8 Outfit Ideas for Men’s Waxed Cotton Jackets

A change in season can mean a change in wardrobe, but there are stylish pieces you can wear almost all year round–and when it comes to outerwear, a waxed cotton jacket is a perfect example! It’s a staple for outdoorsy men, but even if you don’t fall in that camp, you can definitely incorporate into looks both rugged and dressy in spring, fall, and the early days of winter.

History of Waxed Cotton Jackets

In the 15th-century mariners would coat the sails on their boats with fish oil and with grease. This was done for more efficiency and weather and kept the sails light in wet weather. The worn-down remnants of these sails were cut down for capes to keep the mariners dry. These are the beginnings of the fisherman’s slicker. From 1795, Francis Webster Ltd. was one of the best at adding linseed oil to flax sails.

flax seeds (linen)

The seeds of the flax plant can be used to make linseed oil

By the mid-1920s the fabric was sent to Websters to be woven and then it would be sent to Lancashire County to be dyed in black or olive green. This produced the cloth that was water-resistant, breathable, and didn’t have a yellowing effect as it aged. Then it was sent to London to be treated with copper ammonia afterward the fabric was sent back to Lancashire County for waxing. In 2005, refined hydrocarbon wax was developed to be able to replace the copper ammonia treatment, which is causing a really strong scent.

Belstaff gained popularity with motorcycles becoming a means of transportation.

Belstaff gained popularity with motorcycles becoming a means of transportation.

Over the years we’ve seen a large interest in waxed cotton coming from the commercial shipping industry. J.Barbour and Sons was an early adapter in the outdoor industry. They made the waxed cotton jackets for farmers and for gamekeepers. Belstaff also gained a lot of popularity as motorcycles arose as a means of transportation.

Because of how water-resistant it is, waxed cotton was adapted as the first choice of waterproof clothing for the British Armed Forces in World War II.

Classic Barbour Beaufort

Classic Barbour Beaufort

When Should You Wear a Waxed Cotton Jacket?

Cooler temperatures always provide the best time to wear a waxed cotton jacket. The reason is, spring, fall, and the beginning of winter depending on your location are always going to provide you the best opportunity to take advantage of the water resistance, and the subtle insulation these jackets provide.

Certain brands and styles offer more padding and insulation than others and some may provide more of a shell to provide against moisture, for example, when out fishing.

Raphael putting the Belstaff Trialmaster jacket's water-resistance to the test.

Raphael putting the Belstaff Trialmaster jacket’s water-resistance to the test.

The waxed cotton jacket is essentially a three-season jacket depending on your intention and needs. While shopping for your jacket, it’s important to keep temperature and style in mind. Will you be actually wearing your jacket for outdoor activities or will you also be wearing this as more of a fashion statement and to pay homage to a timeless style? Once you have answered those for yourself, make sure you shop around and find the best quality and find the best jacket that fits you.

Remember, if you’re uncomfortable with what you’re wearing, it is going to show. Also, don’t feel the need to wear a particular jacket from a certain brand simply because of its popularity. Finding what works best for you is always ideal whether that comes from a vintage shop or a high-end store.

Find out which jacket is best for you rather than settling with a particular brand's popularity.

Find out which jacket works best for you rather than settling with a particular brand’s popularity. (Black and Off-White Driving Touchscreen Gloves in Perforated Lamb Nappa Leather by Fort Belvedere)

What Color Should You Choose?

Typically, what many of us think of when we envision a waxed cotton jacket something would be something black or dark olive green. Although this is correct in terms of many, many factories will produce, we are now starting to see more options in terms of color — we see tan, navy, and sometimes even plaid. If you’re new to the world of waxed cotton jackets, it’s important to probably find something that will offer more stability in your outfits like a green, or black option. However, if you already got something good foundational colors like that in your wardrobe, feel free to go ahead and have some fun and experiment with a different color, or perhaps a pattern.

Waxed Cotton Jacket Outfit Ideas – #1: Patterned Pants with a Neutral Shirt

The boldness of the patterned pants draws immediate attention however the neutrality of the shirt and the jacket brings balance into the entire outfit. Adding something quirky is just a little bit out of the norm to your outfit is just a great way to add new life into your waxed cotton jacket. 

Waxed cotton jacket with a neutral shirt.

Waxed cotton jacket with a neutral shirt, gray patterned pants

Outfit #2: Gray Pants with a Patterned Shirt

Gray pants are an easy choice for many to want to wear because of the ease of both blending it to casual or professional attire. The patterned shirt will bring something new and refreshing to the viewer, as the dark jacket and neutral pants could appear rather bland on their own. It’s beneficial to consider a color choice that compliments both jacket and pants in this outfit.

waxed cotton jacket and a purple patterned shirt

Waxed cotton jacket and a purple patterned shirt

The charcoal gray dress pants work well in the entire outfit and keep it elevated and professional looking as opposed to wearing chinos or a pair of jeans in this particular setting. The small checks within the pattern of the purple shirt are not too busy or too whimsical and although they allow for visual interest, they keep things professional as well. 

Waxed cotton jacket, a patterned shirt, and a gray pair of pants for an elevated and professional look.

Waxed cotton jacket, a patterned shirt, and a gray pair of pants for an elevated and professional look.

Outfit #3: Dark Wash Denim with a Lightweight Sweater

Wearing dark wash jeans is a great way to maintain the casual appearance of the entire outfit and help bring out the casualness of the waxed cotton jacket as well. Try to remember to keep your denim choice free of too much whiskering or seam details; this will take away from the clean look of the entire outfit and also will take away from the timelessness of your look. The lightweight sweater has the capability of elevating and also brightening the entire appearance of the otherwise outdoorsy waxed cotton jacket.

