Denim 101


  1. Denim was created in America by Levi Strauss in 1873.
  2. During his tour of America in 1882 the peacock of his day, Oscar Wilde, proclaimed jeans as the pants of the future. Today, some 138 years after Levi Strauss, denims are the most utilized items of clothing in the western world where almost everyone has one pair, and most more than seven.
  3. Ringspun denim is what we would call classic blue jeans. Long-staple cotton fibers are twisted together for strength and durability and then, literally, spun out on a ring. The resulting yarn is soft to the touch, slightly inconsistent in diameter and texture, and features the occasional small slub or fabric nodule, along its length. This yarn is then chemically dyed blue (natural indigo being no longer used) and becomes the warp, or main, thread that is woven together with an ecru-coloured or bleached white “fill” into the traditional jeans fabric.
  4. Open-end denim came into being in the 1970’s. This process cuts costs for manufacturers because it moved away from traditional thread spinning procedures and basically mashed sorter cotton fibers together into a twist. In general, open-end denim remains bulkier and wears out much more quickly than ringspun. In other words, a year after buying them, that $50-75 pair of jeans should make a great set of cleaning rags.
  5. Double ringspun represents the ultimate – in softness, in texture, and in wear. As you might guess, double ringspun uses ringspun yarn for both the warp and the weft, creating a highly durable fabric with an incredibly gently hand and a maximum amount of tactile, tufty slubs. The amount of labor and good cotton fiber that goes into jeans like these means a premium price. But then again, you’ll find that you get what you pay for.
  6. Selvage, really “self-edge,” refers to the closed finish a shuttle loom gives to the edge of woven material, so it doesn’t unravel. Because manufacturers have tried to save money in the past through use of wide projectile looms, where-in fabric edges are simple cut and sewn shut, jeans selvage, itself, grew into a mark of quality, one that was promoted by m makers through the incorporation of a signature line of coloured warp thread running parallel to the edge. Selvage will up the cost of your jeans, as will double ringspun, ring-dying, the type of twill selected and, of course, that designer label, because every stylist adds his or her distinct touch to the process. Some jeans are created more equal than others.
  7. The ultimate test of any jeans is: Do you like them? Do you like the way they feel to your hand, their touch? Do they make you look cool? And a year down the road, will you still take pride in their slightly faded appearance? If so, then you got yourself a good pair of jeans.