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Jean

Jeans are pants that are typically made from denim or dungaree cloth.  Jeans are a very popular pant style worn around the world.  They come in many style variations, colors, and finishes.  Blue jeans are particularly identified with American culture, especially the Old West (cowboys).  Although jeans are commonly known as a popular casual fashion garment, they are also worn as protective garments by many individuals.  For example, construction workers,  cattle ranchers, farmers, and motorcycle riders where jeans for their high durability rather than the fact that they look cool.  Denim and dungaree is more durable than many other fabrics.

Often the term "jeans" refers to a particular style of pants, called "blue jeans," which were invented by Jacob W. Davis in partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1871 and patented by Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss on May 20, 1873.

When Levi Strauss & Co. patented the modern, mass-produced prototype in 1873, there were two pockets in the front and one on the back with copper rivets. Later, the jeans were redesigned to today's general industry standard of 5 pockets including a little watch pocket and copper rivets.  In modern times, the watch pocket is often not needed, and a mobile device pocket has gained importance.

Women's Jeans Guess Gigi Hadid

Prior to the Levi Strauss patented trousers, the term "blue jeans" had been used for various garments (including trousers, overalls, and coats), constructed from blue colored denim.  

Originally designed for cowboys and miners, jeans gained popularity in the 1950s among teenagers (if you don’t believe us, watch the movie Greece).  You might also want to watch the movie Rebel Without a Cause staring James Dean.  That movie helped popularize jeans in the 1950’s.  After that movie, wearing jeans became a symbol of youthful rebellion.   Jeans were a common fashion item in the 1960s Hippie subculture and they continued to be popular in the 1970s and 1980s youth subcultures of punk rock and heavy metal.  They are still a very popular garment and are truly one of the staples in most people’s wardrobe.

Important jeans brands:

Levi's - if you haven't heard about Levi's, their is no use of us trying to explain to you about jeans or any other type of clothing.  If you live on this planet, you are familiar with Levi.

Lee - Lee is an American brand of denim jeans, first produced in 1889 in Salina, Kansas. The company is owned by VF Corporation, one of the largest apparel company in the world.

Wrangler - Since 1943, Wrangler has been the genuine source for comfortable jeans and western apparel. Explore their extensive collections of western clothing, including Wrangler jeans for men & women.

Guess? - Shop sexy jeans, fashion clothing and accessories for women & men.  Guess is an American upscale clothing brand and retailer. Guess also markets other fashion accessories besides clothes, such as watches, jewelry and perfumes. The company also owns the line Marciano.

Lucky Brand Jeans - Staying true to the rich heritage and authentic, all-American spirit of denim, Lucky Brand began crafting great-fitting, vintage-inspired jeans in Los Angeles in 1990. They gave them their distinctively Lucky look by literally putting them through the wringer, ripping, fraying, sanding, patching and washing by hand to give them true character and soul. Then, they added authentic hardware, personalized touches and playful details, and an American legend was born.

Learn about vintage jeans from our vintage jeans product page.

Various jean fits:

skinny

tapered

slim

straight leg

boot cut or bootcut

cigarette bottom

narrow bottom

bell bottom

low waist

lowrise jeans

anti-fit

flare

mom jeans

cropped

carpenter jeans

drainpipe jeans

ovealls / bibs

See examples of some of these different jean fits.

Above are only a few of the various stylistic options.

Jeans Overalls

Jean fabrics: 

Jean fabric is said to have started in Genoa, Italy, and Nimes, France.  Gênes, the French word for Genoa, may be the origin of the word "jeans".  In Nimes, France, weavers tried to reproduce jean but instead developed a similar twill fabric that became known as denim, from de Nimes, meaning "from Nimes".  Genoa’s jean was a fustian textile of "medium quality and of reasonable cost", very similar to cotton corduroy for which Genoa was famous, and was "used for work clothes in general".  Nimes’s "denim" was coarser, considered higher quality and was used "for over garments such as smocks or overalls".  Nearly all Indigo, needed for dyeing, came from indigo bush plantations in India till the late 19th century. It was replaced by indigo synthesis methods developed in Germany.

Denim is a sturdy cotton warp-faced textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads.  This twill weaving produces a diagonal ribbing that distinguishes it from cotton duck.

The most common denim is indigo denim, in which the warp thread is dyed, while the weft thread is left white. As a result of the warp-faced twill weaving, one side of the textile is dominated by the blue warp threads and the other side is dominated by the white weft threads. This causes blue jeans to be white on the inside. The indigo dyeing process, in which the core of the warp threads remains white, creates denim's signature fading characteristics. 

