If denim jackets make you shudder with fear -- like a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin smackdown -- you might have a point. Put these jackets and men together and you don't usually hear the phrase "looks so manly." But we love the '80s as much as anybody, and a man in a denim jacket presses all sorts of nice, John Cusack-y buttons.

"I firmly believe in the denim jacket," says Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York and a softie for Western wear. But, he warns, it has to be worn in a very specific way. Doonan sports his with a shirt, tie and dressy pants -- channeling Johnny Cash and Porter Wagoner. "I look like a second-rate country manager -- Patsy Cline's manager," he jokes.

Many denim jackets have gone the way of Goodwill. Mostly because "jeans are so totally ubiquitous," says Doonan. "It's an integral part of a young man's wardrobe. No one wants to look like they're wearing a denim suit. It's a little too 'CHiPs' on their day off."

For those who are a little denim-jacket gun-shy, the velvet blazer can be an appropriate substitute -- worn with tees or button-down shirts, over jeans or pants. A little less country, a little more London cool.

But don't be scared. The denim jacket can be your friend. Says Doonan, "It's a great midlife crisis jacket."

-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond

Top: Distressed denim jacket ($115), at Banana Republic stores or bananarepublic.com with Shakespeare tee by Lincoln Mayne ($71), at the Denim Bar, 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington.

Center: Oliver Spencer frayed velvet jacket ($616) and button-down shirt ($209), at the Denim Bar, 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington.

Bottom: Urban denim jacket ($79) and urban button-down shirt ($69), at Club Monaco, 3235 M St. NW or Pentagon City, 1100 S. Hayes St., Arlington.