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Denim Glossary

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The Essential A to Z: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Denim

This is our extensive list of all the technical terms we use when we talk about denim. When you master this list, you can rightfully call yourself a proper denimhead. So what are you waiting for? Just dig in!


1

11MW and 13MWZ

11MW and 13MWZ are the style numbers of the two famous “Cowboy Cut” jeans marketed by Wrangler and designed by celebrity cowboy tailor Rodeo Ben.

The ‘MW’ is short for ‘Men’s Wear’ and ‘Z’ naturally stands for ‘Zipper.’ The 11MW was introduced in 1947 by Blue Bell as the flagship of the new Wrangler brand; a separate denim line under the company.

The 13MWZ was allegedly first introduced five years later, in 1952. One source claims that the numbers refer to the weight of the denim, another source states that it’s a referral to the number of times the design was changed.

5

501

Once the rivet patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873 expired in 1890, they decided to give work jeans numbers. Besides the cheaper 200 series, there was also a 500 series.

Number 501 is the only model that has survived. The design has undergone slight changes over the years. Nowadays, the 501 model is mainly known for its double arch stitches on the back pockets, the leather label with the two horses and the red tab. LS&CO initially used common work wear materials such as canvas and denim.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

A

Abrasion

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.

Acid Wash

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 in the 80s. Candida Laundry patented the process in 1986.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Amoskeag

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 jeans by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss.

The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company was established in 1838 and by 1900 claimed to be the world’s biggest textile producer; it later declined due to poor management and industrial unrest. Amoskeag denim was used exclusively for Levi’s 501 jeans until 1915.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary and Paul Trynka

Anti-Fit

Contrary to what some believe to be the meaning of the term, anti-fit has nothing to do with the general size of jeans. Anti-fit is a way of cutting the rise of the jean in a straight line (as opposed to curved) invented by Levi’s which gives the 501 jean its recognisable and famous top block. Anti-fit cut jeans don’t follow the shape of your body. The cut is the result of Levi’s experimenting to maximise every inch of the denim fabric in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Some of the benefits of the anti-fit include greater comfort, less wear on the seat, and of course, and a good looking pair of jeans even though you wear them 2 sizes too big.

Arcuate

Generally refers to the decorative double stitching on the back pockets, shaped like bat wings. The arcuate is thought to be the oldest clothing trademark still in use.

Levi’s is credited as the first known brand to use of the design on their very first blue jeans in 1873. However, it has been speculated that they weren’t the inventors of the design.

However, arcuates are commonly associated with Levi’s. In goes further than mere association – 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, which has resulted in several lawsuits.

Before Levi’s patented their seagull-arcuate in 1943, and before the introduction of Wrangler’s “Western Wear” W’s and Lee Lazy-S, all brands used the same design.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary and Denimhunters

Atari

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 yoke, back pockets, the belt loops, and fly.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

B

Back Cinch

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 that’s placed on the yoke of the jean.

Back cinches were the common way for jeans wearer to tighten the waist before widespread use of belts. Jeans with a back cinch also referred to as ‘buckle back’ and most jeans manufacturers abandoned the back cinch in 1942. With renewed interest in vintage-styled looks, cinch backs have returned on modern jeans.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary and Denimhunters

Back Pocket Flasher

Traditionally a paper or cardboard flap attached to the right back pocket on jeans 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Baggy Jeans

Wide-cut pants, with a low-slung waist, a very low crotch – the opposite of skinny jeans. The oversized models were initially especially popular among skaters and hip-hoppers. It supposedly originated in American prisons where prisoners wore their oversized overalls but were not allowed belts.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Bartack

A sewing procedure that reinforces stress points on jeans usually around zippers, button flies, pocket openings, and crotch joints of inseams. It is a closely spaced stitch that forms a band or a bar.

Bell-Bottom Jeans

The bell-bottom jean was extremely popular during the 1960s and 70s. It had a tight waist and thighs, but flared below the knees. This gave the jean a vague resemblance to the shape of a bell, which is supposedly the origin of the name.

Allegedly, this kind of jean was first spotted with US navy men wearing the bell-shaped pants, although clothing could vary per ship.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Belt Loop

A means for holding up the trousers, belt loops were first added to the waistband of the Levi’s 501 jean in the 1920s when wearers began preferring belts over suspenders.

Jeans most commonly feature five belt loops, however, in the 40s Wrangler pioneered jeans designing by two additional belt loops for extra comfort while horseback riding.

To add strength to the construction, some jeans feature double layered belt loops with a smaller loop underneath the larger visible loop.

Big E

This term denotes collector’s item from the Levi Strauss & Co. product range. Prior to 1971, all Levi’s jeans and jackets featured a red tab with an embroidered uppercase ‘E’. These are now much sought after by collectors. Since around 1971, original Levi’s red tab products have featured a lowercase ‘e’.

Bleach

A chemical that is needed in the process of fading denim. Typically, either sodium hydrochloride or potassium permanganate is used.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Blue Bell

Established in 1904 and producing denim overalls, they started making jeans after the World War II. They produced their first jeans in 1947 and named them Wrangler, the name the company is now known by.

Blue Jeans

The name that was given to jeans trousers, quite obviously due to their typical blue color. Blue jeans have inspired many, from filmmakers to songwriters.

Bombazine

A cheap cotton weft fabric used for workwear. It was popular in 17th and 18th century Netherlands.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Bootcut

A reminiscent of bell-bottoms in their shape – yet less extreme – the bootcut, or bootleg, has a wider leg openings that were originally intended to more easily fit over boots.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Boyfriend Jeans

The Boyfriend design refers to an oversized baggy jean. The name is derived from the idea that the wearer looks like she is wearing her boyfriend’s jeans.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Branding Patch

The branding patch is most commonly placed along the waistband above the right pocket at the back of the jeans. It’s usually made of leather or ‘leather-like’ jacron. Originally the main purpose of the patch was to inform customers of the strength of the product and to help them identify the brand. Levi’s introduced their famous Two House leather patch in 1886 using symbolism in stead of words to help illiterate and foreign customer understand the message. It may very well have been common for workwear manufacturers to use similar patches in the early days of jeans.