Wear your waxed cotton jacket with a lightweight sweater and dark wash denim pants for a casual look.

Wear your waxed cotton jacket with a lightweight sweater and dark wash denim pants for a casual look.

Once you remove your jacket, the sweater and the denim will be able to complement one another effortlessly. It’s best to choose a bright colored sweater that complements the dark denim very well. It also provides a nice contrast if you’re in a dark jacket.

Keep your denim from too much whiskering or too many details for a cleaner, casual look.

Keep your denim free from too much whiskering or too many details for a cleaner, casual look.

Outfit #4: Chino Pants and a Patterned Sport Shirt

Chino pants are convenient pant options to own especially in colors like stone, tan, green, or even navy. With a black waxed cotton jacket, for contrast, tan cotton chino pants would look great. A patterned shirt also complements the chino pants once the jacket is removed as well.

Chino pants with patterned sport shirt

This outfit will still look great even without the jacket.

Outfit #5: Dark Turtleneck Sweater and Neutral Dress Pants

Wearing a turtleneck over a casual jacket or a blazer is not a new concept, but the juxtaposition of wearing an outdoorsy jacket like the waxed cotton jacket with a turtleneck blend together wonderfully. Then adding the neutral dress pants elevates everything and allows everything to look complete.

Combine your dark turtleneck sweater with a pair of neutral dress pants and waxed cotton jacket for a sophisticated look.

Combine your dark turtleneck sweater with a pair of neutral dress pants and waxed cotton jacket for a sophisticated look.

The turtleneck is not too thick and therefore is comfortably worn under the jacket without looking or feeling too bulky. The neutral colored dress pants in this outfit have a very small check pattern inside of them and its soft color helps brighten the rest of the outfit as the shoes, jacket, and turtleneck are all quite dark.

The neutral color and subtle patterns of this dress pants help brighten up the entire outfit.

The neutral color and subtle patterns of this dress pants help brighten up the entire outfit.

Outfit #6: A Sweater with a Dress Shirt, Tie and Dress Pants

This is the harmonious way we’ll be able to blend a business casual outfit with a rustic outerwear element. Depending on what your waxed cotton jacket looks like in terms of length, color, and different embellishments, you may decide you prefer to not wear a tie or to wear a different sweater or no sweater at all. It’s always best to keep an open mind but in the end, do what’s best for you in your outfit.

Complete this business casual ensemble with a Cashmere Wool Grenadine Tie from Fort Belvedere.

Complete this business casual ensemble with a Cashmere Wool Grenadine Tie from Fort Belvedere.

In this outfit, you can confidently enter a workplace and not feel too underdressed due to the outerwear. The waxed cotton jacket provides insulation and water resistance. The multiple layers worn in this outfit help add a little more depth to the overall outfit.

Business casual with waxed cotton jacket

The best part is, you can wear this great outfit without feeling underdressed because of the jacket. (Cashmere Wool Grenadine Tie – Fort Belvedere)

Outfit #7: A Patterned Sweater and a Denim Shirt

The denim shirt and patterned sweater combination will add warmth to the entire outfit. Try adding a favorite watch or a ring to further personalize your outfit. The lightweight sweater I chose to wear happens to have a lot of shades of blue and some gray woven inside. All different neutrals can help complement the dark washed jeans. This outfit can also be worn with off-white denim, tan chino pants, and a bold earth tone colored green pants as well.

Patterned sweater and denim shirt

You can even personalize this outfit with your favorite watch or ring!

Outfit #8: A Denim Shirt with Off-white Pants

Our last outfit is great for a casual outing especially if you’re wearing a black, navy, green, or khaki cotton waxed jacket. The tone of the light denim shirt will brighten up your outfit, especially when worn with a black or an olive green waxed jacket. The off-white pants option also helps brighten up the outfit especially when paired with a nice pair of boots, or cap of your choosing.

A great outfit for a casual outing.

This combination is a great outfit for a casual outing.

Waxed Cotton Jacket Mistakes – 1. Don’t Dry Clean.

This can damage the jacket due to the pressing and heat involved and also, a lot of the different chemicals that might be used at the dry cleaners usually won’t cooperate to well with the wax.

The heat from the dry clean machine will definitely damage your jacket.

The heat from the dry clean machine will definitely damage your jacket.

2. Don’t Machine Wash

A good alternative to cleaning your waxed cotton jacket would be to wash it by hand. Over time you might also find that you should be reapplying a coat of wax on your jacket.

A good alternative is to hand wash instead to avoid damaging your jacket.

A good alternative is to hand wash instead to avoid damaging your jacket.

3. Don’t Wash with Warm Water

The reason that this is important is that in doing so, you’ll be releasing the protective coating on your jacket.

Washing your waxed cotton in warm water will remove its protective coating.

Washing your waxed cotton in warm water will remove its protective coating.

Waxed Cotton Jacket Care Tips

It’s important to know that waxed cotton jackets usually need an annual re-waxing. Over time, the friction of consistent wear will cause the wax to break down. Re-waxing is best performed during the summer months due to the naturally warmer temperature. It is, therefore, much easier to spread around due to how soft it is. When the wax is warmed, you can then apply it to small areas with a soft cloth.

Barbour silk oil wax

Barbour silk oil wax

Conclusion

Waxed cotton has a long and rich history. Although much time has passed since it’s creation, many of the original ways of how it’s first enjoyed are still enjoyed today. The resurgence in recent years of a more classic style offers a great opportunity to re-introduce this element of style into our wardrobes and this element offers many different benefits that will last for years to come.

Do you have a waxed cotton jacket in your collection? When and how do you like to wear them? Share it in the comments!

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