Denim is a sturdy cotton twill textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. This twill weaving produces the familiar diagonal ribbing of the denim that distinguishes it from cotton duck.
It is a characteristic of any indigo denim that only the warp threads are dyed, whereas the weft threads remain plain white. As a result of the warp-faced twill weaving, one side of the textile then shows the blue warp threads and the other side shows the white weft threads. This is why blue jeans are white on the inside. This type of dyeing also creates denim's fading characteristics, which are unique compared to every other textile.
Etymology and origin
The word "denim" comes from the name of a fabric that was first made in the city of Nîmes, France, by the André family. It was originally called serge de Nîmes but the name was soon shortened to "denim."
Denim was traditionally colored blue with indigo dye to make blue jeans, although "jean" formerly denoted a different, lighter, cotton fabric. The contemporary use of the word "jean" comes from the French word for Genoa, Italy (Gênes), where the first denim trousers were made.
Dry or raw denim
Dry or raw denim (contrasted with "washed denim") is denim that is not washed after having been dyed during production.
Over time, denim will usually fade, which is considered desirable by some people. During the process of wear, fading will usually occur on those parts of the article that receive the most stress. In a pair of jeans, these parts include the upper thighs, the ankles, and the areas behind the knees.
After being made into an article of clothing, most denim articles are washed to make them softer and to reduce or eliminate shrinkage (which could cause the article to not fit properly after its owner washes it). In addition to being washed, "washed denim" is sometimes artificially distressed to produce a "worn" look. Much of the appeal of artificially distressed denim is that it resembles dry denim which has faded. In jeans made from dry denim, such fading is affected by the body of the person who wears them and by the activities of his or her daily life. This process creates what many enthusiasts feel to be a more "natural" look than the look of artificially distressed denim.
To facilitate the natural distressing process, some wearers of dry denim will abstain from washing their jeans for more than six months.
Most dry denim is made with 100% cotton and comes from several different countries. In particular Japan, USA, and Zimbabwe are popular sources of denim. Some denimheads prefer the denim of one country to another for its durability, fades, and feel.
Dry denim also varies in weight. Some denim is considered "heavy" or thicker and others are "lighter" or thinner. Denim is weighed in terms of how much a yard of the denim fabric weighs in ounces. Simply put, heavier denim is much more rigid and resistant to wear.
Patterns of fading
Patterns of fading in jeans, caused by prolonged periods of wearing them without washing, have become the main allure of dry denim. Such patterns are a way of "personalizing" the garment.
These patterns have specific names:
- Combs or honeycombs – These are faded lines that are found behind the knees.
- Whiskers – Faded streaks that surround the crotch area of the jeans.
- Stacks – These are created by having the inseam of the jeans hemmed a few inches longer than the actual leg length. The extra fabric then stacks on top of the shoe, causing a faded area to form around the ankle, extending up to the calf area.
- Train tracks – These appear on the outseams of the denim. This pattern showcases the selvage by forming two sets of fades which resemble train tracks.
Selvage is the edge of a fabric as it comes from the loom. Selvages are woven or knit so that they will not fray, ravel, or curl.
Selvage denim refers to a unique type of selvage that is made by means of using one continuous cross-yarn (the weft), which is passed back and forth through the vertical warp beams. This is traditionally finished at both edges with a contrasting warp (most commonly red); that is why this type of denim is sometimes referred to as "red selvage." This method of weaving the selvage is possible only when using a shuttle loom.
Shuttle looms weave a narrower 30-inch fabric, which is on average half the width of modern shuttleless Sulzer looms. Consequently a longer piece of fabric is required to make a pair of jeans from selvage denim (approximately three yards).
To maximize yield, most jeans are made from wide denim and have a straight outseam that utilizes the full width of the fabric, including the edges. Selvage denim has come to be associated with premium quality jeans, which show the finished edges from the loom rather than the overlocked edges that are shown on other jeans.
Denim was originally dyed with a dye produced from the plant Indigofera tinctoria, but most denim today is dyed with synthetic indigo dye. In both cases, the yarn undergoes a repeated sequence of dipping and oxidization — the more dips, the stronger the color of the indigo.
