The Denim Dictionary - All about denim and jeans - Tenue de Nîmes

Table Of Contents

3x1 Weave
See under ‘Twill’.

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.

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 colour 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.

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.

Arcuate (or Arcs)
Generally refers to the decorative double stitching on the back pockets, shaped like bat wings. Levi’s is credited with first using it on their very first 501, and they’re commonly still associated with this iconic jeans. It goes further than mere association though – 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, an act that resulted in several lawsuits.

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

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. Jeans with a back cinch also referred to as ‘buckle back’ and most jeans manufacturers abandoned the back cinch in 1942.

Back Pocket Flasher
Traditionally a paper or cardboard flap attached to the right back pocket 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.

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

Bar Tacks
These tacks are closely spaced stitches, forming a band, or bar, on virtually all denim garments that act as reinforcements on stress points such as zippers and pocket openings.

It is said these models were first spotted with US navy men wearing the bell-shaped pants, although clothing could vary per ship. The bell-bottoms were extremely popular during the 1960s and 70s, it had a tight waist and thighs, but flared below the knees. This gave the jeans a vague resemblance to the shape of a bell, which is supposedly how the name.

Belt Loops
As the name indicates, these were placed around the waist to hold a belt. They replaced the suspender buttons 1920s to supply the trend of belts that emerged after the World War I. Most jeans have five loops, but some brands like Wrangler have seven, for extra support.

Big E
This term denotes collector’s item from the LS&CO range. Prior to 1971, all LS&CO jeans and jackets featured a red tab with an embroidered uppercase ‘E’ and are now much sought after by collectors.

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

Blue Bell
Established in 1904 and producing denim overalls, they started making jeans after the World War II. Their first jeans produced in 1947 were named Wrangler, the name the company is now known with.

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

In 17th and 18th century Netherlands, a fabric made from cotton weft yarn was also referred to as bombazine, a cheap fabric used for workwear.

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.

Reminiscent of bell bottoms in their shape, but less extreme. Bootcut, or bootleg, have a wider leg openings that were originally intended to more easily fit over boots.

Broken Twill
Denim weave in which the twill line changes direction. Whereas until the 1960s denim was woven to the left or right hand side, causing the legs to twist, broken twill reverses this to cancel out the leg twist effect.

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

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.

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.

Buddy Lee
A doll introduced by H.D. Lee 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.

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.

Button Fly
The original work wear pants fastening at the front fly, with buttons instead of the later introduced zipper.

Capital E
See under ‘Big E’.

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

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.

This refers to any extra colour tones that might be present in denim fabric that is sometimes added by way of an additional dyeing process. Indigo denim can have a black, brown, grey, green, red or yellow caste to it.

Cellulose Enzyme Wash
See ‘Enzyme Wash’.

Also known as ‘cambric’, chambray is a plain woven, medium weight cotton fabric. Usually made from blue and white yarns, used for making 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’.

Chain Stitching
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.

Cigarette Jeans
Straight-legged, slim fit pants.

A method applied in the finishing process of production. Normally done using pigment, acrylic or polyurethane coating. Acrylic and PU are transparent, while pigment gives a new look to the denim. Used to prevent fading of the fabric and stains. Often gives a leather-like shine to the denim.

Coin Pocket
The fifth pocket, strictly functional. This small-added pocket can be found inside the right front pocket. Also known as the watch or match pocket. It supposedly first appeared in 1890 and has become smaller over the years, yet retains its functionality.

Colour Fast
The level of attachment of dye to the garment. Indigo is common for use on denim garments because of its colourfastness. The contact of the garment with water and exposure to sunlight often results in loss of the colour.

Combing is a preparation process after fibres have been carded. It separates and untangles fibres. It is performed just before the fibres are spun into yarn.

Cone Mills
A name that sounds familiar to denim heads all over the world. Not surprising since it was one of the biggest denim manufacturers in the world. It started its business in 1891 in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was founded by Moses and Cesar Cone and started out as a wholesale grocer. A few years after opening its doors, it began weaving cloth. It then started supplying to LS&CO in 1910 and became exclusive supplier for the 501s.