Broken Twill

Broken twill combines a left-hand twill with a right-hand twill as the weft reverses every three warp ends. This breaking of the continuous weft reduces the natural leg twist, which is a characteristic of regular weaves. In was first used by Wrangler in the 1960s.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Brushed

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 smoothers over rough edges that may appear earlier in the treatment process.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Buddy Lee

A doll introduced by H.D. Lee Mercantile Co. in 1920 and used as advertising mascot wearing Lee miniature outfits. The 13- inch 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Buffies

Artificial creases around the thighs that are created during the finishing process. The term is taken from the Italian word for moustache, ‘baffi’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Bull Denim

Heavyweight weave from 14 oz. upwards. Bull denim is an ecru fabric and during production is either printed or piece- or garment dyed.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Button

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Button Fly

The original workwear pants fastening at the front fly, with buttons instead of the later introduced zipper.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

C

Capital E

See “Big E.”

Capri Pants

A style of pants that ends around mid- calf or just below the calf.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Carrot Fit

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Cast

A descriptive term for shade. Depending upon the dye and wash techniques used, indigo denim may have a variety of casts such as red, black, gray, green, yellow, or brown.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Cast

A descriptive term for shade. Depending upon the dye and wash techniques used, indigo dyed denim may have a variety of casts such as red, black, gray, green, yellow, or brown.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Chain Stitch

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Chambray

Also known as ‘cambric’, chambray is a plain woven, medium weight cotton fabric. Usually made from blue and white yarns, it’s used to make shirts, dresses and children’s clothing. It takes its name from the town of Cambrai 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’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Coin Pocket

Often confused as the fifth pocket of the quintessential jean, the coin pocket, also known as the watch pocket, was actually part of the original Levi’s XX (501) design from 1873. The fifth pocket, the left back pocket, was added almost three decades later in 1901.

Colour Fast

The level of attachment of dye to the garment. Indigo is commonly used to dye denim because of its low colour fastness – it is intended to fade. The contact of the garment with water and exposure to sunlight often results in loss of the colour.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Combed Yarn

As the name implies, combed yarn has undergone the combing process making all the fibres straight and parallel. A combed sliver is made by finer fibres than carded yarns and hence it is more regular and expensive. The combing process creates a smoother, stronger, and more compact yarn that is excellent for weaving.

Cone Mills

A name that sounds familiar to denimheads all over the world. And that’s not surprising; to this day Cone Mills is one of the biggest denim manufacturers in the world.

It was founded in 1891 in Greensboro, North Carolina by Moses and Cesar Cone. The company began as a wholesale grocer. A few years after opening, the Cone brothers began weaving cloth.

In 1915 Cone Mills began supplying Levi’s with the famous XX denim, and a few years later Cone had become the exclusive denim supplier for the 501.

Construction Worker’s Cleavage

The so-called construction worker’s cleavage emerged on the runway in 1996 in an Alexander McQueen show. The trouser is particularly popular in the hip-hop scene.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Cotton

A vegetable fibre collected from the cotton plant. It has been used for over 7000 years to make cloth. It withstands high temperatures and can therefore be boiled and hot pressed. It is abrasion resistant and gains 10% in strength when wet.

Cotton accounts for more than 40% of the total world fibre production. As early as the first century AD, Plinius spoke in his The World, Naturalis Historia about ‘wool bearing trees’ from Egypt.

These trees grew pumpkin-like fruits the size of quinces. Once fully ripe, they would tear open to reveal balls of fluff, which was eventually used to make clothes. They named the tree gossypinim (cotton tree).

Despite this early reference, cotton did not reach Italy and Northern Europe until late 16th century. See also ‘Staple’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Crocking

Describes the process of the dye that rubs of denim and ‘bleeds’ on your skin, shoes or any other fabric.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Crosshatch

An effect in the denim weave created by using uneven yarns in the weft direction combined with uneven yarns in the warp direction.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Crotch Rivet

A rivet attached at the base of the button fly for reinforcement purposes. The story goes that Levi Strauss & Co. removed the crotch rivets 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Crushed Denim

Denim that looks permanently wrinkled. A look that is achieved by weaving it with an over twisted weft yarn. The fabric then shrinks when washed. The result can be made even more visible by stone washing and/or bleaching.

Cuffs

Cuffing your jeans was common practice and simply a necessity before the process of sanforizingdenim was introduced in the 1920s. Back then, all jeans were unsanforized. As the unsanforized denim shrinks up to a considerable 10% in length, wearers had to buy their jeans too long to not end up with jeans that would become too short once the denim had shrunk.

Nowadays we cuff our jeans to show off the selvedge or simply because we like how it looks good. It is recommended to empty your cuffs for rubble, coins, and what ever falls in there, and turn down the cuffs when you wash your jeans.

D

Denim

A sturdy cotton twill fabric characterised by its 3×1 warp-faced weave. In this weave the weft passes under two warp yarns producing the familiar diagonal ribbing, identifiable on the reverse of the fabric. Traditionally denim is made with indigo-dyed yarn for the warp and natural (or more usually bleached) yarn for the weft. Nowadays, denim is mostly associated with blue jeans.

The word denim is thought to have derived from ‘serge de Nîmes’. Serge was used to refer to any type of wollen, semi-woollen and silk fabrics, made with twill weave. Denim is thought to be short for ‘de Nîmes’ (‘from Nîmes’).

Nîmes is a town in the south of France. It was an important textile region in the 18th century for materials such as serge and cloth. In this same period, there was, however, also a fabric called nim. This woollen fabric was originally made in Spain, but was also manufactured in the south of France. Its definite origin remains uncertain.

