You are currently viewing Why Colored Denim Fails to Be Comfortable Like Jeans

A well worn-in pair of jeans is very comfortable. Read why colored or white denim fail to achieve this softness and which role the dye plays.

  1. Why are jeans a wardrobe staple
  2. What is colored denim
    • What is denim
    • How does sulfur dye work
  3. How I wear colored denim
  4. March Stylish Monday linkup party
  5. References

Why are jeans a wardrobe staple

Do you recall the 1976 song by David Dundas

When I wake up in the morning light
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right
I pull my blue jeans on, I pull my old blue jeans on

I loved the song back then. Even though talking about old blue jeans seems like a tautology like saying a black raven or a white swan. Jeans are blue and best when old.

The unique chemical properties of the indigo dye made jeans so popular that they became the traditional American clothes. In contrast to other dyes, indigo only sticks to the outside of the threads. When the fabric is washed some of the dye gets lost. Over time, the pair gets the soft, lived-in feeling.

different wash of indigo dyed denim
Denim dyed with indigo after different numbers of wash.

For those, who can’t wait that the indigo-dyed raw denim (dark wash, i.e. not pre-washed) looses its pigments, brands offer medium wash, light wash, stone wash, sand wash and even distressed. Sandblasting jeans to create a “worn‐out” look started in Turkey in the 1990. Sand blasted means that an employee has to treat the pair with a sandblaster. This means the person inhales a lot of fine silica particlur matter, which may lead to health problems (silicosis) and even death.

Today, jeans are a wardrobe staple worldwide. They are an essential in Business Casual Style, for Casual Friday and the weekend.

Alaskan fashion blogger in casual outfit blue jeans
Loft boot-cut jeans, turtleneck cashmere sweater, black booties, and Pavlova Russian scarf


What is colored denim

Denim is the fabric out of which jeans are made. Colored “denim” pops up as a perennial trend every now and then. It again has a moment. To obtain colored denim sulfur dyeing is applied. It creates all kinds of colors like purple, pink, red, burgundy, orange, yellow, green, mint, brown, mustard, black, you name it. See this guide how to look stylish in denim.

In contrast to indigo dye, sulfur dyes cover the thread thoroughly, i.e. also in the inside. Therefore, a colored denim feels stiffer than an indigo-dyed denim. It never will get the cool, lived-in feeling like jeans.

Historically, Levi Strauss, who introduced the jeans, made first denim trousers cut and made exactly the same like jeans except they were dyed brown. These brown pants were called “ducks.” Despite brown also is a non-boring neutral, the ducks became less popular over time. The blue version was so much more comfortable on the skin than its brown twin. For this reason colored denim fails to push the old blue jeans off the market.


Alaskan fashion blogger in colored denim at Creamer's Field
Notations floral blazer dyed burgundy, Aerostrophal burgundy skinnies with sequin tuxedo-like stripe, Kieselstein Cord belt, Keep Calm Let the Meteorologist Handle It graphic t-shirt, Seiko watch, Prada pumps


What is denim

Denim is a heavy cotton twill fabric made of 100% cotton. It comes in different weights per square yard of fabric. For instance, 6 oz means the fabric weights 6 oz Lightweight less than 12 oz, medium weight 12 to less than 16 oz, heavy weight or Alaska-weight 16 to less than 32 oz, monster-heavy weight 32 oz.

Denim is used for all kinds of clothes, not only trousers or jeans.

All jeans are denim, but not all denims are jeans. #fashion #triva Click To Tweet

Often cotton is blended with rayon and spandex to produce a stretchy, more comfortable material. However, technically spoken this blended fabric is not denim.


#fashionover40 details of outfit with floral top and striped skirt

white denim jacket with striped leather skirt

#fashionover50 The best outfits of August - OOTD

style book author in white denim jacket, floral cardigam studded pumps and striped skirt,
Outfit details: Fossil white denim jacket over Cable and Gauge floral print cardigan with Oliveo striped leather skirt, Jaeger tote, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and studded pumps (all own)


How does sulfur dye work

Sulfur dyes are non-soluble in water. At temperatures around 80o and alkali pH-values, the dye particles disintegrate when a reducing agent (e.g. sodium sulfide, sodium hydrosulfide) is in the solution. Under these conditions, the dye particles become soluble in water and can be absorbed by the fabric. Salt facilitates the absorption. After removing the fabric from the dye solution, the dye oxidizes in air. This oxidation makes the color insoluble in water. Hydrogen peroxide or sodium bromate also can be used for oxidation in mildly acidic solutions.

