Denim is world-renowned apparel. It can be used by people of all gender and age groups. A pair of jeans provides you a unique blend of style and comfort that is difficult to find in all apparel types. The denim industry is growing exponentially globally. The industry size in the U.S. alone is more than $15 billion. The current article is intended to be a definitive guide on denim.

What is Denim?

Denim is a popular and durable cotton twill textile. It is made by passing horizontal weft threads under two or more vertical warp threads. This manufacturing process provides the diagonal ribbing pattern of denim. Only warp threads in denim are dyed while the weft threads are white. This is the reason why the inner lining of denim is white. This is known as the indigo dyeing process. Denim gets its fading capabilities from this indigo dyeing process.

History of Denim

The actual denim fabric is believed to have originated in Nimes, France. The weavers were trying to imitate a corduroy trouser that became popular in Italy but accidentally made denim. The original fabric was similar to cotton corduroy. It was stiff and ideal for the workers. Initially, denim was largely used by the working class in Italy and France.

Jeans were popularized and brought to the masses in the U.S. by Levi Strauss & Co. Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis came up with the idea of patenting and selling trousers for workers reinforced with copper rivets at the stress points. They used denim fabric to make these sturdy and long-lasting trousers. They received their patent in May 1873. During those days, denim trousers were used mostly by miners and contractors. They were not popular as jeans in those times and were known as “waist overalls” till the 1960s.  Slowly, jeans were made popular among the masses by Hollywood. Soon they became accepted apparel for causal events and gatherings.

By the 1980s, blue jeans were popular in all first world countries. Many more manufacturers starting manufacturing and offering their version of the traditional blue jeans. During the 1990s, jeans were being uses for semi-formal workplace occasions. They were teamed with blazers to make a perfect statement for semi-formal workplace attire. Currently, denim is globally renowned and highly popular apparel among all age groups and gender. Though Levi Strauss & Co. remain the pioneer in the industry, many more manufacturers have come up and already made their mark.

Different Types of Denim

The most common types of denim that you should know are discussed below:

Raw Denim

Raw denim is the purest form of denim. It is untreated and unwashed denim as it comes from the loom. Raw denim is stiff and rigid as starch is applied to the yarns during the weaving process. These jeans are dyed in dark indigo color and not prewashed. It takes some time to break raw denim. Once you break into raw denim, they will develop unique lines, contrasts, and fading. Breaking in a pair of raw denim may be difficult compared to pre-washed denim. They are stiff and tight in the beginning but become soft and start showing signs of fading after a few days.

Selvedge Denim

Selvage denim is manufactured on old looms. It uses a manufacturing technique in which the edge of the fabric is woven to prevent unraveling. This ensures better durability of the denim. Since selvage denim is woven on old looms, not many countries can manufacture them on large scale now. Japanese denim is generally selvage denim that is woven in traditional looms. Selvage denim has a denser and stronger texture. Like raw denim, they are also stiff and tight initially. It needs some time and patience to break in and bleed out selvage denim.

Key Denim Features

Denim is characterized by the following key features:

Cut and Fit

The cut and fit of your denim are the most important and visible features. It is a dynamic feature and keeps changing with new fashion trends emerging and going. The cut refers to the cut of the leg of denim and how it will fit your body. Some of the most common cuts used in denim are as follows:

Skinny: These jeans have the tightest fit among all cuts. It fits itself tightly along your thighs and knees and has an ankle-length hem. Skinny jeans are a perfect choice for people with slim body build. It should generally be avoided by people with a heavier build.

Slim Cut: The slim cut is a slightly loose version of skinny jeans. These jeans fit tightly on your thighs and knees and start tapering out at the ankles. If you do not want the tightness of skinny cut jeans but still want a slim and trim look, then the slim cut is ideal for you.

Tapered Cut: Tapered cut jeans are a bit loose than slim cut jeans. They offer more wiggle space in the thighs and get slimmer towards the ankle. You should choose tapered cut jeans if you have bigger thighs and want some extra room in there.

Straight Leg: Straight cut jeans have the same width from top to bottom. These jeans have a classy look and are best for people who do not want to change their denim cut with changing fashion trends. Straight cut jeans are best with people for bigger legs and can be too loose for you if you have slim legs.

Boot Cut: These jeans have a straight cut from top to bottom and widen out at the ankles. They were designed to be paired with boots and hence the name. Boot cut jeans are currently out of fashion and not much in demand. However, if you have muscular calves, then you may consider buying them.


