This is the fit that Levi’s introduced on their 1966 501 model and was only produced for the next five years. However the style is reproduced a lot from the 90‘s on by Japanese denim brands and used as inspiration for modern day fits because of its rather slim fit and the tapered legs.
This refers to the number of weft threads per warp thread. Traditional denim is woven in this 3 to 1 weave, contrary to lighter weight denim (under 10.5 oz. a yard, like chambray) woven with a 2x1 weave. The 3x1 weave is woven with a pattern like: over, over, over, under, over, over, over, under and so forts.
The standard of five pockets that is usual nowadays on a blue jeans design. Introduced by Levi’s in 1922 with its new 501 design, it consists out of two back-pockets, two front-pockets and a coin-pocket inside the right front-pocket. The Levi’s prototype from 1873 only had three: two in the front and one on the back, but nowadays five pocket jeans are considered the industry standard.
The original Levi’s button-fly jean, introduced to the world in 1873 by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis. They patented the use of copper rivets to reinforce their worker’s pants. The number 501 was designated around 1890, around the same time the brand introduced the coin pocket. The 501 is further known for the double arch stitching on the back pockets, the world famous two horse leather patch and its red tab. In 1964 the 501 became part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C, signifying how engrained in today’s culture it is.
The distressed section on a pair of denim, where the fabric shows results of heavy wear. Often created with use of the washing technique with pumice stones on pre-washed jeans.
This washing technique could singlehandedly represent the 1980s. Acid wash used pumice stones soaked with chlorine. This would strip off the color of the top layer of the fabric creating sharp contrasts all over the jeans, which were popularized by hard rock and metal acts. Candida Laundry patented the process in 1986.
The first major supplier of denim fabric in the United States, located in a New Hampshire factory town. This was the source of denim used on the first pairs of Levi’s by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. All that rests now is just an abandoned ruin of the old factory, but the legacy lives on.
This term was introduced by Levi’s/ popularised by Rifle and describes a baggy look. The waist area of the jeans don’t follow the shape of the body as the rise of the jean are cut in a straight line, as opposed to curved.
Also known as skewing, anti-twist is a phase in the finishing process before sanforization. Denim is a twill weave, in which blue and white yarns were interwoven. Because of the way it was cut, the legs always tended to twist in the direction of the diagonal weave. Raw denim is anti-twisted to cancel out
Generally refers to the decorative double-stitching on the back pockets, shaped like bat wings. Levi’s is credited with first using it on their very first 501, and they’re commonly still associated with this iconic jeans. It goes further than mere association though – particularly in the U.S., where no other denim brand is allowed to sell jeans with patterns that even remotely resemble the Levi’s arcs. Japanese reproduction brands have imitated the arc’s, an act that resulted in several lawsuits.
A word borrowed from Japanese, the term describes the selective fading alongside the ridges of the seams. In most cases it concerns the seams on the back-yoke, back pockets, the belt loops and zip fly.
While a ‘back cinch’ traditionally refers to the leather strap attaching the saddle around a horse’s back, on a pair of jeans it is used to tighten the waistband. Also known as a martingale it consists of a denim strap and a buckle. Jeans with a back cinch also referred to as ‘buckle back’ and most jeans manufacturers abandoned the back cinch in 1942.
Traditionally a paper or cardboard flap attached to the right back pocket to indicate differences in size, finishing, fabrics and shapes. Also used as a marketing gimmick, it often featured illustrations that referred to a specific theme associated with that specific model, like Westerns.
Wide-cut pants, with a low-slung waist, a very low crotch and the polar opposite of skinny jeans. The oversized models were initially especially popular among skaters and in hiphop scenes. It supposedly originated in American prisons were prisoners wore their oversized overalls but were not allowed belts.
Refers to the pulling together of several individual threads of yarn into a single thread that is then wound onto a wooden beam – the ball warp. Used specifically when yarn is dyed.
These tacks are closely spaced stitches, forming a band, or bar, on virtually all denim garments that act as reinforcements on stresspoints such as zippers and pocket openings.
A fabric weave where more than one weft thread passes over and under the same number of warp threads, producing a checkered or plaid pattern. Not as strong as plain weaves, however.
A specific weave, with ribs down the length of the fabric. Widths of the ribs can vary. Has the look of unbrushed and corduroy without the velvet touch. It takes its name from the town of Bedford, England, and is usually a combination of two weaves, i.e. ‘plain’ and ‘drill’.
It is said these models were first spotted with US navy men wearing the bell-shaped pants, although clothing could vary per ship. The bell-bottoms were extremely popular during the 1960s and ‘70s, it had a tight waist and thighs but flared below the knees. This gave the jeans a vague resemblance to the shape of a bell, which is supposedly how the name Bellbottoms was coined. Around the same time, this particular model was also very popular among German carpenters who wore them to prevent sawdust from getting into their shoes.
As the name indicates, these were placed around the waist to hold a belt. They replaced the suspender buttons around the 1920s to supply the trend of belts that emerged after the WWI. Most jeans have five loops, but some brands like Wrangler have seven, for extra support.
This term denotes a collector’s item from the Levi’s range. Prior to 1971, all Levi’s jeans and jackets featured a red tab with an uppercase “E” and are now much sought after for their exposed selvage, ring fabric and XX denim.
A denim weave that uses black yarn instead of indigo. Black denim is sulphur-dyed (or ‘over-dyed’) , unlike its blue cousin, and creates a strong dark black color. Wrangler claims to have introduced as far back as 1950 when they produced it for a tv series about a cowboy.
A chemical that is needed in the process of fading denim. Typically, either sodium hydrochloride or potassium permanganate is used.
Established in 1904 and producing denim overalls, they started making jeans after the World War II. Their first jeans produced in 1947 were named Wrangler, the name the company is now known with.