Denim first appeared in England in 1695. Almost a century later, an example of the fabric can be found in Hilton’s Manuscript, a sample book from 1786 named after cotton trader John Hilton from Manchester.

Sources: oki-ni and Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Density

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Destroyed Finish

Artfully shredded jeans, mostly by scissors and knives. This look first gained popularity in the mid-80s when model Katherine Hamnett showed slashed jeans on the runway. It has never completely gone out of style.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Distressed Jeans

Jeans that have undergone excessive wear, show strong abrasions, and are ripped and torn. This can be create artificially to give the jeans a vintage and worn-out look. Taken to extremes with frayed hems and seams, the denim is torn and ripped, and so on.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Donut Buttons

A button that resembles a donut design, containing a ‘hole’ in the centre of the button. See also ‘Button’ and ‘Logo Type Button’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Double Dyed

With double dyeing, denim is dipped in indigo baths 12 to 16 times compared to the regular 6-8 dips. The colour of the denim ends up being darker and deeper turning as a result.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Double Ring Spun

Double ring spun denim is made from a ring spun warp as well as a ring spun weft. This gives a rougher and more uneven fabric. See also ‘Ring-Ring Denim’.

Double Stitching

Also called ‘twin needle’, this is a method that is used to create perfectly parallel seams – often used to make seams more durable. Double stitching on back pockets of Levi’s jeans is a tell tale sign of the age of the jean.

Drafting

A step in the spinning process where slivers of cotton fibre are passed through several drafting rolls. This ‘drafts’ them into a single strand and is repeated to ensure uniformity in the final yarn.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Draper Loom

Most classic American selvedge denim was produced on looms made by the Draper Northrop Corporation in Hopedale, Massachusetts.

Their looms boasted features like an automatic bobbin change, which allowed an operator to oversee more looms than was possible than the ‘Hand Looms’ produced by rivals such as Whitin.

After their introduction in 1894, Draper automatic looms soon became the industry standard, in versions such as the Model E, and the later X series.

Their last common selvedge loom was the X-3, which was capable of producing denim in 60 inch width (which explains why visible selvedge is less common on jeans from the 1950s onwards)

Despite marketing spiel that high-end Japanese denim is produced on “Old Levi’s” or “Old Draper” looms, there is no evidence that American looms are used for production in Japan.

Source: Paul Trynka

Drill

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Dry Denim

Denim in its unwashed and untreated form. After dyeing and weaving the fabric, the denim is stiff and has a deep blue indigo colour with a slight shine.

In this condition, the jeans mould to the wearer’s body type and shape, creating unique wear patterns and fade marks along the way. Also see ‘Raw Denim’.

Duck

A type of tightly woven 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Dungarees

Similar to jeans, but generally baggier due to their workwear origins. The word itself refers to Dongari Kapar, a thick cotton cloth that is produced in India.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Dyeing

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.

E
E

Eco Denim

Denim that is made from environmentally sustainable cotton, dyes and recycling techniques. After the dyeing process, remains of the indigo substance are filtered and recycled for other dye baths, rather than simply thrown away.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Ecru

The natural colour of undyed denim. Completely undyed jeans do exist, but they are quite hard to find.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Eight O Seven (807)

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 labour 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Elastane

An elastic fibre used in stretch jeans. See also ‘Stretch Denim’.

Embroidery

Decorative details that are added to jeans. Different colours are used for perspective and depth purposes. Most commonly found on back pockets and often seen on the back of denim jackets. Embroidery was very popular in the 1970s.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

End

An individual warp yarn. Constructions are expressed as the number of ends per inch followed by the number of picks per inch. A typical denim construction is 66 x 46.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Enzyme Wash

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

F

Fabric Weight

Refers to the ounces per square yard of a fabric. Denim is typically woven in weights from 4 to 15 ounces per square yard.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Faded Denim

An effect that is obtained after repeated wear and wash of indigo dyed denim. Multiple methods exist to create this effect artificially, for example stone washing or bleaching.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Fair to Middling

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Filling Yarn

Also known as weft yarn, the crosswise selvedge-to-selvedge yarns in the weave.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Finishing

The term is sometimes used to refer to the finishing processes used to age denim garments or create other effects by various means such as the enzyme wash or the stone wash.

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 fibres; hauling it through a gas flame to burn off fibres; and lastly, dipping the cloth in a vat of a finishing liquid and running it through ringers to remove any remaining liquid.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Fit

Describes the cut, shape, and design of jeans. Different brands offer varying lengths, sizes, and specifics such as loose fit, skinny fit, bootcut, and straight fit to accommodate different preferences and body types.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Flared Jeans

Jeans with low rise and bell bottom flare. Flared jeans were in huge demand in the 1970s and even made a (short lived) comeback in the 90s and in 00s.

Fustian

Fustian is the collective name for a group of fairly coarse fabrics made from half-linen or cotton.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

G

G-Star Elwood

G-Star’s defining, signature jean that was designed in 1996 by the company’s head designer, Pierre Morrisset. The design of the Elwood was inspired by the pants of a rain-soaked motorcyclist, which is reflected in the added kneepads.

It was the very first three-dimensional denim design to follow the contours of the body, resulting in slightly inward bent trouser legs.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Garment Dyed

A dyeing process where colour is applied onto a fabric in garment form. Dyestuff on pocket linings and labels is an indication a jean has been garment dyed.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Ginning

The process of removing seeds from the cotton got its name from the cotton gin, which was invented by Eli Whitney in 1794.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Gold Rush

A period in the mid-19th century where countless people migrated to North America (and Australia) in search of gold. It was during this period that Loeb Strauss (later Levi Strauss) came to San Francisco. He settled there as a businessman, picking up on the California Gold Rush and eventually introduced mass production of the durable work pants that would establish his business and ensure his name in the history books.