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.

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. 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 the Netherlands and North Europe until late 16th century. See also ‘Staple’.

Cotton Duck
See under ‘Duck’.

See under ‘Whiskers’.

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

Crotch Rivet
A rivet attached at the base of the button fly for reinforcement purposes. The story goes that LS&CO removed them 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.

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 stonewashing and/or bleaching.

Denim is a sturdy twill weave fabric with a dyed (often blue) warp thread and an uncoloured weft thread. The fabric therefore has a coloured front and a white/ecru back. Nowadays, denim is mostly associated with jeans trousers. The word denim is thought to have derived from serge de Nîmes. Serge was used to refer to any type of woolen, semi-woollen and silk fabrics, made with twill weave. Denim is thought to be short for ‘de Nîmes’, or ‘from Nîmes’. This town in the south of France 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 named 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. See ‘Serge de Nîmes’.

Denim Head (or 'Denim Aficionado')
A word to describe denim fanatics.

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.

A specific sort of enzyme rinse that is done to soften denim fabric.

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

Dip Dye
The act of dipping yarn or fabric into 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.

Distressed Jeans
Jeans that underwent excessive wear and show strong abrasions and have ripped and torn parts. Can be artificially created to give the jeans a real vintage and worn-out look. Taken to extremes with frayed hems and seams, the denim is torn and ripped, and so on.

Double Dyed
With double dyeing, denim is dipped in the indigo bath 12 to 16 times, instead of the regular 6-8 dips. The colour of the denim ends up a darker, deeper and brighter shade of blue as a result.

Double Stitching
Also called ‘twin needle’. A method that is used to create perfectly parallel seams, most often to make jeans stronger and more durable. Double stitching on back pockets is a tell tale sign of a classic jeans look.

Doughnut Button
A button used on a button- y pair of jeans that resembles a donut design, containing a ‘hole’ in the centre of the button. See also ‘Button’ and ‘Logo Type Button’.

Drawing (or 'Drafting')
A step in the spinning process, whereby slivers of cotton bre are passed through several drafting rolls. This ‘drafts’ them into a single strand and is repeated to ensure uniformity in the nal yarn.

A durable fabric made of cotton with a strong diagonal twill weave.It is a lightweight, strong, breathing fabric. It is because of these speci c qualities that it’s used on sailsand tents as well as uniformsand safari clothing.

Dry Denim
The original production form of denim, when it is still unwashed and untreated. After dyeing and weaving of the fabric, the cloth is quite stiff and has a deep blue indigo colour with a shine. It is left up to the wearer to break in their jeans made of dry/raw denim. In this condition, the jeans mould to the wearer’s body type and shape, creating unique folds and fade marks along the way. Also see ‘Raw Denim’.

Dual Ring-Spun
Dual ring-spun denim is made from ring spun yarn, providing a rougher and uneven fabric. It is the most expensive choice out of dual ring- spun, ring-spun and open-end denim. See also ‘Ring-Ring Denim’.

A type of canvas that has tight woven threads, opposed to the plain weave type of canvas. Supposedly the name derived from the Dutch word ‘doek’. This canvas is created from medium to coarse yarns. Cotton duck is classi ed by weight, with a heavier weight being more thick and durable.

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

Dyeing (Process)
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 colour from yellow to green to blue. As a last step, the yarn is rinsed to remove excess dye.

Eco Denim
Denim that is made with environmentally friendly cotton, dyes and recycling techniques. After the dyeing process for example, remains of the indigo substance are ltered and recycled for other dye baths, rather than simply thrown out.

This is the natural colour of undyed denim. There are jeans that have not been dyed with indigo that have this colour, but they are quite hard to find.

Eight O Seven (807)
Also known as ‘production sharing’, 807 is a controversial law that relates speci cally 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.