Reminiscent of bell bottoms in their shape, but less extreme. Bootcut, or bootleg, have a wider leg openings that were originally intended to more easily fit over boots.
A denim weave in which the twill line changes direction. Whereas until the 1960s denim was woven to the left or right hand side, causing the legs to twist, broken twill reverses this to cancel out the leg twist effect.
Brushing is part of the final treatment for a worn out look. Thighs and backside of a pair of jeans are ‘brushed’with an electrical brush that smoothes over rough edges that may appear earlier in the treatment process.
A doll introduced by H.D. Lee in 1920 and used as advertising mascot wearing Lee miniature outfits. The 13” dolls were made of ceramic until 1949, when the less fragile plastic dolls started being produced. The production of the Buddies stopped in 1962 and nowadays they are valuable collectors items.
Artificial creases around the thighs that are created during the finishing process. The term “Buffies” is taken from the Italian word for moustache, ‘baffi’.
Heavyweight weave (from 14 oz upwards). Bull denim is an ecru fabric and during production is either printed or piece- or garment dyed.
Small, usually round fasteners used to attach two pieces of fabric together. Traditional type is composed of two parts: a short nail that is attached to the fabric, and the more visible part, the head. Typically made of a metal alloy such as copper, brass or aluminium. Three styles can be distinguished: shank, sew-through and stud.
The original jeans fastening at the front fly, with buttons instead of the later introduced zipper.
A heavy-duty and durable fabric with a plain-weave. Normally used to fabricate sails, tents, backpacks and sturdy fabrics. Woven from cotton or linen yarns, although historically made from hemp. Levi Strauss used hemp canvas on his first pairs of ‘waist overalls’, before he found out about the cotton twilled ‘denim’.
See “Big E”
A style of pants that ends around mid-calf or just below the calf.
The term refers to the large side pockets on these pants, usually located on the thigh. This item originates in the armed forces for storage purposes.
A descriptive term for a loose fitted style of jeans. They have a shape similar to that of a carrot: wide at the top, narrow towards the bottom. Also known as peg jeans.
This refers to any extra color tones that might be present in denim fabric that is sometimes added by way of an additional dyeing process. Indigo denim can have a black, brown, gray, green, red or yellow caste to it.
Certain enzymes can be used to dissolve the cellulose in cotton. When the denim is washed in a cellulose enzyme bath the indigo is removed along with the fibre. To stop the process the water is either heated or the alkalinity of the bath is altered. This process is said to be more environmentally friendly than stone washing since it does not use pumice stones which needs to be mined.
The traditional stitch used to hem jeans. It uses one continuous thread that loops back on itself and ends up looking like the links of a chain.
Also known as ‘cambric’, chambray is a plain woven, medium weight cotton fabric. Usually made from blue and white yarns, used for making shirts, dresses and children’s clothing. It takes its name from the town of Chambrai in the north of France. A heavier version was used for workmen’s shirts in the USA and as such supposedly the source for the term ‘blue collar’.
A type of trousers originated from the khaki uniforms worn by the British colonial military troops. The term was brought into use when trousers for the US military were made in China and exported to the then American colony of the Philippines. The Spanish heritage in the colony paved the way for the term Chino, meaning ‘Chinese’ in Spanish language. Chinos were used by the military during the World War II. Nowadays the term is used for any cotton twill made trousers.
Straight-legged, slim fit pants.
A method applied in the finishing process of production. Normally done using pigment, acrylic or polyurethane coating. Acrylic and PU are transparent, while pigment gives a new look to the denim. Used to prevent fading of the fabric and stains. Often gives a leather-like shine to the denim.
The fifth pocket, strictly functional. This small-added pocket can be found inside the right front pocket. Also known as the watch or match pocket. It supposedly first appeared in 1902 and has become smaller over the years, yet retains its functionality.
The level of attachment of dye to the garment. Indigo is common for use on denim garments because of its color fastness. The contact of the garment with water and exposure to sunlight often results in loss of the color.
Combing is a preparation process after fibers have been carded. It separates and untangles fibers. It is performed just before the fibers are spun into yarn.
A name that sounds familiar to denimheads all over the world. Not surprising since it’s to this day one of the biggest denim manufacturers in the world. It started its business in 1891 in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was founded by the Cone brothers and started out as a wholesale grocer. A few years after opening its doors, it began weaving cloth. It then started supplying Levi’s in 1910 and became exclusive supplier for the 501s in 1922.
While folklore has it that this term comes from the French: ‘Corde du Roy’ or cord of the king, there is in fact no such phrase. Rather, the French know this type of fabric as “velours côtelé”. This fabric is a tough, durable fabric with a cotton base. It is ribbed throughout the length. The fabric is woven by having one warp and two fillings and mostly used for winter clothing.
Also known as polycore, this is created by twisting staple fibres around a filament core, usually made of polyester, for extra strength.
A vegetable fibre collected from the cotton plant. It has been used to make cloth for over 7000 years. It withstands high temperatures and can therefore be boiled and hot pressed. Abrasion resistant and gains 10% in strength when wet. The most valuable varieties are Egyptian, Sea Island and Prima. Cotton accounts for more than 40% of the total world fibre production.
See under ‘duck’.
See under “Whiskers”
Describing the process of the dye that rubs of the denim and ‘bleeds’ on your skin, shoes or any other fabric.
Describes a unique criss-cross pattern in the weave that is a result of unevenly yarn for warp and weft threads, resulting in a grid-like pattern.
A rivet attached at the base of the button fly for reinforcement purposes. Levi’s removed them from their jeans in 1942 after numerous complaints from cowboys about these rivets heating up considerably in front of campfires. Others were forced to remove them from their jeans to save metal for the war effort.
Denim that looks permanently wrinkled. A look that is achieved by weaving it with an overtwisted weft yarn. The fabric then shrinks when washed. The result can be made even more visible by stonewashing and/or bleaching.