Rope dyeing is considered the best yarn-dyeing method, as it eliminates shading across the fabric width. The alternative "slasher process" is cheaper because only one beaming process is needed. In rope dyeing, beaming is done twice.
Denim fabric dyeing is divided into two categories: indigo dyeing and sulfur dyeing. Indigo dyeing produces the traditional blue color or shades similar to it. Sulfur dyeing produces specialty black colors and other colors, such as red, pink, purple, gray, rust, mustard, and green.
A mini-skirt made from purple denim
Only a small percentage (about 3%) of spandex is required within the fabric to create a significant stretching capacity of about 15%. However, this feature will shorten the wearing life of the garment.
Between 1973 and 1975 Volkswagen produced the Jeans Beetle, which had all-denim trim. They also repeated this concept in some later models. AMC offered a Levi's trim package for its Gremlin and Pacer models, which was actually spun nylon made to imitate denim. Jeep has also offered Levi's trim packages.
In 2007, the worldwide denim market equalled USD 51.6 billion, with demand growing by 5% and supply growing by 8% annually. Over 50% of denim is produced in Asia, most of it in China, India, and Bangladesh.
The following table shows where the world's denim mills are located.
|Region||No. of Denim Mills|
|Asia (excluding Pakistan & China)||104|
|Total Denim Mills (world-wide)||813|
- "How jeans conquered the world". BBC News. 2012-02-28.
- In 1789 George Washington toured a Beverly, Massachusetts factory producing machine-woven cotton denim. (Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities: Mass Moments[clarification needed]).
- Bellis, Mary. "Levi Strauss - The History of Blue Jeans". About.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-08-04. ""Levi Strauss had the canvas made into waist overalls. Miners liked the pants, but complained that they tended to chafe. Levi Strauss substituted a twilled cotton cloth from France called "serge de Nimes." The fabric later became known as denim and the pants were nicknamed blue jeans." In INDIA jeans was introduced by famous model Reddeppa. In French of Nimes or De Nimes shortened to Denim"
- Coe, Nick. "The Essential Raw Denim Breakdown – Our 100th Article!". RawrDenim.com. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: RawrDenim.com. Retrieved 2012-03-28. "I had read somewhere that a pair of raw denim is like an individualized canvass. Indeed the fade results and any other visible marks, rips, or tears are specific you and your body. For a dramatic illustration of what we mean, hop over to Takayuki Akachi’s documentary on the “Traveling Denim“."
- Slater, Sean. "When Should I Wash My Raw Jeans? – A Rough Guide". RawrDenim.com. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: RawrDenim.com. Retrieved 2012-03-28. "If you’re able to wear your jeans all day, every day then 6 months may be long enough (or perhaps even too long). But if you’re like many folks who have to wear a uniform or dress professionally for 5 days of the week, then you’ll need more time to achieve the same results, maybe 9 months or more."
- Coe, Nick. "The Essential Raw Denim Breakdown – Our 100th Article!". RawrDenim.com. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: RawrDenim.com. Retrieved 2014-04-09. "Raw denim jeans are typically (but not always) produced with 100% cotton and can be sourced from a number of countries. Some folks will argue that a particular country has the “best” cotton (in terms of durability, resulting denim fades, and worn feel) and some of the most popular sources include U.S.A., Zimbabwe, and Japan."
- Coe, Nick. "The Essential Raw Denim Breakdown – Our 100th Article!". RawrDenim.com. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: RawrDenim.com. Retrieved 2014-04-09. "Ever notice how some raw denim feels really thick (and heavy) while others are much thinner (and lighter)? That’s precisely what is referred to as the denim weight – or, technically speaking, how much a yard of raw denim fabric weighs in ounces (Oz.). Putting aside the manufacturing process, the heavier the denim, the more rigid the garment (also due to starching) and more resistant it will be to abrade."
- "Denim Dialogues, Vol. II: Making Them Your Own". Handlebar Magazine. 2011-09-12. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
- "Jeansbeetles.com". Retrieved 2010-08-04.
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