Good Middling

Symbolised by the letters ‘GM’, good middling is a term for the highest quality of cotton. It has an off-white colour and contains virtually no other matter. Middling cotton is the standard to measure all grades of cotton.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Greencast

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/greenish color. With wear and time, the indigo fades and the green underneath is gradually exposed.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Greycast

A denim dye process in which the denim is dyed with grey sulphur dye before the indigo is added.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

H

Hand

A term to describe how denim feels, referring to the material’s specific characteristics like smoothness, stiffness, stretchability or thickness.

Hangtags

Just like labels, tabs and back pocket flashers, hangtags are another way for brands to communicate their philosophy and the specifics of their products. They ‘hang’ from garments, hence the name.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Hank Dyeing

A dyeing process to maximize colour penetration. It also makes the yarn keep its soft feel. Yarn is looped over a hook and dipped in water, which opens up the fibres. 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Hemming

A process of adjusting cloth by folding up a cut edge twice and sewing it in place, which prevents it from unravelling. Denim is usually hemmed in the factory with a chain stitch.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Hemp

Is a low-cost, extremely versatile seed plant. The plant was cultivated in China as far back as 4000 BC. It is one of the strongest natural fibres, and it creates a durable fabric similar in texture to linen. Besides wool and flax, it is one of the oldest raw materials of textile.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Hige

Hige is Japanese for ‘moustache’ or ‘whiskers’: horizontal fade lines around the hip and crotch section of jeans that are formed by extensive wear of dyed denim. Especially in raw denim this is the area that fades first.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Hip Huggers

Style of jeans especially popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. It featured a low waist and tight fit, which inspired the nickname.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Honeycombs

During the process of wearing a pair of jeans, the fabric around the knee area gets repeatedly scrunched with friction, which creates fading patterns that resembles honeycombs.

The fades can be emulated with starch. Sometimes the honey combs can create an almost 3D-like effect with the colour difference from dark hues to light blues.

Hotpants

Very short cut-off jeans for women – typically cut off right below the seat, exposing the whole of the leg. Hotpants became a common sight in the 1970s, and they came into fashion again in the 2010s.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Hyperwashed

A term used to describe fabric that has been washed time and time again for an extremely faded look.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

I

Inch

An American and British Imperial unit of size used to indicate length – and waist size of jeans. One inch is 2.54 centimetres.

Indigo

Jeans are typically dyed blue with indigo, hence the name blue jeans. The indigo dye, which gives jeans their deep blue colour, has a long history.

Preparation of the dye tubs and the dye process itself are complicated and require a lot of work. The dye bath starts out a white-green colour, which only turns blue once the textile is exposed to oxygen. The more often the fabric is dyed, the deeper the blue becomes.

In 1826, French Jean Baptiste Guimet secretly developed a synthetic blue, which was put on the market at the end of the 19th century by the German company Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik (BASF). Synthetic indigo soon exceeded the demand of traditionally produced dye.

The use of the word indigo could be confusing, as it refers to the dye itself, the colour of the dyed fabric, as well as the dye’s natural sources, the Woad (Isatis tinctoria L) and True Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria L). The two plants produce a similar blue dye – so similar that chemical analysis of historical textile cannot even tell whether it’s one or the other. However, pure indigo has a slightly red cast and can produce deep, brilliant blues that cannot be duplicated with any other dye.

Sources: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary and the Tellason Denim Terminology

Indigo Dip Dye

The act of dipping yarn or fabric into indigo 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Inseam

The inseam is the length as measured from the inside of the leg, from the crotch to the hemline.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Iro-Ochi

Japanese for ‘color slips’. It refers to a look whereby only exposed areas are faded during the fading process.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

J
J

Japanese Denim

A denim cloth that is in high demand due to its quality. This quality is obtained by the traditional production methods used in Japan: using the 28-inch shuttle looms, as well as high quality ring spun yarn. Japanese denim is typically given several indigo baths.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Jeans

Only since the 1950s has the word jeans referred to a specific item of clothing: the jeans trouser with familiar features such as its stitched threads, rivets, five pockets and stitched back pockets.

From the mid 20th century, younger generations started to wear the blue pants to visibly rebel against prevailing norms and values. Jeans were therefore deemed unsuitable. This changed in the 1970s when the garment became commonly accepted.

Jeans were originally made from twill weaved cotton, which differed from denim in that both warp and weft threads have the same colour. In the mid 18th century, the current spelling of jeans started to appear in England.

The use of jeans (in plural) does not necessarily the plural form of jean, but a derived form from the French spelling Jannes or Gênes. Both uses occurred at random. First referring to a type of fabric, jeans is now associated with an item of clothing.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Jelt Denim

Lee started using their exclusive Jelt denim for their denim garments from 1925 onwards. It was an 11.5 oz. denim but had the quality of a 13 oz. fabric due to its tight construction and twisted yarn.

L

Label

Item that identifies a brand and the garment used for the cloth. It shows the brand logo, and other relevant brand information.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Laser

A laser is used to burn dye off the surface of the fabric. It can be used to create vintage effects such as wrinkles or lettering. This technique is generally more sustainable than sand blasting.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Launderette

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Laundry

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Leather Label

A rectangular label made of real or imitation leather or paper, usually sewn to the waistband above the right-back pocket. The label was first used by LS&CO in 1886. Already then it depicted the two horses attempting at full horsepower to rip apart a trouser in opposite directions.

The label usually has the brand logo, the jean serial number, as well as its size. In 1954, LC&CO substituted the leather label of the 501 for a paper version.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Left Hand Twill

A denim weave where the twill line rises to the left, usually resulting in a softer hand feel after washing. Also known as “S” twill.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Leg Opening

The openings at the bottom of all pairs of (denim) pants. The width of it varies per brand and model.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Leg Twist

Many vintage jeans “suffer” from leg twist. This is simply a natural adjustment of the fabric, which tends to follow the direction of the weave.

Stefano Aldighieri, Director of Fabric & Finishing, at Levi Strauss & Co. explains it:

“Levi’s denim were mostly right hand twills; the twill line rises to the right. During the weaving process you basically ‘force’ the fabric to be straight, perpendicular to the selvedge, but at the same time you give it this direction in the construction.