A cotton twill fabric, composed of indigo-dyed yarn for the warp and natural yarn for the weft. Known as a work wear fabric since the late 18th century, it is now most commonly associated with jeans. Supposedly the name stems from the French ‘serge de Nîmes’ a silk and wool fabric that originated in Nîmes, in the south of France. The fabric is nearly always indigo-dyed and has diagonal ribbing that can be seen on the reverse side of the fabric.
A word to describe denim fanatics.
The density of denim refers to the number of yarns that make up the weave. Four categories differentiate the density: low, medium, high and super high. This is the difference between looser or tighter fabric construction.
A specific sort of enzyme rinse that is done to soften denim fabric.
Artfully shredded jeans, mostly by scissors and knives. This look first gained popularity in the mid-Eighties when Katherine Hamnett showed slashed jeans on the runway. It has never completely gone out of style.
The act of dipping yarn or fabric into dye. The more it is dipped, the darker the eventual colour. In between dips, the yarn is usual exposed to air, to allow the indigo to oxidize.
Jeans that underwent excessive wear and show strong abrasions and have ripped and torn parts. Can be artificially created to give the jeans a real vintage and worn-out look. Taken to extremes with frayed hems and seams, the denim is torn and ripped, and so on. It should be noted however that pre-distressed denim does not mold to your body the way raw denim does.
Any type of fabric that is made with a dobby weave. In this process, the warp threads are lowered and raised throughout to form different patterns in the weave. Identifiable by the unique texture of the cloth.
With double-dyeing, denim is dipped in the indigo bath 12 to 16 times, instead of the regular 6-8 dips. The color of the denim ends up a darker, deeper and brighter shade of blue as a result.
Also called ‘twin needle’. A method that is used to create perfectly parallell seams, most often to make jeans stonger and more durable. Double stitching on back pockets is tell tale sign of a classic jeans look.
Also called ‘twin needle’. A method that is used to create perfectly parallell seams, most often to make jeans stonger and more durable. Double stitching on back pockets is tell tale sign of a classic jeans look.
A step in the spinning process, whereby slivers of cotton fiber are passed through several drafting rolls. This ‘drafts’them into a single strand and is repeated to ensure uniformity in the fnal yarn.
A durable fabric made of cotton with a strong diagonal twill weave. It is a lightweight, strong, breathing fabric. It is because of these specific qualities that it’s used on sails and tents as well as uniforms and safari clothing.
The original production form of denim, when it is still unwashed and untreated. After dyeing and weaving of the fabric, the cloth is quite stiff and has a deep blue indigo color with a shine. It is left up to the wearer to break in their jeans made of dry/raw denim. In this condition, the jeans mold to the wearer’s body type and shape, creating unique folds and fade marks along the way. Also see “raw denim”.
Dual ring-spun denim is made from ring spun yarn, providing a rougher and uneven fabric. It is the most expensive choice out of dual ring-spun, ring-spun and open-end denim. See also under “ring-ring denim”
A type of canvas that has tight woven threads, opposed to the plain weave type of canvas. Supposedly the name derived from the Dutch word ‘doek’. This canvas is created from medium to coarse yarns. Cotton duck is classified by weight, with a heavier weight being more thick and durable.
Similar pants to jeans but generally baggier due to their work wear origins. The word itself refers back to Dongari Kapar, a thick cotton country cloth, that is produced in India. The British originally used the sturdy cloth for tents and sails, and made clothing from the leftovers.
Tinting procedure of the denim cloth, in which the natural cotton warp yarn is dipped into a number of indigo dye baths. After each bath, the denim is hung out to allow the indigo to oxidize, which eventually turns the color from yellow to green to blue. As a last step, the yarn is rinsed to remove excess dye.
Denim that is made with environmentally friendly dyes and recycling techniques. After the dyeing process for example, remains of the indigo substance are filtered and recycled for other dye baths, rather than simply thrown out.
This is the natural color of undyed denim. There are jeans that have not been dyed with indigo that have this color, but they are quite hard to find.
Also known as “production sharing” , 807 is a controversial law that relates specifically to the textile industry. It allows manufacturers to reduce the cost of labor for their products. In practice, this means they are allowed to have their garments cut in the United States, assembled in Mexico, Caribbean and Central American countries and returned to the US.
An elastic fiber used in stretch jeans. See under “stretch denim”.
G-star’s defining, signature jeans model, designed in 1996 by Pierre Morisset, the company’s head designer. The look was inspired by a rain-soaked motorcyclist. It was all the more remarkable because light washings and standard five pocket jeans were all the rage back then. An instant classic was born.
Decorative details that are added to jeans by sewing. Different colors are used for perspective and depth purposes. Most commonly found on back pockets and often seen on the back of denim jackets.
Launched by Levi’s in 2001 this model comes with a twist and is different from anything the brand made before. The model closely follows the body’s contours and as such based on ergonomic principles. It allows for optimal freedom of movement. Engineered jeans are available for both men and women.
A particular washing method to give jeans a worn out look. It also softens the fabric and brings out highlights. Enzymes are organic, non-toxic substances that speed up chemical processes and are used as an alternative to stone washing.
An effect that is obtained after repeated wear and wash of indigo dyed denim. The indigo attached to the cotton fibres detaches and therefore the denim fades. Recognizable by its lighter color other than the standard dark shade of blue or black. Multiple methods exist to create this effect artificially, eg. stone washing or bleaching.
Cotton is graded according to strength, staple length, color, smoothness and uniformity. This term stands for an average grade of cotton, usually used in denim.
Hair-like strings or threads that form part of the composition of fabrics. There are two kinds: natural and artificial fibers.
