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Premium Denim Dictionary: Your A-Z Guide

Sep 05, 2017


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.


What is a 3x1 denim weave?

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

What are whiskers on jeans?

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. 

Acid Wash

What are acid wash jeans?

One of the oldest washes to denim in history, acid wash uses pumice stones or cotton balls soaked in a chemical compound (previously actual acid) and tumbles the denim with the pumice stone. 

Modern acid wash production uses chlorine and potassium permanganate to create the dye pattern in acid wash jeans


What is bartack? 

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

Broken Twill

What is herringbone weave (or 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

What is bull denim jeans?

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. 


What is a jean's 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

What is a chain stitch in denim?

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.



What is chambray fabric?

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.

What color is chambray?

Because chambray fabric is woven with white yarn in the weft, chambray is usually a light blue color, no matter if you look at it regularly or inside out. Depending on the dye used in the colored yarn, chambray fabric can adopt any color, but will generally keep its pastel look. 


What is fabric crocking (or bleeding)?

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.


What is a crosshatch fabric?

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

Why does the crotch of my pants wear out?

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.


What is denim made of?

Denim is made of mostly, if not always, cotton. The origins of the name come from its inventors from Nîmes, France, who called the fabric weave Serge de Nîmes. Denim can also be woven with synthetic materials to change the stretch or durability of the fabric. See Elasticity and Stretch Jeans for more info. 

What is premium denim?

To buy premium denim means to buy jeans made with superior quality materials. Premium denim usually starts around $100, but that cost doesn’t accurately price the denim being sold. Premium denim is at the heart of DSTLD, and we cut out the middleman (department stores and boutiques) that usually marks up the price, which allows us to price our jeans starting from $75

Distressed Jeans

What does "distressed" mean for 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. 

Dry Denim

What is dry denim jeans?

Dry denim jeans is another name for Raw Denim. Click here to skip to "What is Raw Denim?"

Elasticity and Stretch Jeans

What does spandex do in 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

What is 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

What does weft yarn mean?

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


What is a denim finish?

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

What does it mean to piece-dye denim?

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. 


What is greencast denim fades?

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.


What is 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. 


How do you get honeycombs in denim?

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

What is an 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

How does laser sanding work?

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

What is a loose weave?

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


How does microsanding work?

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.


What is mercerized thread?

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

What is indigo dye?

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


What is overdyed denim?

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

What is a 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. 


What is stretch skinny jeans? 

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

What is 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

What is a ring dye? 

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 

What is a rope dye? 

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

What does it mean for denim to be ring spun?

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

What is double ring spun denim?

Double ring spun denim is made by using both the warp and weft threads as ring-spun yarn (regular ring spun only used it for the warp).

Rinse Wash 

What is a 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, 


What is a jean 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. 


What are jean 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.


What does sanforized denim mean?

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.

Selvedge Denim

What is 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

What is pre-shrunk denim?

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. 

How to shrink jeans:

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. 


What is slub yarn?

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.


What does stacking mean?

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


What is stonewashing jeans?

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

Timber Stitch

What is timber stitching?

A denim stitch resulting in a clean, streamlined look.An example of this stitching technique would be our Men’s Slim 24 Dip Timber Raw Jeans

Twill or Weave

What is the difference between twill and denim?

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.). 


What is denim warp?

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

What is denim weft?

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


How does the weight of denim affect the wear?

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. 


What is the yoke on jeans?

The yoke of jeans can be described as the back stitching of jeans that looks like a arch. If you’re looking at the backside of your jeans, it will be between your belt loops and your back pockets. Jean yokes vary from inverted arch, straight, V-shape, or no yoke at all. 

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