You lay and cut the fabric; in the early days LS&CO patterns were cut straight along the selvedge. When you wash the garments, the fabric will try to follow the direction of the weave and will pull in that direction, hence the twisted legs, the result of the movement of the fabric. Because Lee started to use left hand weave denims, their legs would twist the other way.”

Leg twist was eliminated in the 1970s by skewing (which contorts denim to its after-wash shape) – and later revived with Levi’s Red and Engineered.

Source: Paul Trynka

Logo Type Button

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Loom

A loom is a weaving machine that produces fabric by weaving vertical threads of yarn (warp) with horizontal threads (weft).

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Loomstate

Loomstate denim, as the name implies, is denim that comes straight from the loom, and has not been subject to sanforization, singeing, skewing or any other stabilisation or starching process. Most denim reproducing pre 1920s jeans will be loomstate, and is likely to shrink and move more than treated denim.

Source: Paul Trynka

Loop Dyeing

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’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

LS&CO

An abbreviation of Levi Strauss & Co., originally written on the rivets: L.S. & Co. S.F. Pat May 1873. Once the patent expired in 1890, the text was changed to ‘L.S. & Co. S.F. Cal.’.

Loeb Strauss immigrated to America from Germany in 1847. He changed his name in 1853 and founded a dry goods wholesale business in San Francisco named Levi Strauss & Co.).

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Lycra

This is Dupont’s trademark for elasthane, the artificial fibre 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Lyocell

The generic name for cellulosic fibre. It is biodegradable (made from dissolved wood pulp) therefore not hazardous to the environment. It is durable and versatile.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

M

Mercerisation

An industrial process used on yarn or fabrics to increase the luster and dye affinity. On denim the process is used to create a flat, smooth appearance.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Micronaire

A means of measuring the fineness of cotton fiber.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Microsanding

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Millwash

Millwash is a term for denim that has already been washed before being delivered to garment manufacturers.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Mother Cotton

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Moustaches

See ‘Whiskers’.

N

Natural Indigo Dye

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

O

O.F. (or A.F.)

Abbreviation for ‘other fibres’ (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 fibres.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

One Wash

Refers to a 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Open End Spinning

A spinning process where fibers are fed into a high-speed rotor shaped like a cup. The end of a yarn is placed inside and drawn out as the fibers accumulate on the “open end”. Open-end yarns are not as strong as ring spun yarns of the same size because some of the fibers do not lie parallel to the axis of the yarn.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Organic Cotton

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 genetically modifying.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Overalls

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. Until World War II jeans were also named ‘overall’ or ‘waist overall’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Overdye

Application of additional colour to the fabric or garment to achieve a different shade or cast.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Overtwisted Denim

Denim with a deliberate crinkled- looking appearance that is the result of overtwisted yarn with which the denim is made.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Oxidation

Oxidation is a central part of the dyeing process that occurs when the indigo dyed yarn between dips is levitated out of the indigo bath and gets in contact with oxygen, which turns the indigo dye from a greenish-yellow back to its original deep blue colour. Oxidationis also what permanently fixes the dye to the fibres.

Oz. (Ounce)

The weight of denim is determined after weaving in ounces per square yard. Regular jeans are sewn from 11-14 oz. denim, but brands like Iron Heart and other Japanese brands have specialised in heavy-weight denims up to 25+ oz.

P

Paperbag Waist

As the name indicates, this means a loose, pleated waistline, pulled together with a belt.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Patent No. 139/121

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Piece Dyed

See ‘Garment Dyed’.

Pigment Dye

A popular dyestuff used by manufacturers who want a faded look on their jeans. The pigment dye does not naturally stick to fibre. 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Ply

This term refers to the number of strands in a yarn. Most denim is woven from 2 or 3 ply yarn.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Pocket Lining

The (concealed) cloth used for the front pockets of a five pocket style jeans. Often made from a strong cotton fabric to assure duration of the pockets.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Pocket Stitching

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Polycore Denim

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Pre-Shrunk

A term used to describe denim fabric that has been pretreated to ensure consistent garment shrinkage.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Pull Strength

As the name suggests, it indicates the power of the denim fabric. Ring spun yarn is often considered as having the strongest pull-strength.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Pumice Stones

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

R

Rag Weave

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Railtracks

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Raw Denim

The purest form of denim. That is, denim that has not been washed, or treated in any way. Hence it is quite rigid. See also ‘Dry Denim’.

Recycled 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Red Tab

The red tab was introduced in 1936 as means of identifying genuine Levi’s jeans as they hadn’t yet trademarked the arcuate on the back pocket, which meant a lot of competing companies had arcuates featured on their jeans.

Until 1971, the red tabs had ‘LEVI’S’ written in all capital letters, but with the introduction of the Batwing logo the spelling was changed to ‘LeVI’S’. This was the end of an era, but the beginning the vintage ‘Big E’ craze.

Source: After the Denim

Redcast

A term that is used for denim with a reddish hue. The fabric has only been dyed with indigo. See also ‘Cast’.

Redline

Levi’s denim from before 1983 had a redline 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. See also ‘Cone Mills’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Reverse Denim

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’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Right Hand Twill

A denim weave where the twill line rises to the right, the majority of denim is woven as right-hand twill. Also known as “Z” twill.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Rigid Denim

See ‘Dry Denim’.

