Finding Your Perfect Raw Selvedge Denim Jeans: Denim Weight Part 1
Denim weight, you say? What does how much your jeans weigh have anything to do with it?
Well, rather a lot.
Denim fabric is categorized by weight. Quite simply, and rather logically, the higher the weight in ounces, the heavier the denim fabric.
Fabric, in general, is categorized by the weight of 1 square yard of said fabric in ounces. The weight being determined by the thickness of the yarn, the weight of that yarn used in the weaving, and the density of the weave.
Let’s make things simple
When it comes to denim… for simplicity’s sake, we can break denim weights down into three distinct categories.
- Lightweight: Under 12oz
- Middle Weight: 13-16oz
- Heavy Weight: 17 and above.
There is no right and wrong here, it is totally dependent on personal preference, your lifestyle and the results you want in the end. You will find jeans made from denim weighing anything from 5oz up to monstrous 32 ounces. “But what should I choose?”, you ask.
TL:DR. Click now to watch the video
Leading by Example
Let’s first have a look at some different denim weights and what they are usually associated with.
So here we have a range of denim garments from about 9oz right up to verging on the heavyweight at, I guess 17oz. Because of my personal preference, I tend not to go much over this weight. I have experimented with the heavy stuff, it was just not for me.
First off we have this western shirt by Levi’s Vintage Clothing. This is a 9oz denim and denim around this weight is most commonly associated with shirting due to its relative softness and ease of daily wear.
Being a shirt, it does not see the wear and tear that jeans will so the durability factor is not so much of an issue. There are a number of jeans out there at this weight and to be honest, they would only be suitable for really hot climates and for people not looking to put daily wear into them.
When it’s Practical for Jeans
Next up is a pair of IMjit35020. A brand from Italy that’s fast making a name for themselves by producing some incredible custom jeans.
These come in at the 12oz mark. This is the weight of denim where it becomes practical for use in jeans due to its durability whilst being light enough to be comfortable on the hot summer days.
Next up, we take a little jump to 13.5 with the Average Joe’s from Nudie and we also take a glimpse into the denim history of Matt Wilson. I borrowed the pic from the Interwebs, but the ones you see in the vlog were my first project pair. 18 months with no wash. 4 continents, god knows how many repair jobs. And really, almost never off my leg.
They were horrible when they finally got their wash.
At 13.5oz, you really have the weight to set in some defined and distinct fade patterns. And you have the durability of fabric to see some sustained wear over the longer term.
That Sweet Spot
Here we go up an ounce or so to 14.7. This is where I find my sweet spot. Denim at this weight I find are good for 90% of the mid-European climate so I can put as much time into them as possible.
These are the Benzak Denim Developers BDD-710 green cast 14.7 oz. LHT. The ones you will see on the vlog are my personal pair and sadly did not get to see as much wear as I would have liked. I got too fat. So I borrowed some fade examples from the guys at Benzak.
You can see that the honeycombs and whiskers have set in beautifully. The fade is not as distinct as, say, the nudies. Amongst other things, this will be due to the slower fading nature of Left Hand Twill denim.
The Finest Fading Jeans I’ve Personally Worn
Here we have the heaviest jeans in my collection. The Big John Rare 008’s. This is the finest fading denim I have ever worn. It’s just incredible. I think I had about a years worth of wear into these jeans and just look at them! Now, it is hard to guess the weight of this denim.
They come unsanforized – basically un-shrunk. More on that later.
Before you shrink them down, they are a 15.5oz denim. Afterwards, maybe 16.5 to 17. I mean these lost a lot in the length. 5 inches or so and about one inch in the waist. Obviously, as a denim shrinks down from 15.5, there will be more density in the one square meter.
These jeans were great. But I don’t think I would go much heavier. At this weight, I found that movement was a little restricted and when the weather got much above 20° C, I had to opt for a lighter pair.
So, sadly I was not able to get hold of anything heavier for the video. With the heavier denim, the potential for fades is simply incredible. The sharp relief that the fade patterns lock into and the durability factor is the perfect recipe for some sick fades. But this comes with a few drawbacks, especially at the beginning.
Put simply, they are dreadfully uncomfortable. The 23oz monsters I tried left me bruised and bleeding, literally. There are more manly men than me willing to take on this challenge and they are justly rewarded. Many of the best fades I have ever seen have belonged to the heavier weight of denim.
Now we have more of an idea about the various classes of denim, in the next Vlog, we will look at how your choice of denim weight will influence your fades.