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

G-star Elwood
G-Star’s de ning, signature jeans model, is designed in 1996 by Pierre Morisset, the company’s head designer. The look was inspired by the pants of a rain-soaked motorcyclist, which is re ected in the added kneepads. This very rst three-dimensional denim is designed to follow the contours of the body, resulting in slightly inward bent trouser legs.

Decorative details that are added to jeans by sewing. 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.

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.

Faded Denim
An effect that is obtained after repeated wear and wash of indigo dyed denim. The indigo attached to the cotton bres detaches and therefore the denim fades. Recognizable by its lighter colour other than the standard dark shade of blue or black. Multiple methods exist to create this effect arti cially, for example by stone washing or bleaching.

Fair to Missling
Cotton is graded according to strength, staple length, colour, smoothness and uniformity. This term stands for an average grade of cotton, usually used in denim.

a) Finishing processes are used to age denim garments or create other effects by various means such as the enzyme wash or the stone wash.b) 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 bres; hauling it through a gas ame to burn off these bres. Lastly, the cloth is dippedin a vat of a nishing liquid andrun through ringers to remove any remaining liquid.

Describes and determines the cut, shape and design of any pair of jeans. Different brands offer varying lengths, sizes and speci cs such as loose t, skinny t, boot cut or straight t to accommodate different preferences and body types.

Five Pocket Design
Nowadays, ve pockets is the standard number of pockets found on a jeans design. Introduced by LS&CO in 1922 with its new 501 design, it consists out of two back pockets, two front pockets and a coin pocket inside the right-front pocket. The Levi’s prototype from 1873 only had three: two in the front and one on the back. The coin pocket was added in 1890. The fth pocket (second back pocket) came a bit later on in 1905. The've pocket jeans remained standard within the jeans industry.

See under 'Tab'.

Flare Jeans
Jeans with low rise and bell-bottom are. This style was in huge demand in the 1970s and even made a (short lived) comeback around the 1990s and in 2000.

French Cut
Especially for women, this is a tight style of jeans. It is made of stretch material for a very close t. It is therefore also known as ‘second skin’.

Frosted Denim
Very pale blue jeans, frosted denim was an especially popular washing in the 1980s.

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

Garment Dyed
Whereas yarn dye takes place before the weaving of the yarn, garment dye, or ‘just in time dyeing’ is done with the finished garment. It is stocked in ecru or bleached colour, then dyed in a range of colours, depending on demand. Tell tale signs of garment dye are pocket linings or labels that have the same colour as the self-fabric.

See under ‘Jeans’.

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

Gold Rush
A period during the 19th centuryin which countless people migrated to North America (and Australia)in search of gold. It was duringthis period that Loeb Strauss(later Levi Strauss) came to San Francisco and settled there as a businessman, picking up on this Gold Rush to create a pair of durable pants that would establish his business and ensure his name in the history books.

Good Middling
Symbolized 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.

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

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 colour. With wear and time, the indigo fades and the green underneath is gradually exposed.

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

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

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

Heavy Weight Denim
All denim that is heavier than 12 oz. is considered heavy weight.

A process of adjusting clothe by folding up a cut edge twiceand sewing it in place, preventing it from unravelling. Denim is usually hemmed in the factory with a chain stitch.

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 plant bres and creates a durable fabric similar in texture to linen. Besides wool and ax, it is one of the oldest raw materials of textile.

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.

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

Hipster Jeans
See under 'Flare Jeans'.

Also referred to as just ‘combs’, this refers to the area at the back of the knee of a pair of jeans. The indigo colour fades the more the pants are worn, and is said to resemble honeycomb patterns.

Very short cut-off jeans for women, they’re typically cut off right below the seat, exposing the whole of the leg. It became a common sight in the 1970s and is in fashion again since 2011.

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

An American and British Imperial unit of size, used to indicate length and waist size of jeans. One inchis 2.54 centimetres. Size 28 means the hip size of the trouser is 28 inches, or 71cm.

