Denim has an interesting history that begins in France. However, it wasn’t until the fabric was introduced to America by Levi-Strauss that it became a popular trouser fabric. By the 1950s, all of America was wearing denim, and the rest of the world soon followed. Today there are many types of denim, as well as countless washes, colors and uses for the fabric.
Denim has a long and varied history. It was first created by the Andre family in the city of Nimes, France. Denim was created from a serge fabric, which is a specially woven type of cotton twill. Denim got its name from the shortening of “serge de Nimes,” which was the phrase used to describe the fabric when it was first created.
Although denim had been around since the 16th century, knowledge of the fabric was limited. Denim did not become popular in America until the mid-1800s, when Levi Strauss began making pants for miners out of the “serge de Nimes.” Even though it became popular with workers and miners at that time, It was not until the movie industry boomed in the 1930s and 1940s that the general public began to wear denim. Movie stars playing cowboys and ranchers were idolized on the big screen, and the desire to emulate their style resulted in the popularity of denim pants.
Denim was first used as a sturdy fabric for laborers’ pants. Upon its import to America, it came to function as the trouser of choice for gold rush miners as well.
Once the general public began wearing denim, it was still primarily used in the creation of pants. However, with the technological advancements in the textile industry, it became possible to create a thinner, more malleable denim during the 1960s. Consequently, denim began to be used in creating thin, comfortable shirts, on trims for clothing, on purses and in jackets.
Today there are a few main types of denim. The most basic type is called raw denim. Raw denim is the pure, unaltered result of the denim-making process. The characteristics of raw denim are a dark indigo color that is uniform throughout the pant and a stiffer feel to the fabric. Over time as the jeans are worn, raw denim will fade and shape to the wearer.
Washed denim is a denim fabric that has been treated with a particular dye and fading process that gives it a unique look and color. Washes can range from pure black to magenta to a simple light shade of blue.
Selvage denim, also sometimes referred to as “Japanese denim,” is the highest quality denim available. It is characterized by a special weaving process that uses a single continuous thread instead of multiple cross-threads. This results in a clean inner edge on the seam of the jean and can be seen when the denim is turned inside out.
When choosing the perfect pair of denim jeans, there are a few factors people should take into consideration. First and foremost, despite the current trend, consumers should always buy denim jeans that best flatter their body type. For women, a slight boot-cut fit is the most forgiving and balances out the hips. Also, denim that has been woven with 2 percent stretch is typically more flattering and will fit better than nonstretch denim.
Even within one brand of jeans there are many types of denim used on the pants. This can result in different fits in the same size, even if the two pairs of jeans are the same style. For example, an unwashed raw denim will have less give and can feel thicker. The same style and cut of jean in a different denim, for example, with a 2 percent stretch, will fit more snugly overall.
One last consideration is that jeans without any spandex stretch are likely to fit tighter in the store but stretch out naturally over time. Because they do not have spandex, they will not snap back into their original shape after washing, and over many washes might get too loose. A general rule of thumb for women is to buy stretch jeans that fit just right in the dressing room, but buy nonstretch jeans a little tight because they will stretch out over time.