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Premium Denim Dictionary: Your A-Z Guide

Sep 05, 2017

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Jeans are just jeans, right? Well actually… as is true in most cases, you quite literally get what you pay for. Premium denim carries with it much more than just a higher price tag. But what, exactly, is the difference between high-end denim and your average fast-fashion pair of jeans? The answers, like premium denim itself, might seem complex, but are definitely worth familiarizing yourself with. Here, an A-Z guide of some of the most essential denim terms to keep in mind next time you find yourself in an intense chat about ‘whiskering.’ Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with cats.

3x1

This measurement refers to a kind of weave where three threads cross every one (hence, 3x1 weave). Think of it as a more thoughtfully made, heavier weight denim.

Atari or Whiskering

Raw denim, after a while, naturally fades in certain places. Prominent fades and creases around your upper thighs are known as atari or whiskering. This effect can also be added during the production of a jean, like our Men’s Light Wash denim and Women’s Dark Vintage jeans. We invest in 3-D whiskering in order to deliver a more authentic character to our denim. 

Bartack

Bartack is a denim sewing method that reinforces stress points on jeans (typically around pockets and near zippers) to uphold durability.

Broken Twill

You might need to squint to see it, but not all twill lines are created equal. Compared to left hand twill and right hand twill, a broken twill is a zig zag formation created when a diagonal weave is reversed to for a more random-looking design. 

Bull Denim

Just like the animal that inspired its name, bull denim is downright tough. Thanks to its 3x1 twill construction, this uniquely strong fabric manages to be both ultra-durable and incredibly soft to the touch. 

Cast

This refers to the different shade a jean is dyed with. Different methods result in different casts: yellow, black, brown, red or green. Typically you won’t see what cast denim is if it’s pre-washed, as the effect is intended to get more apparent as it’s washed and worn over time.

Chain Stitch

This is a sewing technique (and an ancient one, at that), that’s known for its strength and aesthetic appeal. It’s most often found at the hem of your jeans and creates a beautiful roping effect (uneven, rippled fade) as you wear your jeans in. You only find this on the real deal denim.

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Chambray

Ideal for more lightweight items like oversized button-downs and breezy summer dresses, chambray is a plain fabric weave woven with a colored yarn in the warm and a white yard in the weft.

Crocking

Crocking refers to heavily dyed fabric (like raw denim) that fades and creases over time as its dye is rubbed off. To prevent crocking on our raw denim collection, we recommend using a cold water vinegar soak to help seal the indigo dye prior to wear.

Crosshatch

Crosshatch describes fabric that has the appearance of a cross effect at the front with diagonal lines on the reverse. This results in a subtly textured denim. 

Crotch Blowout

If you fail to strike that delicate balance between ‘breaking in’ your new raw denim and totally forgetting about it, your jeans will probably start ripping in the crotch area. Consider it premium denim’s version of giving you the finger.

Distressed Jeans

This popular term refers to purposely blemished or faded denim that has a “pre-worn” appearance. Our women’s destructed mom jeans are the perfect example of meticulous distressing. 

Elasticity and Stretch Jeans

Elasticity in the world of denim refers to how much “give” a pair of jeans has. Stretch jeans, for example, contain some amount of elastin (i.e. spandex), which gives them a tight, but bendable fit. We offer stretch denim for both men and women

Enzyme Wash

Often used as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional stone washing, enzyme washing uses cellulase enzymes to loosen indigo dye and give denim a more worn, aged look. Two of our best selling men’s skinny jeans - jet black and faded black - utilize an enzyme wash.

Filling/Weft Yarn

This refers to a more lightweight yarn which is woven in a left-right direction, and is often a more natural, un-dyed color. 

Finishing

Denim finishing refers to the last techniques or processed performed on jeans (setting a fray, adding embellishments, etc.) before they achieve their desired look.

Garment/Piece Dyed

This is a type of dye process used when crafting a pair of jeans where the garment is dyed at the very end of the process, after the weaving of the yarn, often resulting in rich, saturated color. 

Greencast

Greencast denim refers to the process of dying jeans with a green dye before being dyed with indigo. This effect becomes more apparent as the jeans are worn over time.

Handweaving

This is a weaving technique where the grain runs from the top-right hand-corner of fabric toward the bottom-left corner hand-corner. 

Honeycombs

Sorry 90′s kid - not the cereal. Like whiskering, this is a kind of naturally-occurring fade that happens on raw jeans. Honeycombs refer to the zig-zag pattern that forms behind the knees.

