A History of Denim

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Seeing that denim jeans have been a clothing staple for men since the 19th century, the jeans that I’m wearing right now are a lot different from the denim jeans that my grandfather or even my dad wore.  According to sources, before the 1950s most denim jeans were crafted from raw and selvedge denim that was made in the United States. But in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style, the way jeans were produced changed dramatically.

dg-mens-denim

With the implementation of cost cutting technologies and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was greatly reduced. Changes in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape as well; guys wanted to pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-ripped jeans that looked like they’d been worn for years.

So what is denim? Well, according to Quality Logo Products, denim is a woven fabric commonly made with a blue cotton warp yarn and a white cotton filling yarn. When it was first designed, denim was primarily used to make work clothes and tough clothing like overalls, but today it is used for everything from purses and skirts to denim jackets and other fashionable clothes. Denim is so popular in the twenty-first century that you can hardly walk into a store without seeing it on racks and displays.

You might also ask, how is denim made? Checking out the complex pattern of the fabric on denim jeans, that pattern is referred to as “twill weave,” and it is caused by finely-interwoven yarns. The white cotton filling yarns run the width of the fabric and interlace at 90-degree angles with the blue cotton warp yarns, which also run the length of the fabric, and therefore produce the fine lines you see on your denim.

Most denim jeans you buy today have been pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, and prevent indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim, sometimes called “dry denim” jeans are simply jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through this pre-wash process. Because the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, raw denim jeans are pretty stiff when you put them on the first time. It takes a few weeks of regular wear to break-in and loosen up a pair. The indigo dye in the fabric can rub off as well.

It is said that Raw denim (all denim actually) comes in two types, sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage after you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and many raw and selvedge denim jeans are too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, so when you do end up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.

sanforized-vs-unsanforized-denim

Raw denim is dark denim and dark denim is probably one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you can own. Raw denim jeans look much sharper than a faded pair of Wranglers, and not only can you wear them with a t-shirt and a pair of Converse, you can also pair them with a dress shirt and a sport coat for a night on the town.

 

Author: Terrell Poole

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