Filling threads are horizontal threads that pass through the warp threads via the shuttle during weaving. They run perpendicular to the selvage. They are less strong than the warp threads because they are not subjected to the stress and tension that warp threads are.
a) Finishing processes are used to age denim garments or create other effects by various means such as the enzyme wash or the stone wash.
b) It may also refer to the very last step in denim production, which consists of three phases: running the denim through rolls to remove excess lint or fibers; hauling it through a gas flame to burn off these fibers. Lastly, the cloth is dipped in a vat of a finishing liquid and run through ringers to remove any remaining liquid.
Describes and determines the cut, shape and design of any pair of jeans. Different brands offer varying lengths, sizes and specifics such as loose fit, skinny fit, boot cut or straight fit to accommodate different preferences and body types.
See under “tab”
Jeans with low rise and bell bottom flare. Another style that was in huge demand in the ‘70s and even made a (shortlived) comeback in 2000.
See under ‘back pocket flasher’
This was a nickname given to fortune seekers during the Gold Rush of 1849. The name combines the year and the word ‘miner’. Levi Strauss was at this time already selling canvas to these ‘forty niners’ as tent fabric, but through his interaction with them it became apparent this material would be better suited to make pants out of. It was this that led to the birth of the 501.
Especially for women, this is a tight style of jeans. It is made of stretch material for a very close fit. It is therefore also known as ‘second skin’.
Very pale blue jeans, frosted denim was an especially popular washing in the 1980s.
Whereas yarn dye takes place before the weaving of the yarn, garment dye, or “just in time dyeing” is done with the finished garment. It is stocked in ecru or bleached color, then dyed in a range of colors, depending on demand. Tell tale signs of garment dye are pocket linings or labels that have the same color as the self-fabric.
Supposedly this is where the term ‘jeans’ came from, not least because it refers to the type of pants Genoese sailors used to wear in the 19th century. The French referred to the blue fabric that these pants were made of as “blue de Genes” , or the blue from Genoa. The life of a sailor was rough and intense, and the tough material was perfectly suited to being used and abused. The sailors would wash their pants by dragging them behind the ships in fishing nets. They would then fade in color because of the seawater and being exposed to the sun.
The process of removing seeds from the cotton got its name from the cotton gin, which was invented by Eli Whitney in 1794.
A period during the 19th century in which countless people migrated to North America (and Australia) in search of gold. It was during this period that Levi Strauss came to San Francisco and settled there as a businessman, picking up on this Gold Rush to create a pair of durable canvas pants that would establish his business and ensure his name in the history books.
Symbolized by the letters ‘GM’, good middling is a term for the highest quality of cotton. It has an off-white color and contains virtually no other matter. Middling cotton is the standard to measure all grades of cotton.
A denim dye process in which the denim is dyed with green sulphur dye before the indigo is added. It gives the denim a blue/green-ish color. With wear and time, the indigo fades and the green underneath is gradually exposed.
A denim dye process in which the denim is dyed with grey sulphur dye before the indigo is added.
Refers to the denim where the short cotton pile has not been burned off the surface, which will stick up when washed.
A term to describe how denim feels, referring to the material’s specific characteristics like smoothness,stiffness, stretchability or thickness.
Just like labels, tabs and back pocket flashers, hang tags are another way for brands to communicate its philosophy and the specifics of its products. They ‘hang’ from garments, hence the name.
A dyeing process to maximize color penetration, that also makes the yarn keep its soft feel. Yarn is looped over a hook and dipped in water, which opens up the fibers. This allows the dye to reach everywhere. The fabric is left in the dye for 48 hours, then washed and redipped, a process that is repeated a few times.
All denim that is heavier than 12 oz. is considered heavy weight.
A process of adjusting cloth by folding up a cut edge twice and sewing it in place, preventing it from unravelling. Denim is usually hemmed in the factory with a chain stitch.
Is a low-cost and extreme versatile seed plant. It is cultivated in China from as far back as 4000 BC. It is one of the strongest plant fibers and creates a durable fabric similar in texture to linen.
A distinctive V-shape weave, also knowns as ‘Chevron weave’, that is reminiscent of a herring’s skeleton. Twills are run in two different directions to achieve this effect. Most often found in tweed and some other wool fabrics.
A durable fabric, associated with workwear, similar to denim. The difference resides in the order of the dyed and un-dyed threads on the warp, creating the striped pattern of the fabric.
Hige is Japanese for ‘moustache’ or ‘whiskers’. Horizontal fade lines around the hip and crotch section of a jeans that are formed by extensive wear of dyed denim. Especially in raw denim this is the area that fades first.
Style of jeans especially popular in the 1960s and early ‘70s. It featured a low waist and tight fit, which inspired the nickname.
See under “flare jeans”
Also referred to as just ‘combs’, this refers to the area at the back of the knee of a pair of jeans. The indigo colour fades the more the pants are worn, and is said to resemble honeycomb patterns.
Very short cut-off jeans for women, they’re typically cut off right below the seat, exposing the whole of the leg. It became a common sight in the 1970s.
A term used to describe fabric that has been washed time and again for an extremely faded look.
An American and British Imperial unit of size, used to indicate length and waist size of jeans. One inch is 2.54 centimeters.
Known as the living color, as it does not bond strongly to the fiber it is applied to. Its first use can be traced back 4000 years and was obtained from the leaves of the Indigofera plant. China and India are the natural homes of this plant. Exports of it rose dramatically in the 15th century when the sea route to India was discovered. Around 400 years later, German scientist Adolf von Baeyer perfected a formula for synthetic indigo, which soon overtook the demand for the traditional production of the dye. It is to this day one of the world’s most favorite dyes.
The inseam is the length as measured from the inside of the pantleg, from the crotch to the hemline (which should reach to the anklebone). Together with the waist size, the inseam determines the various jeans sizes.