Denim is not the only sturdy cotton fabric used for everything from working clothes to fashion items. There is also dungaree. Dungaree was mentioned for the first time in the 17th century, when it was referred to as cheap, coarse thick cotton cloth, often colored blue but sometimes white, worn by impoverished people in what was then a region of Bombay, India a dockside village called Dongri. This cloth was "dungri" in Hindi.  Dungri was exported to England and used for manufacturing of cheap, robust working clothes. In English, the word "dungri" became pronounced as "dungaree".

Dungaree fabric (used in English since 1605–15, from the Hindi dungrī) is a historical term for coarse thick 2/2 twill-weave cotton cloth, often colored blue.  Cotton twill with indigo dyed warp thread is now more commonly referred to as denim, or more specifically blue denim. The word is possibly derived from Dongri, a dockside village near Mumbai.  In US English the term is used for hard-wearing work trousers made from such fabric, and in British English for bib overalls in various fabrics, either for casual or work use.  By 1891 Kipling was using the word to refer to a kind of garment (in the plural) as well as a fabric.

What is the difference between dungaree and denim?

Dungaree appears to be a subset of denim and typically refers to the most common style of blue denim.  Typically only the warp threads are pre-dyed with the traditional coloring agent indigo, the weft threads are left uncolored (white), resulting in the unique fade patterns of the fabric. Denim refers to cotton twill which may be warp dyed, undyed, or dyed after weaving.  Denim may be 2x1 or 3x1 twill.

Pre-shrinking fabric: In 1962 Levi Strauss introduced pre-shrunk jeans, which did not shrink further after purchase, allowing the consumer to buy his or her correct size.  Despite most jeans in modern times being "pre-shrunk", they are still sensitive to slight further shrinkage and loss of color from being washed.

Stretch denim incorporates an elastic component, such as spandex.  This creates a certain amount of "give" in garments made from stretch denim fabrics.  Only a small percentage (about 3%) of spandex is required within the fabric to create a significant stretching capacity of about 15%. It has been said that the stretch fabric may not last as long as the non-stretch fabric.  Possibly due to the extra wear taking place during that stretch and release action that occurs over and over again over the life of the garment. 

Jean finishes to achieve a used look:

Distressed which is visibly aged and worn, but still intact and functional.  Distressed jeans trousers have become increasingly fashionable, making pre-sale "factory distressing" a common feature in commercially sold jeans.  In other words, the distressing takes place at the factory.  The other way to get distressed jeans is to simply wear them often.  Over time, they will become distressed.  The factory distressing is an attempt to make them look old and worn even though they are brand new. 

Acid Wash Jeans – Two different stories.

Does this process really use acid or chemicals?  I think we have to better understand the difference between acid, chemicals, or base. Although I don’t fully understand, I have read that, “Bases are the chemical opposite of acids. Acids are defined as compounds that donate a hydrogen ion (H+) to another compound (called a base). Traditionally, an acid (from the Latin acidus or acere meaning sour) was any chemical compound that, when dissolved in water, gives a solution with a hydrogen ion activity greater than in pure water, i.e. a pH less than 7.0. Correspondingly, a base was any compound that, when dissolved in water, gives a solution with a hydrogen ion activity lower than that of pure water, i.e. a pH higher than 7.0 at standard conditions.".  OK, did you understand any of that.

In regard to jeans, the “used" or "acid wash" look is created by means of abrading the jeans and/or treating them with chemicals, such as acryl resin, phenol, a hypochlorite, potassium permanganate, caustic soda, acids etc. 

We think that the term acid-washed denim is a misnomer since no acid is actually used in the process.  Denim is washed with pumice stones and chlorine until it is bleached almost white.  This process can also occur naturally over time from the sun and other conditions.

California surfers and members of the 1960s counterculture prized Levi 501s and other jeans that had been bleached by the salt water due to their authentic, "lived in" appearance.  As natural wear took weeks, or even months, it was not uncommon to hang a few new pairs of jeans to fade in the sun, then turn them over to fade the other side. For many surfers, this process simply took too long, so they sped up the process by soaking the jeans in diluted bleach and some beach sand. Simple chlorine bleach and muriatic acid were readily available at this time, as they were used to sterilize swimming pools. 

Sandblasting or abrading with sandpaper is also a technique to make jeans look used.  Consumers wanting jeans that appear worn can buy jeans that have been specially treated.  To give the fabrics the worn look, sandblasting done with chemicals or by adding pumice stone to the washing process or abrading with sandpaper is often done.

If you are looking for a used jean look, you may want to also learn about ripped jeans.