Denim was made using 100% cotton. However, with new technology and fashion trends, manufacturers have started using blended fabric too. Some manufacturers add 2% elastane or spandex in cotton to make more elastic and stretchable jeans. Denim made from such blended fabric is more compact and retain their shape better even when stretched. The downside of denim made from blended fabric is that they are less durable and get damaged quickly than denim made from 100% cotton.


Traditionally jeans were made in blue color. These days manufacturers are offering denim in a wide variety of shades to choose from. Light blue denim is best suited for day wear and casual occasions. Dark blue-colored denim is the most versatile. They can be dressed up or down with a combination of apparel to give you a perfect casual or semi-formal look. They look equally impressive with collared shirts, t-shirts, sweaters, blazers, and jackets. Black jeans are also ideal for dressing up for night occasions and semi-formal events. As a guide, the darker the color of the jeans, the more formal look it gives. To start with, you must buy a light and dark-colored blue jean that will have you covered for most occasions.

Wash and Fading

Fading occurs in denim with use and over time. Some manufacturers also offer pre-faded options. There are different ways to fade jeans but the four most common ways of intentionally fading them are as follows:

Whiskerfade: These are streaks of fading that appear usually around the groin area.

Train track fade: Train track fade is located on the outset. They promote the outer selvage that creates the outer seams.

Honeycomb fade: These are a streak of lines that appear behind the kneecap of the jeans. Honeycomb fading appears with use and becomes more pronounced over time and less wash.

Stack fade:You can create stack fading by hemming the inseam a few inches longer than the leg. This will cause the denim to stack up on the shoe and create a fade through the lower leg. As far as possible, try to avoid the stack fade as the extra material around the shoe does not look good in most cases.

How to Wash Denim?

Denim should be washed as less as possible. You must wash them only when needed. For removing minor stains, you can sprinkle cold water and rub with a dry cloth or soft brush. Always wash denim in cold water. Washing them in hot water can damage the fabric and reduce their longevity. Washing in cold water is also more eco-friendly. It is better to handwash your jeans instead of machine wash as it can damage them. Turn your jeans inside out before washing and wash it with similar colors to prevent color bleeding. You must use a mild detergent with fewer chemicals to ensure your jeans do not get damaged. Never dry them in a dryer and always let them air dry in shade.

How to Store Denim?

Storing denim properly helps to reduce wear and tear and ensures its longevity. They should be kept on top of the pile of clothes in your wardrobe. Never fold your jeans along the same crease every time. It will lead to the formation of sharp crease lines and the color will fade along those lines, making it look ugly. You can hang your jeans to keep them in shape. Avoid using hangers with sharp metal clips. These metal clips have sharp teeth that can leave permanent marks on the waistband of your jeans and may even damage them. If you experience odor from your jeans, then fold them in a plastic back and keep them in a freezer overnight. This will remove the odor.

Mistakes to Avoid While Buying Denim

Buying a pair of perfect jeans can be difficult. The most common mistakes to avoid while buying denim are discussed below:

Not Considering Your Body Type

Most people do not consider their body type before buying denim. Everyone’s body type and proportions are different. People with slim bodies can buy skinny and super skinny jeans. However, people with sturdier and a bulky build should avoid buying them. They can buy slim cut or straight cut jeans that will fit them better and be more comfortable. Similarly, if you have a bulky frame and a protruding belly, avoid buying low rise jeans. High-rise jeans will conceal the extra pound around your belly region. Always consider your body type and proportions instead of blindly buying based on the latest fashion trends.

Buying Only on Price

A pair of good jeans should be thought of as a long-term investment. They will last for a long time and help you make a classic and elegant style statement every time you wear them. While spending excess money just on the brand name is not suggested, but you should not buy denim only based on their price. If you buy too cheap denim, then they will most likely be of inferior quality and will lack the detailing and finishing. They may have lesser longevity and will have to be replaced quickly. Hence, though you will save money initially, you may have to spend more on replacing them. It is always better to spend some extra bucks and buy good quality denim.

Buying Incorrect Fit

Fit is a very important consideration while buying jeans. You should not make the mistake of buying ill-fitting jeans. A pair of well-fitting jeans can be worn without a belt. If you have to wear a belt, then ensure that the denim is not too loose at the waist that the waistband will slouch. While buying skinny jeans, check if they are too tight else, they may look bad and exaggerate your body shape too much. Always try jeans at the store to check the fit before buying them.

Buying Jeans with Excess Styling

Jeans are supposed to be classy and timeless apparel. With everchanging fashion trends, manufacturers add new design elements and styling. However, it is best to avoid buying denim with excess styling and embellishments. They will be used only until the trend lasts and will have to be replaced afterward. Buying solid blue-colored denim is always sensible as it will remain in fashion always. You will not have to worry about replacing them frequently.

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