Coated Denim Guide

Get the Leather Leggings Look for Less With Coated Jeans

Street style leather leggings
Get the leather leggings look for less with coated denim jeans. Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Coated denim jeans offer the sexy appearance of leather leggings, with the comfort of skinny jeans. These jeans are stylish, versatile and give your outfits an expensive-looking, rock and roll edge, at a fraction of the cost of real leather leggings. They're also an animal-free way to get the look of leather pants in your wardrobe. Read on to learn more about coated jeans, including how much you can expect to spend on coated denim, how to clean and care for your coated jeans, what to wear with them, and shopping tips for the best coated jeans brands and styles to buy.

What Is Coated Denim?

Coated denim begins its life as regular denim fabric, but undergoes a manufacturing process to give it a shiny, wax-like finish. However, though coated jeans are sometimes referred to as wax jeans, there isn't actually any wax used in the process of making them. Instead, denim fabric is treated with a pigment (for colored denim, including the most common coated black jeans) or with a clear, acrylic coating, and then dried at super-high temperatures to create a leather-like final effect. 

The Look of Coated Jeans

Black coated denim is by far the most popular style, for its leather-like appearance. A quality pair of black coated jeans will look enough like real leather leggings to fool most people. They're still jeans, though, making them wearable for just about everyone. The look of coated denim is modern, edgy and fashion-forward, bringing stylish toughness to your outfits, whether you wear them for the cocktail hour, on weekends, or to impress your beau on date night. Coated denim is also dressier than your typical blue jeans, so they can be a great choice for special occasion dressing and wearing to the office. 

How Much Do Coated Jeans Cost?

You can generally expect to pay designer denim prices for a high-quality pair of coated jeans. While it may be possible to find coated denim for under $100, a quality pair that actually looks like real leather leggings will typically cost a bit more, and can even run a few hundred dollars for a designer pair. 

Of course, compared to the cost of real leather leggings, which can run upwards of a thousand dollars a pop, coated denim is a steal — and a bit of a miracle product for women who care a lot about looking super stylish but don't have an unlimited budget for trends. You may decide, like many fashionable women on a budget, that you're just fine with investing a bit more in coated denim, as this style is just as versatile and flattering as the go-to skinny jeans in your wardrobe, while also helping you to stand out more in your everyday outfits for work, dates and socializing with friends.

Tips for Buying and Caring for Coated Denim

When shopping for coated denim, simply keep in mind that they should look like leather jeans. Too-shiny coated jeans can easily look cheap and tacky — not to mention making your thighs look bigger. Just as with a leather jacket, you'll want to shop for a coated jean that's got just the right amount of shine to trick others into thinking you invested in real (not faux) leather leggings.

Fit is the other key thing to keep in mind, when you shop for coated denim. No matter what the product tag says, coated jeans simply aren't as stretchy as the other jeans you may be used to wearing, so they're not as forgiving to fluctuations in size. Buy for the size you are now, not your usual size, if your weight goes up and down — don't be tempted to size down in coated denim.

Because they're less stretchy, you may find coated denim to be a bit less comfortable than your favorite weekend jeans. They'll still wear like jeans though, meaning the comfort factor is pretty good, and if you're like most women, you'll probably love the way you look in them so much, you won't care.

Do keep in mind that coated denim is still denim — it's not leather. That means that over time, it will fade and wear in certain areas. While this is desirable with perfectly-worn in jeans, it also means your coated jeans will have a shelf life. However, since you're unlikely to wear them every day, you may still be able to keep them for a decent time before needing to replace them. 

How to Clean Coated Denim

If you take good care of your coated denim jeans, they should last you through plenty of wears and still look sharp. Here are our top tips on caring for coated denim:

  • Avoid machine washing. Even if the product tag on your jean says "machine washable", putting these pants through a regular wash cycle is a risky move. (Don't even talk to us about the horrors of the dryer). A washing machine can do a number on the shiny coating, marking it up or even stripping it completely, so you end up with plain black jeans).
  • Dry cleaning is the best. Even better is searching out an "environmentally friendly" dry cleaner, who'll typically expose your jeans to lower heats. Do have a chat with your cleaner about the result you're expecting and ask if they have experience cleaning faux leather clothing items, such as coated jeans. 
  • Hand washing is okay too, though not a guarantee of dry-clean results. If you want to try this, turn jeans inside-out to protect the coating, and gently swish them around in a bathtub (or laundry sink) filled with lukewarm water and a small amount of gentle detergent. Rinse, gently squeeze out excess water and hang to drip-dry. 

How to Wear Coated Jeans

Coated jeans are very versatile for dressing up or down. For weekend days, try wearing them in place of your usual blue jeans, with an over-sized sweater and ankle boots. Or dress them up for nighttime with a sparkly, going-out top and your fiercest high heel shoes. Another way to work these jeans into your daily routine is by wearing them to work — we especially love the way they look with a white blouse, tailored blazer and a stacked-heel pump. 

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