Ring Dyeing

A characteristic of indigo dye, where only an outer ring of fibers in the yarn is dyed, leaving a white core.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Ring Ring 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 fibres, rather than pressing them into shape, and creates a contrasting structure with a slightly washed denim look. Also named ‘double-ring spun denim’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Ring Spinning

A spinning process where fibers are fed on to the end of the yarn while it is in the twisting zone that consists of a ring, a ring traveler, and a bobbin rotating at high speed. The traveler carries the yarn around the ring, making about 12 trips around the ring while 1 inch of yarn is taken up on the bobbin. The yarn produced is more uneven than open-end yarn, but it is stronger and smoother to touch because the fibers are more parallel.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Ring Spun Denim

Ring Spun yarn is made by constantly rolling and thinning fibres, using a ‘ring’ for spinning. It uses longer fibres 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 labour 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Rinsed

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Rise

The length ranging from the crotch up to the waistband. Jeans can have a rise ranging from high to low, making the difference whether the waist is cut under or above the navel.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Riser

See ‘Yoke’.

River Washing

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Rivets

When Jacob Davis contacted Levi Strauss regarding acquiring a patent for his new invention he didn’t invent jeans. His invention was merely that he had reinforced a pair of pants with copper rivets. This of course made a huge difference for the common working man, who stuffed the pockets of his pants with rocks and what not to the point of actually breaking the pockets.

The demand for riveted pants grew quickly and Levi Strauss with a proposition of a partnership and the rest is what we say, history. The birth of blue jeans or waist dungarees, as they were called back then, was a reality.

Up until 1937 all rivets on Levi’s jeans were exposed. This caused for a lot of problem for cowboys and housewives alike. The rivets would simply scratch the surface of saddles as well as the living room furniture. This led to another invention, the hidden rivet. However, even the hidden rivet would eventually tear its way through even the toughest denim and in the 1960s it was removed for good was replaced by a bartack.

Source: After the Denim

Rope Dyeing

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’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Roping

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

S

S Twist

Refers to the direction the fibres in a yarn are twisted. Viewed from any angle the twist direction is represented by the “S” which shows the fibers having a slight angle rising to the left.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Saddle Stitch

This is stitching with an extra thick thread, typically used to create an authentic, old-time effect.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Sanding

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Sanforization

A treatment process used for cotton and other natural as well as chemical fabrics that was invented by Sanford L. Cluett in the late 1920s and patented in 1930. Sanforization stretches, shrinks and fixes the woven cloth in both length and width, before cutting and sewing to reduce the shrinkage which would otherwise occur after washing.

The process was first used by Erwin Mills, but soon other companies followed suit. You will often see it advertised on vintage clothing with tags stating that the fabric is sanforized or sanfor-treated.

Many denim manufacturers started using sanforized denim which has the overall shrinkage of the fabric is reduced to about 3%. This meant that customers didn’t have to take shrinking into consideration when they bought their jeans.

Levi’s, however, remained true to the shrink-to-fit denim until the 1970s – they actually still have a shrink-fo-fit 501 in their American red tab line, and the dry Levi’s Vintage Clothing 501 jeans are shrink-to-fit as well. Many Japanese heritage denim brands also offer shrink-to-fit jeans, still today most denim manufactorers only use sanforized denim.

Source: After the Denim

Sanforized

Indicating jeans that underwent the process of sanforization. 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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Seat

The seat refers to the top block of the jeans. How the seat is cut determines how they fit. When dealing with block top and fitting you’ll probably also hear the term “anti-fit.”

See more under ‘Anti-Fit’.

Selvedge Denim

Selvedge (UK) or selvage (US) is the technical term for the narrow and tightly woven self-finished edges that function as the natural endings on each side of fabric woven on an old school shuttle loom and prevent it from fraying or unraveling.

In denim the selvedge is usually white and it often has a coloured thread in the middle, which wass originally added to help manufacturers recognise the different qualities that they were producing for different clients.

The Cone Mills White Oak factory in North Carolina that started supplying fabric for the Levi’s 501 jeans in 1915, and around 1927 they incorporated a red thread in the selvedge of the extra durable XX-fabric to make is easier to distinguish it from other qualities.

Today, the red thread has become synonymous with selvedge fabric from any brand which may be partly due to the dominance of Levi’s in the market the first half of the last century.

However, it is still possible to find vintage jeans from that period without the red thread in the selvedge, Lee jeans originally used plain white selvedge denim yet sometimes you’ll find jeans with yellow thread in the selvedge. Wrangler used a green thread to distinguish their fabric, however, on most traditional Wrangler jeans the outerseam is double felled (like the innerseam) compared to the busted seam that will reveal the selvedge.

Selvedge fabrics are woven on narrow 28-30-inch shuttle looms that throughout the 70s and 80s were replaced by more effective and wider 58-60-inch projectile looms. On these modern looms the weft (the horizontal thread) is cut at each end, which is called weft insertion. This creates frayed ends that are cut before the fabric is sewn into a pair of jeans.

On old shuttle looms the selvedge is created by shooting a coil lead back and forth during weaving without cutting the thread. This creates a tightly woven and durable edge, which without additional processing may be included in the finished product.

Serge de Nîmes

The word denim would be descended from serge de Nîmes. Serge was a general name for woolen, half-woolen and silk twill fabrics.

Nîmes, a town in the south of France, in the 18th century played an important role in the production of textiles, including serge. In this period there was also a woollen fabric from Spain, known by the name nim.

Whether denim is really derived from ‘de Nîmes’ remains subject of discussion. See also ‘Denim’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Shed

The opening formed by the raised and lowered warp yarns on a loom. The weft yarn is carrled through the shed. Alternating the shed completes the weave intedacing.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Sheet Dyeing

See ‘Slasher Dyeing’.

Shrink-to-Fit

In the old days all cotton materials – including denim – would shrink quite a lot after the first couple of washes. They were shrink-to-fit so to speak.

Today, only Levi’s in America, Levi’s Vintage Clothing and other American heritage brands, as well as many of the exclusive Japanese brands, offer shrink-to-fit. Unshrunken and untreated cotton shrinks and the cotton fibres constrict after washing.

Therefore, generally the fabric shrink about 10%, meaning you probably have to go up 2″ in the waist and 3″ in the length.