Indigo (indigofera Tinctoria L.)
Typical of jeans is that they are indigo blue, hence the widely used name blue jeans. The indigo dye, which gives jeans that deep blue colour, has a long history. The use of the word indigo could be confusing, as it refers to the dye itself, the colour of the dyed fabric, as wellas the dye’s natural sources the Woad (Isatis tinctoria L) and True Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria L). Both of these green plants produce such a similar blue dye that chemical analysis of historical textile cannot even tell whether it has been dyed with woad or indigo. 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. An important characteristic of indigo is that it is colourfast. 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 inseam is the length as measured from the inside of the pant leg, from the crotch to the hemline (which should reach to the anklebone). Together with the waist size, the inseam determines the various jeans sizes.

The term Iro-Ochi is Japanese for ‘colour slips’, and as such refers to a look whereby only exposed areas are faded during the fading process.

Japanese Denim
A denim cloth that is in high demand due to its quality. This qualityis maintained 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.

Only since the 1950s has the word jeans referred to a speci c itemof clothing: the jeans trouser with familiar features such as its stitched threads, rivets, ve pockets and stitched back pockets. From the mid 20th century, younger generations started to wear the blue pant 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 fabric is originally made from twill weaved cotton. It differs 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, two decades prior to the Netherlands. The use of jeans with an ‘s’ is 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.

Jelt Denim
Lee started using their exclusive Jelt Denim on 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. The ‘J’ in their 101J denim jacket stands for Jelt.

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

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.

This refers to a world famous scene of a Levi’s commercialthat 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.

Laundry is a manufacturing company that washes, sandblasts or garment dyes jeans. Italy, Japan and theUS lead the eld in this industry because their techniques are most advanced and are therefore most influential in pushing fabric development.

Leather Label
This is 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.It then already depicted the two horses attempting at full horsepower to rip apart a trouser in opposite directions. Despite prompting the horses, this still seems to fail.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.

Left Hand Twill
Describes how the direction of the weave heads to the left. It gives the material a soft feel after washing. It is however dif cult to produce as it needs to be treated with care during sanforization and nishing.

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

Leg Twist
The phenomenon of left or right hand twills that tend to twist in the direction of the weave. A broken twill weave is often used to prevent this from happening, as leg twists are quite noticeable on the outer seams.

Logo Type Button
The (bachelor) button on a button- y pair of jeans that containsthe brand’s logo or name. Introduced after the anonymous ‘doughnut button’ that used to be the standard on jeans.

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

This is a type of denim that comes straight from the loom and has not been sanforized or modi ed in any way. Any pre-1920 produced denim will have been loom state denim.

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’.

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.).

This is Dupont’s trademark for elasthane, the arti cial bre 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.

The generic name for cellulosic bre. It is biodegradable (made from dissolved wood pulp) therefore not hazardous to the environment. It is durable and versatile, as it can be manipulated to look like difft.

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 colour and softens the texture.

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

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.

See under ‘Whiskers’ or ‘Hige’.

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 colourfast and its will not run when washed.

O.F. (OR A.F.)
Abbreviation for ‘other bres’ (or ‘altre bre’). 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 bres.

Refers to a very soft, loose denim weave that is rinsed just once after loomstate. It’s done for environmental purposes as well as to create a speci c look and feel. It is a Japanese invention from 1991 that never quite made it to European or American shores.

Open End (Denbim or Yarn)
Often referred to as ‘O.E.’ this is the most common type of denim. Open End is an industrial type of yarn spinning using turbine machines. Open End denim was adopted by many manufacturers because it produces strong, durable jeans for less money and in less time, but is said to lack the quality that ring-spun or ring-ring denim typically have.

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.

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’.

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

This is part of the dyeing process. For raw denim, oxidation happens when indigo yarn comes out of an indigo bath and is exposed to oxygen. This causes the deep blue colour to reappear and most importantly, it ensures the colour is permanently xed to the bre.

Abbreviation for ounces. Denim is weighed in oz. per square yard.

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

Jeans with patches of other denim or just plain other fabrics, that make it look like a customized repair job, DIY-style.

Patent Nr. 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.

