route, you need to wear dark jeans. There is one exception, and that is when wearing a dark-colored informal jacket, for then you can wear light-colored jeans. But for the most part, you should wear dark jeans.

    I have around six different sport coats I like to pair with jeans. I have a white linen coat (wear pink shirt and pink/white striped tie to match), a light blue cotton jacket (pastel shirts with optional coordinating tie to match), a red wool jacket (good for layering with a black or navy sweater, coordinating tie, and white shirt to match), a red camel hair jacket (white shirt and black tie to match), a black and white herringbone jacket (also good for layering with a sweater, white shirt, and coordinating tie to match), and a black leather blazer (white shirt, red wool tie to match).

    I wear all of these outfits with the same pair of dark blues jeans, black leather shoes, and a black leather belt. Having the right pair of jeans can give you a pretty versatile wardrobe as long as you know how to coordinate your outfits. One thing that will help you stand out, in a good way, is wearing distinct jackets. White, cornflower, and red will help you stand out without looking weird. Or, you can go with distinct materials (linen and leather tend to stand out, even if the colors are “normal”).

    In fact, you can easily make dark jeans and a white dress shirt the basis of your wardrobe. Just get couple ties, jackets, and sweaters, and you will have an interesting, versatile wardrobe that stands out. As a bonus, the dark jeans/white dress shirt combo makes coordinating an outfit really easy.

    • It sounds like you’ve got the basics down really well, and you’re right about wearing a jacket that’s a little different to stand out. Have you tried wearing brown-leather shoes and a brown belt? I’ve found it’s another subtle way of setting myself apart from the rest of the guys I’ve seen who know at least the basics of looking good.

      • Haven’t gone the brown shoes/brown belt as I don’t have the shoes for it. They’re on my list, though, along with black Chuck Taylors. I did find a nice pair of white Italian leather driving shoes and a cool pair of blue leather causal loafers (Skechers of some sort) that I’ve found to work as great accessories.

        If you’re interested, I’d be willing to send you pics of the outfits I mentioned above, to post on your blog to share with readers. It seems like this would be more appropriate for your blog than for mine. Let me know.

        • Sorry Simon, I thought my response posted. I’d love to have you send me some pics so I can post them up. Email me at the link at the bottom of the site.

  • Carl Sagan

    Great pointers

  • well done.

  • “The better you dress the worse you can behave”

    holy shit that quote is awesome

  • really really really really really good ideas

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  • High-low, good point. Although in the 2nd pictures, the combination of casual top and dressy casual looks too casual for me.

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