Source: After the Denim

Shuttle

A device that carries the weft yarn back and forth across the loom. The shuttle carries a small bobbin of weft yarn that interlaces with the warp. The selvedge formed at the edge of the fabric is called a “fast selvedge” because the pick is not cut. Selvedge denim must be woven with a shuttle.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Singeing

A process which uses a gas flame to burn off the ‘fluff’ or tiny hairs you can seen on the surface of some denim. It’s generally fallen out of favour, as Japanese makers in particular prize the ‘fluffy’ look seen on late 60s jeans in particular. This fluff is more common with shorter staple length cotton.

Source: Paul Trynka

Skewing

Refers to natural torque in regular twill fabrics caused by the geometry of the weave such that the fabric shrinks more perpendicular to the twill line than along the twill line.

Although the fabric is woven with the warp and weft at right angles, the twill line will cause the angle to torque upon about 50 washings. Denim is purposely skewed or biased to that degree in the same direction as the twill line to relieve the natural torque in the fabric and prevent the side seam from twisting around to the front of the lean.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Skinny Jeans

Refers to skin-tight jeans that follow the shape of the legs and are thus tapered towards the ankles. Skinny jeans were introduced by Raf Simons, soon followed by Hedi Slimane.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Slasher Dyeing

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, see also ‘Rope Dyeing’ and ‘Loop Dyeing’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Slim Fit

An overall tight and narrow fit, particularly around the thighs, but contrary to skinny jeans they are not necessarily tapered. Invented by Pierre Cardin, a much-loved designer in the 1970s.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Sliver

A loose, soft, untwisted strand or rope of fibres. The carding machine is the first of the machines to deliver cotton stock in the form of sliver.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Slub

A textile term referring to a thick or heavy place in the yarn. Old technology spinning frames produced yarn with unevenness. Modern yarn spinning technology produces very few slubs unless special devices are used in spinning to “engineer” them back into the yarn. Engineered slub yarns are common in denim today.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Snow-Wash Denim

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Staple

Term used to indicate lengths of fiber that require spinning and twisting in the manufacturing of yarn.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Starching

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 denim heads nowadays apply the starch by hand to foster the whiskering process.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Stonewashing

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 gives the denim an aged and faded look.

In the 1970s, designers such as Francois and Marithé Girbaud experimented with the technique. From the 1980s, the production of bleached jeans became industrialized to keep up with their demand. See also ‘Pumice Stones’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Straight Leg

The term indicating a consistent leg-width from the waist down to the leg opening.

Stretch Denim

This refers to a denim hybrid. It is denim fabric made with a percentage of elastane fibre 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. See also ‘Cone Mills’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Sulphur Dye

Dyestuff derived from a sulphur base used alone or in combination with indigo to change the cast of the shade. Using sulphur dye, indigo can be made a variety of blue casts from green and yellow to black and brown. The sulphur dye can be appiied to yarns before the indigo (sulphur bottom) or after the indigo (sulphur top).

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Suspender Buttons

Suspender buttons are sewn onto the inner or outer side of the waistband and function to anchor suspenders. Most suspenders have two straps attached on either side in the front of the waistband and one strap attached on the center of the back of the waistband.

The suspenders are equipped with button holes at the ends of the straps that allow the user to easily attach them to the pants. Suspenders are particularly practical with high cut or loose fitting jeans.

When jeans were first introduced suspenders, along with the back cinch strap, were the only option you had for holding up your trousers. After World War I, men had become accustomed to military belts and the use of suspenders started to decline.

Suspenders were considered as underwear and it didn’t help much that men at the same time started wearing their jackets and waistcoats less frequently, and thus detailed part of their underwear to the public.

Nevertheless, suspender buttons were a basic feature of Levi’s jeans until they were finally fully replaced by belt loops in the late 1930s. Still, retailers stocked and supplied “press on” buttons for customers who preferred suspenders to a belt.

Synthetic Indigo

See ‘Indigo’.

T

Tapered Jeans

A specific model that is figure hugging and gets narrower, skinnier, towards the ankles.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Tate-Ochi

Tate-Ochi is a Japanese term that refers to occurrences of vertical lines in vintage denim, which is also referred to as slubs; an industry term referring to a thick or heavy place in the yarn.

Old technology spinning frames produced yarn with unevenness. Modern yarn spinning technology produces very few slubs unless special devices are used in spinning to “engineer” them back into the yarn. Engineered slub yarns are quite common in denim today.

Regardless of how the slubs are created, the result is that the indigo fades the most where the thread is thickest. This creates a white or severely faded thread of several centimetres along a single vertical indigo thread.

Tobacco Stitching

Indicating the tobacco color tint of the stitches commonly used by denim manufacturers.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Topstitching

A sewing stitch that is both practical and decorative, usually on the hem, seam and neckline of garments for a more finished look.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Toyoda Loom

In 1924 Sakichi Toyoda invented his first loom called the Model G. It was produced in a licensed version for the European market by the British company, Platt Brothers.

In 1937 Toyoda expanded the company car manufacturing under the name ‘Toyota.’ Toyoda shuttle looms are used by most of the Japanese mills including Kurabo and Kaihara.

Read more about the Model G automatic loom here.

Triple Needle Stitch

Often associated with traditional workwear pieces, a triple needle stitch provides more strength and durability to the seams of the garment.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Trucker Jacket

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Twill

Twill is a weave technique that gives the fabric a characteristic pattern of diagonal lines. Twill weave is not limited to a certain type of material and can be applied to cotton, silk, linen, wool, or any combination of these materials.

All twill fabrics consist of warp threads and weft threads. The warp threads run along the length of the fabric and the weft across the width. The way in which these threads are crossed determines the strength and look of the woven fabric. Thread quality and width also influence the fabric’s flexibility and sustainability.