Stone Washing Jeans

Stone washing is a textile manufacturing process used to give a newly manufactured cloth garment a worn-in (or worn-out) appearance. Stone-washing also helps to increase the softness and flexibility of otherwise stiff and rigid fabrics such as canvas and denim.

The process uses large stones to roughen up the fabric being processed. The garments are placed in a large horizontal industrial clothes washer that is also filled with large stones. As the wash cylinder rotates, the cloth fibers are repeatedly pounded and beaten as the tumbling stones ride up the paddles inside the drum and fall back down onto the fabric.

Stonewashed jeans are jeans that have been treated to produce a faded, worn appearance. This is usually accomplished either by washing the jeans with pumice in a rotating drum, or also by using chemicals to create the appearance without the use of a rotating drum. The expanding cost of importing pumice stone from Italy, Greece and Turkey led to extensive mining of pumice deposits in California, Arizona, and New Mexico, triggering a negative response from American ecologist groups.  The reduction of pumice usage and the growing disposal of its chemically-tainted residue triggered a search for novel methods, notably the use of alternative abrading materials or machines and the use of cellulase enzymes.  Stonewashed jeans were a popular 1970s fashion trend, before commercial acid wash denim was introduced in the 1980s.  In the 2000s, stonewashed jeans were heavily distressed, with pre-made holes, frayed edges and extensive fading caused by sandblasting.  By the way, pumice in its powdered or dust form, is a volcanic rock that consists of highly vesicular rough textured volcanic glass, which may or may not contain crystals. It is typically light colored. 

Women's Jeans

Dyeing Denim Fabric

Traditionally, jeans were dyed to a blue color using natural indigo dye.  Denim can now also be dyed using synthetic indigo (synthetic meaning not natural).  Only a few grams of the dye are required for each pair of jeans (note: they are usually not dyed one at a time, but they can be).  For other colors of denim other dyes must be used.  Currently, jeans are produced in any color that can be achieved with cotton.  Learn more about indigo on the Fashion Blog.

Denim was originally dyed with a dye produced from the plant Indigofera tinctoria (Indigofera tinctoria, also called true indigo, is a species of plant from the bean family that was one of the original sources of indigo dye. It has been naturalized to tropical and temperate Asia, as well as parts of Africa, but its native habitat is unknown since it has been in cultivation worldwide for many centuries.), but most denim today is dyed with synthetic indigo dye.  When using natural dyes or synthetic dyes, the yarn undergoes a repeated sequence of dipping and oxidation.  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, grey, rust, mustard, and green. 

Dry or raw denim (contrasted with "washed denim") is denim that is not washed after having been dyed during production. 

Over time, dry 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.  On a pair of jeans, this includes the upper thighs, the ankles, and the areas behind the knees.  This is more natural than buying new jeans that have been distressed for the wearer by the factory. 

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; this is pre-washing). 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 naturally over time from being worn.  In jeans made from dry denim, such fading is affected by the body of the person who wears them and by the activities of their daily life.  This process creates what many enthusiasts feel to be a look more "natural" than artificially distressed denim.  This is more authentic for sure.

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.

Dry denim also varies in weight, typically measured in by the weight of a yard of denim in ounces. 12 Oz. or less is considered light denim, 12 Oz. to 16 Oz. is considered mid-weight, and over 16 Oz. is considered heavy weight. Heavier denim is much more rigid and resistant to wear, but can also take more wears to break in and feel comfortable.

Patterns of fading denim

Natural "honeycomb" fades - 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.  Combs or honeycombs 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 parallel lines of fades which resemble train tracks.  If you are not sure what an outseam is, you can visit our clothing measurements section.

What is the selvedge? About selvage denim. 

Selvedge denim refers to a unique type of selvedge 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 selvedge." This method of weaving the selvage is possible only when using a shuttle loom.

Denim jeans showing the selvedge of the fabric joined to make a seam.  Selvedge, or selvage (both spellings are correct), is the edge of a fabric as it comes from the loom. Selvedges are woven or knit so that they will not fray, ravel, or curl.

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 selvedge denim (approximately three yards).

To maximize fabric yield, most jeans are made from wide denim and have a straight outseam that utilizes the full width of the fabric, including the edges. Selvedge 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.

What is with those copper rivets?

Copper rivets are used to reinforce the strength of pockets and have become are a common characteristic of blue jeans. 

Jean Cleaning Trivia:

For those who prefer to refrain from washing their jeans there have been suggestions to freeze them in order to kill the germs that cause odor. However, this advice has been disputed as ineffective.  Also, even if it did kill germs, freezing wouldn’t remove dirt, dust, or stains.

Wow, that sure was a great deal of information about jeans.  Who would have thought their would be so much information about these pants?

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