See under ‘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 bre. 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 colours.

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

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

Pocket Stitching
A typical jeans characteristic. Pockets on the back of jeans are usually stitched in a decorative way. The 1970s saw extensiveand 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.

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.

During production, fabrics typically stretch. Once they’re being washed, the bres relax and shrink back to their original length. Pre-shrinking, or sanforizing, eliminates this. See also ‘Sanforized’.

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.

Pumice Stones
Pumice is solidi ed lava: volcanic rock that is formed when lava and water are mixed. It isthe material of choice when stonewashing garments, as it is tough, rough and lightweight.

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.

Rag Weave
Found in the majority of denims,it is the tightest of all and retains colour the longest. Its recognized by its slightly diagonal incline when looking at the warp.

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. G-Star is credited with the term ‘Raw denim’. At any rate they were the rst to use it for their untreated, unwashed products in 1996. 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.

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

Red Tab
This barely needs explanation. The red tab is the famous Levi’s ag found on the right-back pocket of the 501 jeans. This allowed for the jeans brand to be instantly recognized from a distance. The tab was trademarked in 1939, after its introduction to the world three years prior. The original tab used the capitals LEVI’S. From 1971 this was changed to Levi’s.

Red Line
Levi’s denim from before 1983 had a red line 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 a cionados still argue that the red lines denote top grade denim. See also ‘Cone Mills’.

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 nishes and as such cannot be distinguished as the ‘inside’.

Rigid Denim
See under ‘Dry denim’.

Right Hand Twill (RHT)
A weaving construction, typical for denim, where the twill line runs diagonally from bottom left to top right. It creates a tighter, denser material. Over time, the fade on this type is more distinct than on other types.

Ring Dyeing
Ring dyeing only colours the outer layer of the yarn, and the core of the yarn remains white, as would be best seen in a cross-section of the material. This process is used for jeans that are supposed to fade with wear: as the blue wears off, the white underneath is exposed.

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

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

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.

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.

See under '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.

Proposed by Jacob Davis, a Latvian tailor from Reno (Nevada), Levi Strauss led for patent number 139/121 for a work trouser strengthened with copper rivets. This patent emphasized that the use of the rivet as ‘improvement in fastening pocket-openings’ ensures ‘sewed seams are prevented from ripping’ by applying ‘a metal rivet or eyelet at each end of the pocket- opening’ of ‘a pair of pants’. Rivets are often also used decoratively.

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 brie y dipped in indigo baths. Because of the short dyeing time, the dye does not fully colour 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’.

Rope Effect (or 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.

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

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.

Indicating jeans that underwentthe process of sanforization. Raw fabric is likely to shrink up to 20% on the initial wash. 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 rst 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.

The term that is used for the vertical edge of the denim fabric that is usually decorated with a coloured thread. It prevents the end of the denim from ravelling and gives the jeans a clean, finished look. The colour varies, according to the brand and producer. Vintage Levi’s for example used to have an all-white strip and later had a single redline selvedge, Wrangler used a yellow and Lee often a plain white type.

Serge de Nîmes
The word denim would be descended from serge de Nîmes (de Nîmes = from Nîmes). Serge was a general name for woollen, half-woollen 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 ‘Denim’.

Sheet Dyeing
See under 'Slasher Dyeing'.

Before processes as sanforization and stonewashing were available, people were obliged to buy their jeans a couple of size bigger, because of the shrinkage that would occur after washing. Such un-treated jeans were soaked before wear, to shrink and soften the rigid fabric of the jeans. For example, Levi’s 501 models were shrink-to- t until 1959. Shrink-to- t jeans are still offered today by selected manufacturers for the true denim head.

Once the jeans are as good as finished, the last thing that is done to it is singeing, whereby any stray, loose bres are burnt off using a small, controlled flame.

To prevent leg twist that can happen during the shrinking process, manufacturers minimize this effect by skewing the cloth in the opposite direction of the twill. Karin Hakanson patented this step in 1976. Denim is usually skewed between 4% and 10 %, depending on the fabric’s weight, twill weave yarn size and yarn twist. See also ‘Twill’.

