Created As True Workwear Styles

The roots of denim jackets go back to the late 19th century. Originally created as workwear styles due to their durability. The first denim jackets were likely adaptations of denim work shirts. Featuring rugged constructions and functional design elements. Many laborers were wearing denim jackets on the job. From farmers to railroad workers to cowboys and construction workers. A denim jacket secured them but gave them also comfort.

Nowadays, denim jackets are almost part of everyone’s wardrobe. A classic staple piece that can be worn each day. And not to forget, they can be perfectly matched with jeans for the double-denim look. Or with a chino or combat pants for example. You will always look good!

In Spring or Summer, denim jackets are your best friends to keep yourself warm during the day or a chilly evening. And in Fall or Winter, denim jackets are perfect as an extra layer to wear in-house. Back in the day, denim jackets were only produced with unwashed denim fabrics, but nowadays they’re available in a wide palette of different fabrics and washes, colors, and designs. Some prefer a classic boxy and short cut design, while others go for a more modern twist. Also, they’re produced unlined, but also with a Sherpa lining for extra warmth. Or a blanket, like the authentic Lee Storm Rider denim jacket.

The most popular denim jackets styles are Western-inspired. Short and designed with a button closure. Alternatives are having a zip closure, corduroy collar, or a different length as the legendary Chore coat.

denim jacket

Denim Jackets Styles By Levi’s, Lee & Wrangler

There are many versions, and many alternatives of denim jackets. Let’s zoom in on 3 iconic designs, based on the American ‘Big 3’ denim brands; Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler.

  • Levi’s – 70505 Trucker Jacket

During the Summer of Love in 1967, Levi’s released their 70505 Trucker jacket. This jacket style is better known as the Type 3, as it’s the brand’s third jacket style. With its slimmer silhouette, it was the follow-up on their previous more boxy denim jacket, the 507XX. Also known as the Type 2. The lot number of the 70505 was matched with the launch of the then-new 505 zipper fly jeans of the brand. A more slimmer jean cut compared to the iconic 501.

Five years before, in 1962, the 70505 hit already the market, but then as lot number 557XX. It was also made with a blanket lining, called the 559XX.

The 70505 denim jacket features two chest pockets and is V-stitched from these pockets to the bottom of the jacket. The pocket flaps are cut-pointed and can be opened or closed with a button. In the early 1980s, side pockets were added. A true winner and the most copied denim jacket in the market.

levi's 557XX

Levi’s 557XX from the early 1960s. This design became later known as the 70505.

levi's 559xx

levi's 559xx

Late 1960s Levi’s 559XX jacket with lining.

Tip! Learn more about: The History of the Levi’s 507XX (Type 2) Jacket – Part 1 and The Story of the Levi’s 507XX Biker Cut Jacket (Part 2). And the classic 506XX (Type 1) jacket: The History Of The Original Vintage Levi’s 506XX Jacket.

  • Lee – Rider Jacket

The Rider denim jacket by Lee jeans was originally released in 1948. It has lot number 101-J (Jacket). Before this release, Lee launched the 101-J Cowboy jacket in 1934. The Rider jacket was developed as a slimmer-fit denim jacket. Specially designed with the Cowboys in mind. It was advertised in rodeo and cowboy magazines with the slogan: “Look at Slim in his New Lee Rider Jacket!” and “Genuine Western Lee Rider Jacket.”

This denim jacket features two chest pockets with a button closure (the pockets are slanted for easy access), a two-way collar so it can stand on its own, tailored sleeves with ample shoulder and elbow room, an adjustable Waistband, and zig-zag stitching down the button placket.

In 1952, Lee introduced a Winter version of the Rider jacket, first named 101-LJ (Lined Jacket). A year later, in 1953, Lee re-branded the lined version as the Storm Rider.

When the Lee Rider denim jacket was released it was its time ahead, as it was around 15 years earlier than the Levi’s 70505 jacket design. It was the first slimmer denim jacket on the market. In 1984, the Rider jacket was produced with side pockets.

lee rider

lee rider

Lee Rider jacket (kids version) from the late 1940s/early 1950s. 

lee rider denim jacket

lee rider denim jacket

1950s Lee Rider jacket.

lee storm rider jacket

lee storm rider jacket

197os Lee Storm Rider jacket with blanket lining.

Tip! Learn more about The History Of The Lee 100-J Westerner Jacket.

  • Wrangler – 124MJ Jacket

The 124MJ jacket is the archetypal denim jacket style of Wrangler. Introduced around the mid-sixties you can trace details of earlier denim jackets of the brand when the Western denim brand started in 1947. The 124MJ jacket is a true icon with details such as the W pocket stitching, rounded flap breast pockets, lower slanted front pockets, zig-zag stitching on the closure, and copper buttons.

Wrangler’s first ever jacket style was introduced in 1948. A year after they kicked off their brand. This denim jacket was named 11MJ (Men’s Jacket). In the early 1950s, they released the follow-up, the 8MZ (Men’s Zipper) style, also known as the second edition. Made of 8oz denim fabric.

The 124MJ jacket is the most recognizable and most popular denim jacket design in Wrangler’s history.

wrangler 124mj jacket

wrangler 124mj jacket

Wrangler 124MJ jacket from the late 1960s/early 1970s. Created as collab with MNTGE, more info here.

wrangler 8MZ

wrangler 8MZ

1950s Wrangler 8MZ (Men’s Zipper) jacket.

Tip! Learn more about: Original Wrangler 11MW ‘Proto Type’ Jeans From 1947.

Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.