Yarn, made from two or more kinds of fibers. Like cross pollination, the idea is to bring together, and highlight, the best qualities of the fibers used, and minimizing the lesser qualities, creating a superior blend.
The term ‘Iro-Ochi’ is Japanese for “color slips”, and as such refers to a look whereby only exposed areas are faded during the fading process.
See under “uneven yarn”.
A denim cloth that is in very high demand due to its amazing quality. This quality is maintained by the traditional production methods used in Japan: using the 28-inch shuttle looms from back in the day, as well as high quality ring-spun yarn. Japanese denim is typically given several indigo baths.
One of the most recognizable items of clothing worldwide ever. Classic, five pocket jeans contain a number of elements: heavyweight indigo denim, six rivets, contrast stitching, between five and seven belt loops and a zip or button fly. Its origins lie in work wear, but midway through the 20th century, teenagers started wearing them as an act of rebellion, not wanting to fit the mold anymore. Consequently, jeans were deemed inappropriate for a good while, but became mainstream by the 1970s.
Lee started using their exclusive Jelt Denim on their denim garments from 1925 onwards. It was a 11.5 oz. denim but had the quality of a 13 oz. fabric due to its tight construction and twisted yarn. The “J” in their 101J denim jacket stands for Jelt.
Originated from the British uniform worn by colonial troops in India and later turned to the standard for the British army uniform. Nowadays used to indicate both the sand color as well as the chino style trousers made of cotton twill.
Item that identifies a brand and the garment used for the cloth. It shows the brand logo, and other relevant brand information.
A laser is used to burn off dye off the surface of the fabric. Can be used to create effects such as wrinkles or lettering.
This refers to a world famous scene of a Levi’s commercial that relaunched basics in 1985. It featured teen idol Nick Kamen who took off his jeans in a packed launderette to wash them, while Marvin Gaye’s “ I heard it through the grapevine” played in the background. It was made by British ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
Laundry is a manufacturing company that washes, sandblasts or garment dyes jeans. Italy Japan and the US lead the field in this industry because their techniques are most advanced and are therefore most influential in pushing fabric development.
This is a rectangular label made of real or imitation leather or paper, usually sewn to the waistband above the right back pocket. It usually shows the brand’s logo, lot number of the jeans, as well as size details. Levi’s replaced its leather tag with a paper tag from their 1954 501 model onwards.
Describes how the direction of the weave heads to the left. It gives the material a soft feel after washing. It is however difficult to produce as it needs to be treated with care during sanforization and finishing.
The openings at the bottom of all pairs of (denim) pants. The width of it varies per brand and model.
The phenomenon of left or right hand twills that tend to twist in the direction of the weave. A broken twill weave is often used to prevent this from happening, as leg twist are quite noticeable on the outer seams.
The (bachelor) button on a button-fly pair of jeans that contains the brand’s logo or name. Introduced after the anonymous “doughnut button” that used to be the standard on jeans.
A loom is a weaving machine that produces fabric by weaving vertical threads of yarn (link: Warp) with horizontal threads (link: Weft, Filling). There are three types to be distinguished: Dummy shuttle (Link), Rapier (Link) and Fluid Jet (Link).
The original method of dyeing denim by which ropes of yarn are pulled through vats of indigo and then laid out on top of the roof of the factory to allow the indigo to oxidize before the next bath. It creates more consistent indigo shades than other processes. One of the three main methods to dye indigo yarn, also see ‘slasher dyeing’ and ‘rope dyeing’.
This is Dupont’s trademark for elasthane, the artificial fiber that is obtained from a resin known as segmented polyurethane. “Lycra” is a registered trademark of the Invista Group that is part of the US-based chemical group. The most commonly used variety of Lycra in stretch jeans is the T-400 type which is very resistant to chlorine.
The generic name for cellulosic fiber. It is biodegradable (made from dissolved wood pulp) therefore not hazardous to the environment. It is durable and versatile, as it can be manipulated to look like different fabrics.
A type of cotton that is cultivated in Egypt. It is very refined by nature, and has a long fiber. It is said to be difficult to manipulate in production.
An industrial process invented by John Mercer back in 1844. It does several things, one of which is ensuring the dye sticks to the fabric better. With the use of something called caustic soda, mercerization allows the dye to only color the surface of the fabric, plus the process also serves to strengthen the fabric. Cotton that has been mercerized is also known as ‘pearl cotton’ because of its added luster.
A process in which denim is pulled over horizontally placed rollers that are wrapped in either abrasive paper or a chemical abrasion agent. It leads to a faded color and softens the texture.
Millwash is a term for denim that has already been washed before being delivered to garment manufacturers.
So called because the fruits of this cotton become the ‘mother’ of next year’s crop. When indigo-dyed this cotton takes on a vintage look.
See under “Whiskers” or “Hige”
A costly and time consuming process. It takes up to almost one hundred days to prepare the dye, called sukumo in Japanese, made from dried polygonum leaves. The dye is then mixed with lye and lime and fermented. The dyeing is usually done by hand, by dipping the garment in and out of the dye pulp. The more dips, the deeper the shade of indigo. Natural indigo, unlike synthetic form, is colorfast and its will not run when washed.
This material first saw the light of day in 1935, courtesy of Wallace Carothers at DuPont. It was developed as a substitute for silk, and is one of the strongest artificial fibers around. It is durable and light weight. In fact, the only drawback to it is that it doesn´t absorb well. Nevertheless it is commonly used in outer wear.
Abbreviation for ‘other fibers’ (or altre fibre). Sometimes seen on the composition label of fabrics made of recycled material. Fabrics produced around the area of Prato in Italy are made using yarns spun from a blend of reclaimed wool, or of course other fibers.
Refers to a very soft, loose denim weave that is rinsed just once after loomstate. It’s done for environmental purposes as well as to create a specific look and feel. It is a Japanese invention from 1991 that never quite made it to European or American shores.