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.

Slasher Dyeing (or Sheet 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’.

Slik 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.

Slubs are inconsistencies in denim that are created on old 28-inch shuttle looms. Due to uneven spinning, the fabric may be thicker in some areas than in others. Whereas they used to be seen as flaws, slubs are now sometimes deliberately added to give more character.

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.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries, which has its own word for jeans: spijkerbroek (lit. nail trouser). Who came up with this name is not known. Other countries usually use the word jeans, such as France and Flanders.

A fibre often indicated by a certain length. In denim production it refers to the cotton fibre, and indicates a long or short ‘staple length’. In general longer staple lengths are more valued for they are more easily spun and can create softer and stronger yarns.

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.

When the denim is washed, pumice stones are added to the wash cycle process to fade the colour 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’.

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’.

Sulphur-bottom is a process in which jeans are treated with sulphur dye before the indigo baths. One result of it is you get the deeper colours in less time and it cuts down on the amount of indigo needed. Jeans treated with this process get a yellow or grayish cast.See also ‘caste’.

Synthetic Indigo
See under ‘Indigo’.

The very recognizable yet small signature label usually attached to the side of the right back pocket of any pair of jeans that identifies the pants’ brand. Also known as ‘flag’.

Tapered Jeans
A specific model that is gure hugging and gets narrower, skinnier, towards the ankles.

A Japanese term that translates directly as ‘vertical falls’, referring to vertical faded stripes in (vintage) denim made from slub yarn. The unevenness of the thread causes the thicker parts to fade more rapid. Also see ‘Slub’.

Tobacco Stitching
Indicating the tobacco colour tint of the stitches commonly used by denim manufacturers.

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

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

Trucker Jacket
The jargon for the type of denim jacket introduced by Levi’s in 1962 by the name of 557XX. Itwas the first jacket to feature the characteristic pointed pocket flaps. Also known as the Levi’s type III jacket.

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 3x1 twill, which refers to the number of weft threads per warp thread. Denim fabric is traditionally woven using 3x1 twill, as opposed to a more lightweight denim (under 10.5 oz.) with 2x1 twill. With a 3x1 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.

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.

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

Unwashed Denim
See under ‘Dry Denim’.

Vintage (Denim)
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 ‘dead stock’ vintage.

Waist Overalls
This was the original term Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss used to describe their riveted work pants in 1873. ‘Jeans’ was a word that wasn’t coined and used until almost a century later, during the 1950s.

A speci c construction of yarnin which the vertical yarns are alternately woven over and under the weft. It makes the resulting material stronger. In denim, warp runs parallel to the selvage and is usually blue. The term ‘warp’ is said to have been derived from either the Norwegian varp or from the Dutch verb werpen i.e. to throw across.

This is the term for the horizontal threads that pass through the warp threads via the shuttle during weaving. They run perpendicular to the selvage. See also ‘Twill’ and ‘Warp’.

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.

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.

The horizontal crease lines around the crotch, thigh and knees of jeans. Formed by wearing dyed jeans resulting in an aged look. They can also be artificially applied with industrial fading techniques such as lasering or sandblasting.

Woad (Isatis Tinctoria L.)
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 owers, 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’.

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

Worn Out
A form of wet processing where sandblasted garments are stonewashed as well for an (artificial) appearance of wear and fade.

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.

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

Yarn Dyed
Fabrics where the yarn has been dyed before the weaving. Denim is a prime example of a yarn dyed fabric.

The v-shaped section at the back of a jeans that forms the curve of the seat. The deeper the ‘V’, the greater the curve. There are many types of yokes found on jeans, all meant for the different backsides of their wearers.

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- y jeans in 1925 on the 101Z model.

The majority of cotton yarns are right-hand spun, resulting in a z-twist. This type of yarn is normally used for left-handed twill, because its counter-clockwise construction results in a softer fabric. S-twist yarn is then similarly used for the right-handed twill.