Denim Dictionary


You can tell if something is selvedge by the narrow tightly woven band on both edges of the denim fabric. Selvedge denim is made using old fashioned shuttle looms and different weaving techniques, then is usually finished with a coloured thread which is dependant on the brand or producer.

Non-selvedge denim is typically made from a projectile loom and does not have a clean edge. They require a finishing stitch to prevent the fabric from unravelling.



Sanforization stabilises the fabric before it is cut or washed by stretching and pre- shrinking it. It reduces the chance of shrinkage to less than 3% as opposed to 10%+ with unsanforized denim. Majority of denim we see these days are sanforized. It is much more convenient for the average wearer.



Unsanforized denim, also known as “shrink to fit” has not been through the sanforization process. It is untreated after coming off the loom. Since unsanforized denim does not go through this process, it is expected to shrink between 10%-20% after the first soak.



Denim that has not undergone any of the usual washing and distressing processes. It is the purest form of denim. Raw denim comes straight off the loom and is cut and sewn into jeans. It is stiff with a distinct blue colour and has a distinctive sheen. In this condition, the jeans mould to the wearer’s body type and shape, creating unique folds and fade marks along the way.



Jeans are rinsed once in cold water after coming off the loom to produce a product that is fully shrunken and ready to wear. You don’t need to worry about any major additional shrinkage, aside from the usual half an inch, which will typically stretch back out after wear. One wash can be done for environmental purposes and/or to create a specific look and feel. This is a Japanese invention from 1991.



The density of denim refers to the number of yarns that make up the weave.



This is part of the dyeing process. For raw denim, oxidation happens when indigo yarn comes out of an indigo bath between dips and is exposed to oxygen. This is essential to ensure the dye colour is permanently fixed to the fibre.



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



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. 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 fit until 1959. Shrink to fit jeans are still offered today by selected manufacturers for the true denim head



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.



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 dye bath starts out a white-green colour, which only turns blue once the textile is exposed to oxygen. 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.



A loom is a weaving machine that produces fabric by weaving vertical threads of yarn (warp) with horizontal threads (weft). Shuttle looms typically make heavier fabrics that are very tightly woven and are produced in one yard wide strips. Selvedge denim is typically made on shuttle looms while most other denim are made on projectile looms.



Left hand twill has a diagonal line running from the upper left to the lower right. Majority of denim is made using right hand twill, it is not very often you come across left hand twill and that is because it is more difficult to produce, as it needs to be treated with care during sanforization. Left hand twill gives the material a soft feel after washing.



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.



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



Generally refers to the decorative double stitching on the back pockets



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. 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.



Bar racks refer to a series of stitches used to reinforce areas that may be subject to stress or additional wear.



You will find rivets usually on pockets of the jean, they are placed on areas that are most likely to be pulled apart by strain or movement to help hold the fabric together. Rivets are one of the most defining features on jeans we wear today.