Environmental impacts of dyes

The high solubility of the dyes, especially the reactive, direct, basic and acids ones, in water pose a challenge to remove them. Thus, they become an environmental problem for waterbodies. The color reduces the penetration of light thru water. Consequently, the photosynthesis rates of water plants goes down. Since photolysis produces oxygen that dissolved in the waterbody, the reduced concentrations affect the aquatic biota.

Textile dyes also act as toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic agents (see references for more information). They accumulate in the bodies, especially of those species that are at the end of the food-chain. Since sulfide agents are toxic, they are (slowly) substituted in the Western World by applying glucose in basic solution.

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How I wear colored denim

My first pair of denim pants were cream with a floral Laura Ashley like print! In my opinion and those of my classmates, they looked like PJs. I wasn’t allowed to dye them because the color could rinse in the laundry. As 12 years old girl I fought a fashion battle me to get my first pair of jeans. These colored pants were also an argument “You didn’t wear your printed pair.”

Don’t let the right outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy the book now.

The outfit inspiration photos below show some outfit ideas with “colored” denim. See this post on how to look great in denim-on-denim.

stylist in white denim boyfriend pants, blue sweater and pearls

style blogger in denim trousers, silk scaf, top, layering top, heels

fashion blogger in casual posh winter style with pants, down jacket, layered tops, scarf, necklace, belt
London Jean white denim boyfriend pants, Fendi booties, GNW Luxe wool cashmere sweater, Kieselstein Cord belt and 3 horses buckle, unbranded silk scarf(all own), vegan luxury bag c/o JORD and baroque pearl necklace c/o Pearl Clasp


March Stylish Monday linkup party

My blogging friends Nina Bandoni, Suzanne Bell, Andrea Schwartz, Nancy Baten, Cynthia Scurry, Emma Peach, Julie Augustyn, Robin Lamonte, Michele Clark, Hilda Smith and I are hosting the March Stylish Monday linkup.

Hostesses of the March Stylish Monday linkup party
Hostesses of the March Stylish Monday linkup party: How we style colored denim


See or join the Stylish Monday Linkup Party here


See these awesome outfits at the Stylish Monday linkup party. #StylishMonday #MondayOutfit Click To Tweet

Please note that the looks in the above photo collage are not always those we present in our posts. Thus, visit the blogs of my fellow hostesses as well. Thanks for stopping by and visiting the party.

Don’t forget to hit subscribe to receive the bi-weekly free High Latitude Style newsletter with a summary of all new posts and more about Fashion, Life and Science at the Last Frontier.


Ryan F. Hoy, Daniel C. Chambers, 2020. Silica‐related diseases in the modern world. Allergy. doi: 10.1111/all.14202

Bruno Lellis, Cíntia Zani Fávaro-Polonio, João Alencar Pamphile, Julio Cesar Polonio, 2020. Effects of textile dyes on health and the environment and bioremediation potential of living organisms. Biotechnology Research and Innovation. doi: 10.1016/j.biori.2019.09.001

This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.

Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2021 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mr.Rios

    WOW! That was an incredible piece on denim, dyes, and pure, lovely chemistry at work!
    Loved how you broke the process down to tangible bits, as well as clearly explaining to us why salt helps with dying (which is one of those questions raised when dying fabrics at home!).
    Your red denim outfit with the ‘meteorologist’-tee is intoxicating! It was a fantastic use of color as it was broken up with the plaid and using skinny jeans was pure genius because you used the color sparingly by keeping it close to you.
    You looked great in the blue denim getup, and I am amazed how you can pose with those white jeans without getting them dirty!
    Keep making us want to read and see more, Nicole!

  2. Emma Peach

    It’s interesting to read about the history of jeans and how they’re made. I love your burgundy and white jeans!

    Emma xxx

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