Often referred to as ‘O.E.’ this is the most common type of denim. Open End is an industrial type of yarn spinning using turbine machines. Open End denim was adopted by many manufacturers because it produces strong, durable jeans for less money and in less time, but is said to lack the quality that ring-spun or ring-ring denim typically have.
This is cotton that is grown in soil, free of any chemicals, for three years. It therefore has a low impact on the environment and also shies away from genetical modifying.
A one-piece garment made from denim or canvas, with a bib top and suspenders, it was originally made and worn as a work wear item.
A dyeing process whereby the fabric is either dyed too long or more than once with one or more colors. Frequently applied to add an overtone of color to the indigo.
Denim with a deliberate crinkled-looking appearance that is the result of overtwisted yarn with which the denim is made.
This type of cloth, most commonly used on dress shirts, has a basket weave pattern. Traditionally made of cotton, these days oxford cloth made from synthetic materials is no exception.
This is part of the dyeing process. For raw denim, oxidation happens when indigo yarn comes out of an indigo bath and is exposed to oxygen. This causes the deep blue color to reappear and most importantly, it ensures the color is permanently fixed to the fiber.
Abbreviation for ounces. Denim is weighed in oz. per square yard.
As the name indicates, this means a loose, pleated waistline, pulled together with a belt.
Jeans with patches of other denim or just plain other fabrics, that make it look like a customized repair job, DIY-style.
This is the patent that was granted to Levi Strauss and business partner Jacob Davis in 1873, for their revolutionary introduction of copper rivets to strengthen the stress points on pants. The patent expired in 1890.
A style of women’s wear jeans featuring ‘X’-pockets, of ankle-length, produced by Italian label Closed. The brand claims to have sold 30 million pairs of pedal pushers in the 26 years that the brand made them, which is not a stretch of the imagination, considering how popular they were.
See under “garment dyed”
A popular dyestuff used by manufacturers who want a faded look on their jeans. The pigment dye does not naturally stick to fiber. It only coats the surface and attaches itself there with the use of resins. It therefore washes off quite quickly, achieving what looks like an authentic fade. Pigment dyes are available in various colors.
Also known as tabby weave or linen weave is one of the most straightforward ways to produce cloth. The filling yarn passes over and under each warp yarn in alternating rows. The fit of the cloth can be adjusted by varying the tension of the threads during weaving. The thicker the yarn, the stronger the final fabric.
This term refers to the number of strands in a yarn. Most denim is woven from 2 or 3 ply yarn.
The (concealed) cloth used for the front pockets of a 5-pocket style jeans. Often made from a strong cotton fabric to assure duration of the pockets.
A typical jeans characteristic. Pockets on the back of jeans are usually stitched in a decorative way. The 1970s saw extensive and almost exaggerated pocket stitching, but that was a short-lived trend. From the 1980s brands used straightforward patterns, but ones that clearly differentiated them from others.
This refers to a blend of polyester and cotton that gives denim extra strength, but the look of authentic jeans. It is quite often used by manufacturers to strengthen stress points on jeans. It minimizes shrinking of the jeans as well as wrinkles.
A name that is said to have been derived from ‘papeline’, a silk fabric from Avignon in France. Poplin is a lightweight, plain weave fabric. It has a ribbed structure and is used in both clothing design and in upholstery. In clothing, this material is typically found in high quality, 100% cotton garments like shirts.
During production, fabrics typically stretch. Once they’re being washed, the fibers relax and shrink back to their original length. Pre-shrinking, or sanforizing, eliminates this. Also see under “sanforized”
As the name suggests, it indicates the power of the denim fabric. Ring spun yarn is often considered as having the strongest pull-strength.
Pumice is solidified lava. Volcanic rock that is formed when lava and water are mixed. It is the material of choice when stonewashing garments, as it is tough, rough and lightweight.
Found in the majority of denims, it is the tightest of all and retains color the longest. Its recognized by its slightly diagonal incline when looking at the warp.
The term describing the fades along the outer seam of a pair of jeans. The contours of the folded inseam are seen in the in the fades and resemble a train track.
The purest form of denim. That is, denim that has not been washed, or treated in any way. Because it has not been treated, it is quite rigid, and deep blue in color. G-star is credited with the term ‘Raw denim’. At any rate they were the first to use it for their untreated, unwashed products in 1996. Also see “dry denim”
Recycled jeans can be new or second-hand, but have been customized in some way before being sold to the consumer. Decorative patterns with rhinestones or embroidery for example, which was quite the rage in the 1970s.
Levi’s denim from before 1983 had a red line selvedge. Cone Mills, which manufactured the Levi’s denim fabric, added this red line to their selvedge to make their fabric stand out. At the time it was considered as good as a standard of excellence. Denim aficionados still argue that the red lines denote top grade denim.
This barely needs explanation. The red tab is the famous Levi’s flag, found on the right back pocket of the 501 jeans. The tab was trademarked in 1939, after its introduction to the world three years prior.
A term that is used for denim with a reddish hue. The fabric has only been dyed with indigo. See also under “caste”
A novel use of denim, patented by Japanese designer Toshi Hosogai. He has come up with a design for jeans that allowed them to be worn the normal way and inside out, as the regular inside has clean finishes and as such cannot be distinguished as the ‘inside’.
A weaving construction, typical for denim, where the twill line runs diagonally from bottom left to top right. It creates a tighter, more dense material. Over time, the fade on this type is more distinct than on other types.
See under “dry denim”
Ring dyeing only colors the outer layer of the yarn, and the core of the yarn remains white, as would be best seen in a cross-section of the material. This process is used for jeans that are supposed to fade with wear: as the blue wears off, the white underneath is exposed.
