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What are Waxed Jeans?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated May 21, 2024
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Waxed jeans, also known as waterproof jeans, painted jeans, or black-coated jeans, are denim trousers coated with paint, beeswax, or a wax glaze to create a shiny finish. The jeans were introduced in 2007 and became a popular trend in many spring and summer 2008 collections offered by most designer labels and denim brands. The style can be replicated at home using acrylic paint or beeswax on an existing pair of jeans.

This variety of jeans starts out as a pair of raw denim jeans, which are coated in a thin layer of wax glaze called a cire. After the cire is applied to the fabric, the jeans get heat-pressed with a roller, allowing the denim to absorb the wax. The dried cire creates the stiff texture, the oily feel, and the gleaming finish that characterize the trend.

As the trend became popular among consumers and fashion critics, many denim brands started adding a waxy finish to classic-cut jeans for men and women. The shimmer from the original designs was toned down to make the waxed jeans suitable for casual occasions. Though many wear them to enjoy the trend itself, the jeans are also a popular alternative to leather pants because they share the same slick aesthetic. The difference is that these jeans are more affordable and allow skin to breathe easier.

Waxed jeans can be bought at various price points, from expensive designer labels to accessible high-street brands. Despite their availability, many people choose to create their own pair at home using an ordinary pair of denim jeans. One common way to accomplish the project is by painting jeans with a layer of acrylic paint. Since acrylic paint dries quickly, this is the fastest way to get a do-it-yourself pair, but it is important that the jeans come a size or two larger than the usual because the acrylic can make the fabric shrink, creating a tighter fit.

Another way to wax jeans is to use a mixture of beeswax and raw linseed oil. Caution must be exercised while using this method because the resulting mateiral is very flammable. Beeswax should be melted with linseed oil in a double-boiler, with turpentine added to the melted solution to thin it. The solution is then brushed onto the jeans with the mixture and left to dry with a heat gun so the fabric can absorb the wax.

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Discussion Comments
By goldenmist — On Jul 06, 2011

@rjh - Good waxed jeans should offer weather protection (including water resistance) and should still be fairly breathable so you shouldn't need to wash them too often. They’re popular with motorcycle riders. The wax fades over time but it develops a nice finish once they’re “broken in” which many people seem to like and is part of the appeal of waxed cotton anyway.

If you do need to wash them, a gentle cold wash with the jeans inside out and hang drying is probably the best way to go about it and it shouldn’t affect the look of the jeans too much. I’d avoid using soap or dry cleaning though as it can remove the wax. There is also wax dressing you can buy to re-apply to your jeans if you want to maintain water resistance.

By rjh — On Jul 05, 2011

Is it true that you’re not supposed to wash these types of jeans if you want to keep the wax finish? If I do need to wash them, what would be the best way to go about it?

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 05, 2011

Wow, I have a pair of somewhat stiff shimmery jeans, but I had no idea that they had been waxed! They do have the ability to almost stand on their own without a body inside them, though!

I love the sheen that covers these dark blue beauties. When the light hits them, they look almost glittery, but instead of sparkling in flecks, the entire surface shimmers.

Over time, these jeans have become more flexible and easier to put on, as long as my legs are totally dry. They still have their shine, but the blue is lighter than it once was. I think I might actually like them better as they are now.

By strawCake — On Jul 04, 2011

@SZapper - I prefer my jeans to be on the softer side too. My sister, however, doesn't have that reservation. When these jeans were popular we tried to make her a pair and we failed miserably!

We didn't realize we needed to buy the jeans a few sizes up so after we painted them with acrylic paint they shrank! The jeans ended up being so small my sister couldn't wear them. After that she gave up and just bought a pair.

By SZapper — On Jul 04, 2011

I somehow must have missed this blue jeans trend. It doesn't sound very appealing to me though. I hate when my jeans are stiff and I usually buy the jeans that have a small percentage of spandex so they are stretchy. I think I'll just stick with my comfy, non-waterproof jeans!

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