Denim is often specified as 3×1 twill, which refers to the number of weft threads per warp thread. Denim fabric is traditionally woven using 3×1 twill, as opposed to a more lightweight denim (under 10.5 oz.) with 2×1 twill. With a 3×1 fabric, the weft thread is woven three times over the warp thread, one time under, then again three times over the warp thread, and one time under, and so on.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

U

Union Special

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Unisex

A pair of jeans is the perfect example of a unisex garment, a garment that can be worn by both men and women.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Unwashed Denim

See ‘Dry Denim’.

V

Vintage

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 ‘deadstock’ vintage.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

W

Waist Overalls

The original term for what we now know as jeans; Levi’s continued to use this term up until the 1960s, to distinguish their jeans from bib overalls.

Source: Paul Trynka

Warp

The lengthwise, vertical yarns carried over and under the weft. Because they are subjected to more strain in the weaving process, warp yarns generally have more twist and are stronger than weft yarns.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Weave

Warp and weft yarns are combined in different ways to produce weave designs. These designs affect the appearance, feel, strength, and durability of the fabric.

The simple warp face designs used in denim are designated by the number of weft yarns that the warp ends pass over followed by the number of weft yarns they pass under.

The most common weaves in denim are three over one (3×1), two over one (2×1), and three over one broken twill. The 3×1 and 2×1 come in either left or right hand direction. The most common design in denim is the 3×1 right-hand twill.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Weft

Also known as filling, the crosswise, selvedge-to-selvedge yarns in the weave. These yarns are subjected to less strain in the weaving process, and thus require less strength than warp yarns.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Weight

Denim is graded in terms of weight per square yard of fabric, in three categories: light, medium and heavy. The material usually weighs from 5 oz. to 20 oz., although exceptions of extremes like 30 oz. do exist. Most jeans are made of 12 or 14 oz. denim. Lighter denim is mostly used on skirts, shirts and other garments.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Wet Processing

A collective name for different finishing techniques that all use water, or some other liquid, in combination with mechanical treatment of the denim fabric or garments.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Whiskers

The thin horizontal fading lines you find in the crotch and thigh area of worn in jeans. Whiskers may also be referred to as moustache or hige.

Slim fitting jeans tend to have tight, straight whiskers, while looser jeans usually have wide, more angled whiskers. Today, the majority of jeans are sold with pre-fabricated whiskers.

Woad

Prior to the great overseas voyages in the 16th and 17th century, woad was the European version of indigo and was the primary blue dye for textiles.

Woad is also a plant, which can be used to extract indigo blue pigment. This plant has oblong leaves and small yellow bunches of flowers, and grows approximately 90cm high.

Woad favours mild climates, growing in regions such as the Netherlands, Germany (Thüringen), France (Toulouse, Languedoc) and England (Northumbria). In the Middle Ages, woad was considered the queen of medieval dyes, partly due to its high value to the economy. See also ‘Indigo’.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Worn-In Denim

Denim that has a faded and worn look to it, because of intensive, frequent wear or by means of artificial treatment.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

X

XX

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.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Y

Yarn

A long, continuous length of spun fibres. Used for the production of fabric through the process of weaving.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Yarn Dye

Refers to any fabric where the yarns are dyed before weaving. By definition, denim is a yarn dye fabric.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Yoke

Also known as the riser, the yoke is the V-shaped section at the back of jeans that gives jeans their curved seat. The deeper the V, the greater the curve and the cut of the yoke range from straight to very V-shaped to no yoke at all.

Z

Z Twist

Refers to the direction the fibers in a yarn are twisted, Viewed from any angle the twist direction is represented by the “Z” which shows the fibers having a slight angle rising to the right, The typical direction of twist for denim yarns is “Z”.

Source: Tellason Denim Terminology

Zip Fly

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 1926 on the 101Z model.

Source: Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary

Zipper

The zipper is a metal or plastic device with interlocking teeth used to join two edges together. The zipper as we know it today was patented in 1917 by Gideon Sundbäck, yet already in 1851, Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, had patented his “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”. The story goes that the zipper got its name when an employee of the footwear manufacturer BF Goodrich was by sliding the fastener up and down a boot and exclaimed, “Zip ‘er up!”

In relation to denim, Lee claims to be the first manufacturer to have used zippers in jeans in the 1920s. The zip fly, developed as an alternative to the button fly, refers to the zipper on a pair of jeans. In 1927, Lee added the zipper to their Union-Alls (denim coveralls designed specifically for automobile drivers) to allow the wearer to remove the garment more quickly. The company held a contest to come up with a name for the device, eventually choosing ‘the Whizit’. However, the zip fly didn’t really begin replacing the button fly until the late 1930s with the “Battle of the Fly”, when French fashion designers began raving about its advantages over buttons. In the 50s the fastening device became commonly used and companies began making zippered versions of their jeans, probably best known from around 1953 when Levi’s introduced the 501ZXX, the zip version of the iconic 501XX.

The zipper wasn’t to the joy of everyone, however, and as one customer wrote to Levi’s wearing zippered jeans felt like peeing into the jaws of an alligator. This is quite understandable as zippers back then where all made of metal compared to nylon and other softer materials that are common today.

Still, the zip did catch on and has became a huge success for both men’s and women’s jeans. Today, the zipper is the most prevalent fastener, used on everything from clothes to luggage to shoes to packaging. Nevertheless, to this day many hardcore denim enthusiasts would never wear jeans with zippers. The reason would most likely be caused by the fact that a button fly creates beautiful fadings and that with shrink-to-fit denim a zipper usually start bulging after shrinkage.

Several kinds of zippers exist, the most common being coil zippers, plastic zippers, and metal zippers. Metal zippers, the most traditional zipper, are the type found on the vast majority of jeans. While it usually serves the function of fastening and removing one’s pants, it is also used for decoration on pockets. According Simon Tuntelder of After the Denim you should know these premium zipper brands if you’re into vintage jeans or reproduction jeans: Talon (especially the Talon 42), Scovill, Gripper Zipper, Universal, Waldes, Ideal, Conmar/Conmatic, and Riri.

Sources: Rawr Denim and After the Denim

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