Ring spun yarn is made by constantly rolling and thinning fibers, using a ‘ring’ for spinning. It uses longer fibers which means the end result is a more uneven yarn. It was used as method of production until the late 1970s, but because it is labor intensive and takes more time, ring spun denim was replaced by cheaper, open end yarns. The rough and uneven look is now back in demand, because of its likeness to traditional vintage denim.
This is the term for traditionally made denim, where ring-spun yarn is used for both the warp and the weft. The yarn is created by rolling the fibers, rather than pressing them into shape, and creates a contrasting structure with a slightly washed denim look. Also named “double-ring spun denim”.
A term that implies raw denim that is only rinsed, rather than being subjected to a full wash, and therefore keeps its rough, durable qualities.
The length ranging from the crotch up to the waistband. A jeans can have a rise ranging from high to low, making the difference whether the waist is cut under or above the navel.
See under ‘yoke’.
A method of washing denim with pumice stones and cellulose enzymes to give the fabric an aged look. It takes its toll on the environment, and is therefore not used as often these days.
An accessory, most often made of metal and with a round shape, that is used to strengthen and hold together garments at their stresspoints. Also occasionally used as decoration. Levi Strauss’s partner Jacob Davis, who’d seen them used on horse blankets, introduced rivets to clothing.
Generally regarded as the best method for indigo dyeing of yarns. These yarns are twisted together until they form a rope and then briefly dipped in indigo baths. Because of the short dyeing time, the dye does not fully color the yarns. The resulting ring-dye yarn therefore fades faster than yarn that has fully absorbed the indigo. One of the three main methods to dye indigo yarn, also see ‘slasher dyeing’ and ‘loop dyeing’.
The fading effect on the hem of jeans that resembles a rope because of its diagonal fading pattern. Old Levi’s XX pairs are known for their strong roping.
S-twist yarn is a yarn spun counter-clockwise to obtain right-handed twill. Z-twist yarn is used for left-handed twill.
This is stitching with an extra thick thread, typically used to create an authentic, old-time effect.
A finishing process to soften the denim for a smoother, softer feel. Can be done with sandpaper or mechanically. Sanded jeans usually cling to the body better.
Indicating jeans that underwent the process of sanforization. Raw fabric is likely to shrink up to 20% on the initial wash. Sanforization stabilizes the fabric before it is cut or washed, by stretching and pre-shrinking it. It reduces the chance on shrinkage to less than 3%. The process was named after Sanford Lockwood Cluett and was patented in 1928 and first used in 1936 by J.C. Penney Big Mac. Lee jeans soon became sanforized, Blue Bell used them on their overalls and the Lady Levi’s introduced in 1938 were sanforized too.
Its name derives from the ‘sawtooth’ resemblance with the design of the yokes and chest pockets on the 1950’s Western shirt introduced by Levi’s.
The term that is used for the edge of the denim fabric that is usually decorated with a colored thread. It prevents the end of the denim from ravelling and gives the jeans a clean, properly finished look. The color varies, according to the brand and producer. Vintage Levi’s for example used to have an all-white strip and later had a single redline selvedge, Wrangler used a yellow and Lee often a plain white type.
As the name indicates, this is the name of the strong, blue twill cloth that is produced in Nîmes, and would become better known as denim. The town in the south of France started exporting it as early as the 17th century and by the 19th century, it supplied wholesalers in New York with the cloth. Whether the term ‘denim’ is really derived from ‘de Nîmes’ remains subject of discussion.
See under ‘slasher dyeing’.
Before such processes as sanforization and stonewashing were available, people were obliged to buy their jeans a couple of size bigger, because of the shrinkage that would occur after washing. Such un-treated jeans were soaked before wear, to shrink and soften the rigid fabric of the jeans. For example, Levi’s 501 models were shrink-to-fit until 1959. Shrink-to-fit jeans are still offered today by selected manufacturers for the true denimhead.
Once the jeans are as good as finished, the last thing that is done to it is singeing, whereby any stray, loose fibers are burnt off using a small, controlled flame.
To prevent leg twist that can happen during the shrinking process, manufacturers minimize this effect by skewing the cloth in the opposite direction of the twill. Karin Hakanson patented this step in 1976. Denim is usually skewed between 4% and 10 %, depending on the fabric’s weight, twill weave yarn size and yarn twist.
Refers to skin-tight jeans that follow the shape of the legs and are thus tapered towards the ankles.
In the slasher dyeing method, denim yarns in the form of a warpsheet are pre-treated with chemicals and followed by (multiple) dip dyeing in indigo. The sheet is then after-treated by washing, drying and sizing, and a last dry cycle completes the process. It is a low-cast alternative to the rope dyeing method. One of the three main methods to dye indigo yarn, also see ‘rope dyeing’ and ‘loop dyeing’.
An overall tight and narrow fit, particularly around the thighs, but contrary to skinny jeans they are not necessarily tapered.
Slubs are inconsistencies in denim that are created on old 28 inch shuttle looms. Due to uneven spinning, the fabric may be thicker in some areas than in others. Whereas they used to be seen as flaws, slubs are now sometimes deliberately added to give more character.
A synonym for acid-wash denim, but specifically this is a more extreme variety, in that snow-washed denim has been acid-washed until the denim has bright white highlights.
Our knowledge on denim and everything it entails extends to a large reach, but unfortunately does not encompass everything about denim. We would like to make note of some of the resources that helped us creating our Denim Dictionary:
A fiber often indicated by a certain length. In denim production it refers to the cotton fibre, and indicates a long or short “staple length”. In general longer staple lengths are more valued for they are more easily spun and can create softer and stronger yarns.
This is a process that is applied to denim fabric, usually after the singeing process, and adds starch to the fabric to stiffen the textile. When the design patterns are cut from a pile of 40 layers of denim at a time, this makes sure the textile doesn’t move or fold. When raw denim is produced this starch creates the stiffness of the fabric. Some denimheads nowadays apply the starch by hand to foster the whiskering process.
