Definitive Denim Guide

by Savannah Huggins on June 12, 2021

Know Your Denim

Our fav pair of denim is with us through thick and thin, shaping our style. From casual Friday hustling and bustling at work or running errands to happy hour, or a night out with the girls. Our denim is there for us. So let's get to know this beautiful, hard-working fabric in its entirety. Here is your definitive guide to all that is denim. From wefts and warp, to dyes and wash. 

Love Your Denim
Let's start with the basics. Mostly all denim is made of blended cotton fibers. In some modern fabrics, the use of polyester or Lycra is added to help maintain the shape or to add stretch to support that beautiful bum of yours. These fibers are spun together and combed into a thick rope to create slivers that are pulled and twisted to create one piece of thread that's stronger than your best attitude. This is the base of our jeans' strength and versatility. Next, the threads are stretched over large barrels and prepped for dying.

Inigo Dyeing
Indigo is derived from the Indigofera plant and is among the oldest dyes used for textile dyeing. The threads are dipped into large barrels of the indigo dye and when spun over large drums back into the air, react with the oxygen, creating a blue color. This process is done repeatedly until the cotton threads have an intense dark blue characteristic. The color creates a coating around the thread. The thread is still white inside, giving denim its white look when worn and faded.

The next step is weaving the threads. The blue thread, called the warp, is pulled up and down through the loom. The white thread called the weft is shot back and forth, across the entire length of the loom creating the denim pattern. Indigo dyed denim has the warp thread dyed while the weft thread is left white. This gives denim its distinguishing blue look and results in the lighter look you see on the inside of denim pieces.

Raw Denim
Raw denim is dry or unwashed denim. The material has not gone through the usual washing and distressing processes that most brands producing volume do. It comes straight off the loom and is cut and sewn and then sold to you. Raw denim allows the wearer to personalize the garment for his/her unique outline, with creases contouring and fade marks embodying his/her shape. With raw denim, it is totally up to the consumer to break them in.

Sanforized Denim
Sanforization is a finishing step in which woven cloth is stretched shrunken and fixed using heat and compression. This method is used to reduce the amount of shrinking that can occur after washing.

Selvage Denim
This is the OG of denim, weaved on old shuttle-looms dating back to the early 1900s. Production is much slower and handlers more skilled than on modern looms, reducing the tension on the yarns, creating a much softer feel and a more durable fabric that insists on better quality. This old school operation can be slightly inconsistent which leads to variations in the look of the denim which is unique in an industry where reduplication and uniformity are standard. Selvage denim jeans use the self-edge as a finished seam in the jean composition – precisely along the outseam. This keeps the yarn from fraying or unraveling.

Sulfur Dyed Denim
Sulfur dyeing is a chemical process in which dye is oxidized and then physically trapped inside the woven cotton blend fiber. This special sulfur dyeing procedure is used to create a full range of colors including browns, yellows, greens, (earth tones) as well as violets, reds, oranges, and neutrals (or nudes)

Modern vs. Iconic
There are traditionally two main casts to look at when assessing denim. That is the red cast and the green cast. Red cast denim is typically more of an iconic, American look. While green cast denim is specific to a modern, European or Japanese look.

Acid Wash Denim
To generate acid wash denim, a pumice stone immersed in chlorine is used to scrub the fabric. It can similarly be produced with chemical acids put into the wash. The color scrubbed fades and produces the mottled, rinsed, and worn look. This look blew tf up in the 1980s and has had copious recurrences.

Stone Wash Denim
Stonewash is achieved with pumice stones to extract the dye and abrase the fabric to give a lived-in look. Stonewash is a bit harder to regulate and may give an uneven abrasion. Items made from these types of denim do not last as long as this process ages the denim as if the garment had been worn and thinned over time.

Ecru Denim
Ecru is the original denim that has not yet been dyed. Before indigo or sulfur is added to the woven cotton blend threads, you have Ecru which is a creamy colorless cotton material.

Because although our denim may fade, our love for it stands strong in our wardrobes.