Denim 101

We’re a team of denim enthusiasts and could go on about our favorite mills or twills until we’re blue in the face. So we love answering your questions about jeans!

These are a few of the most popular ones that come up at our stores.

High quality denim has the natural ability to fend off odours and stains, so you don’t need to wash them too frequently. Between wears, simply let them air out, preferably on a cedar hanger (they repel smells, insects and moths and have a great, fresh scent).

When your denim is due for a cleaning, turn them inside out and hand wash in cold water, then hang to dry. Avoid throwing them in the dryer at all costs—the heat compromises the structure and strength of the denim.

In a word—snug. Denim is a fabric that adapts to its owner’s body, so it will stretch out anywhere from half a size to a full size, depending on how frequently you wear them.

It may be uncomfortable breaking in a slightly tight pair of jeans, but once they relax, you’ll have the optimum fit for most of its lifetime.

Premium, high quality jeans are remarkably low maintenance. Airing them out after each wear and doing the occasional spot clean on stains is the best way to preserve your jeans and achieve exceptional fades.

However, when you notice unwanted odours coming from your jeans, it’s time for a wash. Give them a gentle rinse in cold water and hang them out to dry.

There’s no hard and fast rule for how long you should wait before washing your raw denim—just trust your intuition. If you feel like it’s due for a clean, it probably is.

Sanforization is an anti-shrinking process applied to most jeans. If your jeans are sanforized, the fabric has already been stretched and pre-shrunk so you don’t have to worry about them changing too much in size.

If your jeans are unsanforized, they are essentially untreated and will significantly shrink once you wash them—about an inch around your waist and up to three inches in length.

The benefit of getting a pair of unsanforized or “shrink to fit” jeans is that you end up with a fit tailored to your body.

Every fabric is a combination of warp and weft yarns woven together.

The warp refers to the yarn that runs lengthwise in the fabric and is typically dyed.

The weft runs crosswise and holds the warp together—it is often thought of as “filling yarn.” In classic jeans, the weft is kept at its natural color, but some denim makers like to play with contrasting hues to add more depth and dimension to the fabric.

Left Hand Twill

With this type of denim, the lines of the weave run diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. A Left Hand Twill usually results in softer handfeel and rather undefined, vertical fading.

Right Hand Twill

Right Hand Twill has a diagonal weave pattern that runs from the top right corner of the fabric to the bottom left. This methods leads to a tighter, smoother denim and more high-contrast fades.

Broken Twill

This denim switches between the Right Hand Twill and Left Hand Twill weave every two warp turns, creating a distinct zigzag pattern. This fabric was designed to reduce the twisting of the fabric after being washed.

The weight of your denim affects five factors: comfort, drape, break-in time, fading and durability.

Comfort and Drape

A lighter denim (around 10-12 oz.) falls on your body more naturally from the get-go and is just better in terms of breathability. A heavier denim (anywhere from 13 to a whopping 32 oz.) definitely feels more rigid and requires some breaking in before it conforms to your body’s shape.

Break-in Time

The heavier, the longer the break-in time.

Fading

There’s a reason people stick it out with mid to heavy weight denim—the fades are incredible. You will definitely see more defined whiskers and honeycombs in a heavier, raw denim.

Durability

Heavier denim can take more of a beating than lightweight options. So if you’re using your jeans daily or for hard labour, 16 oz. denim and up are your best bet. But for casual wear in the warmer months, you’ll want to go with a lightweight pair.

Selvedge denim signals traditional manufacturing practices and a commitment to denim’s history.

The fabric is woven on older, heritage looms that create less uniform denim—selvedge usually means your jeans end up having a richer and more distinct character than anything made on high-tech modern machinery.

The traditional looms used for selvedge denim create tighter, close-set weaves. This sought-after fabric can be identified by its unique self-edge which is used for the outseam of jeans.

The simple answer: Wear ‘em often. Avoiding washing them for the first 6 months will help create some initial creases. Only washing them when they’re dirty will encourage fading. Choosing a jean that is mid-to-heavyweight, 100% cotton and snug-fitting will also help in creating sharp, high contrast fades.

To keep your jeans from fading follow these steps:

  1. Turn your jeans inside out and soak them in a tub of cold water with around a cup of vinegar for 30 minutes to set the dye.
  2. Lightly rinse the jeans in cold water. There will be a slight vinegar smell for a few days!
  3. Hang to dry again

*Only wash your jeans with dark colours in case the dye bleeds onto the rest of your laundry.

The Chain Stitch hem is used to finish the leg openings of jeans. This rare technique gives denim a heritage feel, and elevates the craftsmanship of the garment.

The hem is difficult to replicate because it can only be done on very specific sewing machines called Union Specials. We are proud to be one of the few denim alterationists in Canada to offer this unique, classic hem.

From a utilitarian standpoint, it seems pretty absurd for jeans to not have front pockets. But there is a reason for the madness.

A lot of womens’ jeans have very sleek, tight silhouettes—particularly skinny jeans. The thin, lining fabric of front pockets can create unwanted wrinkles and lines in the denim. To avoid this, select brands have sewn the front pockets shut and removed their lining to give their jeans smoother, more streamlined looks.

Most definitely. Several denim brands are committed to only using sustainable materials and practices to reduce the denim industry’s ecological footprint.

Look for jeans that are made in Canada, the U.S., Japan and Europe - these regions have extensive laws surrounding clothing production that make for great sustainable denim. Buying products produced closer to home will also lower your carbon footprint.

Raw denim is a great option as they take significantly less water and toxic chemicals to produce. Additionally, our in-house Kintsugi program refurbishes worn-in raw denim then resells them, effectively extending the lifetime of a pair of jeans.

Don’t be a stranger—reach out to online@dutildenim.com.