As you are probably aware, the world of denim is teeming with a near endless assortment of different dyes, weaves and fabrics. ‘Weaving’ your way through this mess can be quite confusing, especially if it’s your first time around dealing with denim suppliers. Today we want to simplify the adventure for you by first addressing what denim is and then talking about the different types of denim. Ready? Let’s go!
What Is Denim?
The word denim derives from the French phrase “serge de Nîmes.” It refers to a cotton textile that relies on a twill weave with diagonal ribbing to achieve those wonderful pairs of denim jeans we all wear. The amazing thing about denim is that it’s available in so many different styles. Denim can basically be used to match any form of attire.
The most original denim was made from 100% cotton serge and referred to as cotton serge denim. These days, denim is available in an abundance of different materials and blends from a variety of denim suppliers. The four most common ones that we want to cover today are listed below:
- Dry/Raw Denim
- Selvage Denim
- Stretch Denim
- Ramie Denim
- Poly Denim
What Is Denim Washing?
Before we even start talking about the various types of denim, we need to understand what is meant by ‘denim washing’. When people talk bout ‘denim washing,’ they refer to the ‘washing’ techniques used to modify denim before the denim product or products are put to sale and distributed to consumers.
Denim is “washed” or “processed” to achieve a special effect, such as fading. The usual goal is to make the denim product look aged and worn. However, there are advanced wash techniques (such as acid washing, stone washing, sand washing, sand blasting) that create contrast, selective fading, etc. Why do people like denim looking like this? You’d have to ask a psychologist. All we know is that such worn-out-looking denim sells like hotcakes!
What Is Dry/Raw Denim?
Dry or raw denim is denim that has not been washed. It is 100% raw and thus does not contain any special effects like fading. This gives it a very raw, vintage look that’s rugged and sexy. Unfortunately, dry/raw denim comes with a few notable drawbacks.
1. It’s very stiff compared to washed denim. This means you must wear it a number of times before you feel anywhere close to comfortable in it.
2. It’s not ideal to wash raw denim in a washer/dryer. This fades the denim. The better option is to wear it as much as possible and then dry clean it when necessary.
3. It’s a real pain to maintain. To own raw denim, you need to be willing to maintain it religiously! Otherwise, why even waste extra money on it?
So why do people buy raw denim? They like its authenticity. The thing about raw denim is that isn’t completely unaffected when you receive it. As a result, every mark, line and tear it accumulates in its lifespan comes from your daily life and activities. Simply put, raw denim tells a story!
What Is Selvage Denim?
Selvage denim is a special, luxury-grade form of denim that relies on a tighter weave. Back in the day, all denim was selvage. Clothes makers used traditional shuttle looms to construct densely woven denim fabric in long, narrow strips that contained selvage edges. These edges were required so that the strips could be turned into trousers.
Things changed in the mid 1900s when clothing manufacturers started using projectile looms to keep up with increasing demand. These looms let manufacturers use wider materials, thus taking away the need for a selvage edge.
What makes selvage denim so pricey is the fact that it’s so durable and crisp and classy. Plus, making selvage denim is harder than making non-selvage denim.
What Is Stretch Denim?
Back in 1959, a chemist named Joseph Shivers invented what we now know as spandex. It’s a synthetic fibre that possesses incredible elasticity. Now imagine what happened when, two decades later, fashionistas decided to combine spandex with denim? Stretch denim was invented!
Stretch denim differs from other forms of denim because it conforms to the body’s shape. Most denim items needed to be broken in before they fit perfectly. This isn’t the case with stretch denim.
Unfortunately, because of the stretch factor, stretch denim tends to be less durable. Over time, the elastic fibres break down, thus causing the denim item to lease its stretchiness. Stretch denim products also fray much easier than regular denim garments.
What Is Ramie Denim?
Ramie denim is an especially unique form of denim only dealt with by a select few denim suppliers. It is simply standard denim mixed with the fibre crop Boehmeria nivea, or ramie. This crop is added to denim because of its numerous advantages:
- It’s naturally resistant to bacteria and mildew.
- It’s very absorbent and thus comfortable to wear.
- It’s resistant to stains.
- It’s not damaged by mild acids.
- It dyes very, very easily.
- It can withstand high-temperature laundry.
- It doesn’t shrink in size.
- It can be bleached.
By combing ramie with denim, denim suppliers are able to make their denim garments more resistant to bacteria, mildew, stains and more. They are in effect able to improve it just by making a simple change to their garments’ construction.
What Is Poly Denim?
Poly denim refers to the mixture of denim with polyester, the latter of which is a manufactured fibre that’s extraordinary strong. It’s also resistant to mildew, shrinkage, stretching, chemicals, wrinkles and even abrasions. Plus, it washes and dries much more easily. These factors make poly denim very useful for when constructing work clothes. The drawback is that polyester makes denim garments less breathable.
What Are Denim Suppliers To Do With All This Info?
This is a lot of information to cover, but it should just be a starting point. If you are serious about denim fashion, it would be prudent for you to continue learning as much as possible. Speak with denim producers. Examine some denim gear. Become an expert on denim!