When the denim is washed, pumice stones are added to the wash cycle process, to fade the color of the denim and roughen it up a bit. This results in the aged and faded look of the denim.
The term indicating a consistent leg-width from the waist down to the leg opening.
This refers to a denim hybrid. It is denim fabric made with a percentage of elastane fiber in the weft, which makes the model cling to the body thanks to its elasticity. Cone Mills was the first (American) mill to produce it, back in 1962.
Sulphur bottom is a process in which jeans are treated with sulphur dye before the indigo baths. One result of it is you get the deeper colors in less time and it cuts down on the amount of indigo needed. Jeans treated with this process get a yellow or gray-ish cast. Also see under “caste”.
In short, the polar opposite of natural dyes, in that synthetic dyes are man-made. These are mass produced, cheaper and offer more – and brighter – color. Synthetic dyes can be categorized into acid dyes, azoi cdyes, pigment dyes and reactive dyes.
The first synthetic fiber was discovered by Wallace Carothers in 1934. The new types were made of coal or oil. Use of synthetic fibers today is everywhere, in all aspects of textile manufacturing. Well-known examples are nylon, spandex, acrylic and polyester.
The German scientist Adolf von Baeyer perfected a formula for synthetic indigo in 1878 with use of phenylacetic acid. Nowadays synthetic indigo is the standard dye for indigo-dyed jeans.
The very recognizable yet small signature label usually attached to the side of the right back pocket of any pair of jeans that identifies the pants’ brand. Also known as ‘flag’.
A specific model that is figure hugging and gets narrower, skinnier, towards the ankles.
A Japanese term that translates directly as “vertical falls”, referring to vertical faded stripes in (vintage) denim made from slub yarn. The unevenness of the thread causes the thicker parts to fade more rapid.
Indicating the tobacco color tint of the stitches commonly used by denim manufacturers.
A sewing stitch that is both practical and decorative, usually on the hem, seam and neckline of garments for a more finished look.
Often associated with traditional workwear pieces, a triple needle stitch provides more strength and durability to the seams of the garment.
The jargon for the type of denim jacket introduced by Levi’s in 1962 by the name of 557XX. It was the first jacket to feature the characteristic pointed pocket flaps. Also known as the Levi’s type III jacket.
A specific type of weave: the weft thread is passed under and over several warp threads rather than just one (plain weave).
Uneven, or slub yarn has uneven, thicker areas along the thread. Sometimes used in denim for the purpose of unique fades the more it’s worn.
The Union Special Machine company of Chicago was the leading US manufacturer of commercial sewing machines. They are nowadays highly regarded for their distinctive quality of chain-stitch machines, especially the rare 43200G model. This model is known to produce such a tight and strong chain stitch that creates a “rope effect” after wear and wash.
See under “dry denim”
A term that is thrown about a lot these days, but it means anything from the past, or second hand, when clothing happens to have been worn previously. Generally clothing older than 25 years is considered as vintage. Vintage clothing can also be clothing that has not been worn before, but stored in its original state, and is referred to as “dead stock” vintage.
This was the original term Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss used to describe their riveted denim in 1873. “Jeans” was a word that wasn’t coined and used until almost a century later, during the 1960s.
A specific construction of yarn in which the vertical yarns are alternately woven over and under the weft. It makes the resulting material stronger. In denim, warp runs parallel to the selvage. The term “warp” is said to have been derived from either the Norwegian “varp” or from the Dutch verb “werpen” i.e. to throw across.
This is the term for the horizontal threads that pass through the warp threads during weaving. The term ‘weft’ would have originated from the Old English ‘wefan’, to weave. In jeans, weft threads are typically white. Weft threads are generally not as strong as warp threads because they’re not as much strain and stress.
Denim is graded in terms of weight per square yard of fabric, in three categories: light, medium and heavy. The material usually weighs from 5oz. to 20oz, although exceptions of extremes like 30oz. do exist. Most jeans are made of 12 or 14 oz. denim. Lighter denim is mostly used on skirts, shirts and other garments.
A traditional Western Shirt is characterised by its stylized yoke on front and the back. It is normally constructed of denim and often seen with snap-fastened chest pockets and front.
A collective name for different finishing techniques that all use water, or some other liquid, in combination with mechanical treatment of the fabric or garments.
The horizontal crease lines around the crotch, thigh and knees of jeans. Formed by wearing dyed jeans resulting in an aged look. They can also be artificially applied with industrial fading techniques such as lasering or sandblasting.
A form of wet processing where sandblasted garments are stonewashed as well for an (artificial) appearance of wear and fade.
Denim that has a faded and worn look to it, because of intensive, frequent wear or by means of artificial treatment.
Cross dyeing is a technique used to dye materials made from more than 1 kind of fiber.
The name of the model jeans made by Levi’s before 1890, when they introduced the name 501, meaning “Double Extra Heavy”. However the XX symbols have been present on the tag until 1968, signifying the quality of the denim fabric woven by Cone Mills.
A long, continuous length of spun fibers. Used for the production of fabric through the process of weaving.
Fabrics where the yarn has been dyed before the weaving. Denim is a prime example of a yarn dyed fabric.
The v-shaped section at the back of a jeans that forms the curve of the seat. The deeper the ‘V’, the greater the curve. There are many types of yokes found on jeans, all meant for the different backsides of their wearers.
The majority of cotton yarns are right-hand spun, resulting in a z-twist. This type of yarn is normally used for left-handed twill, because its counter-clockwise construction results in a softer fabric. S-twist yarn is then similarly used for the right-handed twill.
The zipper was invented in 1893 and perfected in 1913. Originally it was called the hookless fastener. After sanforization of denim fabrics became institutionalized, the zipper was more widely used. Lee introduced their first zip-fly jeans in 1925 on the 101Z model.