Indigo Dip Dye

Indigo dip dye refers to the process of raw denim fabric being treated (aka dipped) multiple times in natural indigo. This technique is what gives jeans (like our 24-Dip Indigo) rich, saturated color.

Laser Sanding

This finishing process is used to soften denim, resulting in a worn look. Depending on the length of the sanding process, the final effect can range from subtle to extreme. 

Loose Weave Denim

Loose weave denim refers to a looser, less tense material used to make breathable, more lightweight jeans. 

Microsanding

This is a fabric treatment process where denim is wrapped in either abrasive paper or a chemically coated surface to cause intentional abrasion to the fabric for a finishing effect.

Mercerization

Mercerization is a process that helps deliver that deep indigo hue and slow building fade, and a process we use for our men’s raw denim collection. Mercerized fibers can absorb more water, and therefore more dye, to give denim a long-lasting luster and better stamina in the wash. Mercerization also creates stronger, smoother fibers that are more resistant to bacteria. 

Natural Indigo Dye

This organic compound is famous for its rich blue color, and has come to be widely associated with denim.

Overdye

A dying technique commonly used on indigo or black jeans which achieves an ultra-saturated, dark color. The overdye technique can also be used on other garments to get a rich color, like our men’s plaid button down shirt

Pigment Dye

Pigment dye refers to a style of dying where color is only coated on the top of denim, not absorbed into the fabric. 

Powerstretch

Equal parts fashionable and functional, this kind of denim lets you move naturally while still hugging curves. Our women’s high waisted black powerstretch skinny jeans are incredibly form-fitting and flattering, hence why these are our top selling women’s denim.  

Raw Denim

Raw denim - consider this the OG. Totally unwashed and untreated denim is special because it hasn’t been pre-shrunk. This kind of jean requires a little extra lovin’… but the results are totally worth it. 

Ring Dying

Often used on jeans that are intended to fade naturally over time, ring dying refers to a process that impacts only the outside layer of fiber, and leaves the core white. 

Rope Dying 

Considered a premium dying method, this term refers to the process of yarn being twisted into a rope before it undergoes a sequence of indigo dipping and oxidization. 

Ring Spun Denim

Ring-spun yarn results in unique, irregular surface textures in fabric, giving jeans a more vintage look.

Rinse Wash 

This term refers to dark denim that has been processed only with a quick rinse resulting in soft, saturated jeans that are ultra-flattering, 

Rise

As in, high-rise, low-rise or mid-rise. This term refers to where jeans sit on the hip/waist. The average rise on our men’s denim hovers around 10.5 inches, while we offer multiple options for high waisted and mid-rise for women. 

Rivets

Rivets are the little metal, button-resembling placed on areas of jeans that are most likely to be pulled apart by strain or movement. Rivets keep these vulnerable spots secure, helping your jeans last longer.

Sanforization

This is a term the cool kids use to say ‘pre-shrunk.’ The process of shrinking denim is pretty straight forward: the material is repeatedly steamed and stretched before being made into an actual garment. This technique ensures that your new jeans won’t become doll-sized during their first wash.

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Selvedge Denim

Meaning “self edge,” this common high-end denim term refers to narrow strips of fabric woven on old school shuttle looms.

Shrink To Fit Method

This refers to raw denim that has not been shrunk during the production process, meaning it can be shrunk after purchase. Many denim fans use this method to achieve the “perfect” fit. If you’re up for the challenge, fill a bathtub with hot water to safely bathe in, and soak in it wearing your raw denim for at least 15 minutes. During this time, your jeans will start to shrink and shape to your body. Hang dry then iron. 

Slub

Slub relates to yarn that has been knotted, twisted or combined with various lengths to create intentional irregularities that result in distinctive fabric thickness or softness.

Stack

Term used to describe a longer jean (ideally skinny) bunching at the ankle.

Stonewashing

This textile process helps soften stiff denim while providing a soft, pre-worn effect.

Timber Stitch

A denim stitch resulting in a clean, streamlined look.

Twill or Weave

Twill refers to a textile weave that produces a subtle ribbed pattern depending on its specifics. 

Wabi Sabi

This term refers to the naturally-occuring imperfections that all denim eventually experiences (pulled thread, loose stitching, etc.). 

Warp

Warp refers to denim fabric that has been woven lengthwise, creating a distinctive ribbing.

Weft

Unlike indigo-dyed warp thread, weft thread is left whilte, resulting in more dynamically-colored denim. 

Weight 

Referring to how much a yard of fabric weighs, weight count in denim ranges from lightweight to mid-weight to heavyweight, each resulting in differing levels of softness and durability. General rule of thumb - the higher the weight, the stiffer the denim will feel. 

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