Amazing Denim Fabric: A Cultural Icon in Human Clothing History

by | May 3, 2024

Very few fabrics influenced human culture like denim fabric. It always had been a sign of boldness, adventure, and youth. With its timeless style, it always carries the essence of self-expression and freedom.

We are Team Muslin Dhaka, a passionate group of fabric experts, researchers, and marketers. The denim fabric has a glorious history, and there are many WOW facts and stories we can’t wait to tell our readers. 

To write the article we went through weeks of detailed research and experiments. We bring the most reliable information for you. With our 37 years of cumulative experience, we present the best article about denim fabric.

Allow us to carry you to the heart of the glorious fabric Denim!

What is Denim fabric?

Denim is a thick, durable cotton fabric made with twill weave. Historically and culturally most denim is blue. Jeans pants are kind of a signature product of denim. Of course, black and different colors of denim are also quite common. But indigo blue is the color that defines it the best. 

Denim has low breathability, but its durability is no less than S tire. It’s strong, potent, and easy to take care of. Although it is thick and low breathable, it does not trap heat. That’s why it’s quite comfortable and suitable for any season. 

Before jumping into the construction, history, and characteristics, let’s go through a quick view that highlights the key information about denim.

Industrial NameDenim fabric
OriginNîmes, France (During the 17th century)
Other NamesJeans
ConstructionThick cotton yarn is woven with twill weave.
Weight300-400 GSM approx.
ColorUsually different shades of blue and black.
AirflowLow breathability.
Moisture AbsorbanceSlow.
WeavingTwill weave.
StretchLow 
Heat InsulationLow
Shrinkage Ratio2-3% 
UsageClothing, furniture, and vehicle uses. 

 

A Brief History of Denim Fabric

Denim was first invented in Genoa, Italy in the 1500s. The jeans fabric was used by the Genoese Navy for their heavy-duty clothing. However, the name Denim is named after the French city Nimes. The first denim was made in Italy, but its materials are from Nimes. In English, the “Da Nimes” means, from Nimes. Which later became Denim.

Origin of Denim Fabric

Jeans

The name jeans also has a French origin. The origin order of the word is Genoa> genes> Jeans. In 1870 a man named Levi Strauss started his own denim company. It was a time when mining was expanding in California and different parts of America. To handle the wear and tear of mining, the miners required durable and continent pants. Levi Strauss and a tailor named Jacob Davis joined together and came up with a genius style of jeans. 

The first jeans were named Levis 501. It had front and back pockets where miners could keep their mining goods. The smaller pocket on the front side of the jeans was designed to keep a pocket watch. 

The jeans were very convenient for working people. They quickly spread to other industries of growing America. Suddenly farmers, laborers, ranchers, factory workers & everyone started to use it. As time passed, every class of people embraced it with great delight.

The signature blue color is from indigo plants that were sourced from India. At that time, blue or other colors were very expensive. For the blue-collar people indigo dye was the cheapest color that could lower the production cost. 

History of Denim Fabric

High quality Indigo blue was not cheap actually, but the lower grade of indigo was. A small amount of indigo blue was enough to dye blue jeans. 

You may have noticed that jeans have darker colors in the front and lighter colors in the inner part. The secret lies in its weaving style. In the twill weave, only the weft fabric is visible in the front. So by dying just the weft yarn, you can get a fully blue color on one side of the fabric. It reduced the dyeing cost by half. 

How Denim Fabric is Made?

Making denim includes several steps of yarn making, dyeing, and weaving. The process can widely vary depending on the types. Let’s find out more below.

Yarn making

Denim yarns are made of cotton. The quality of denim highly depends on the quality of cotton used. The cotton quality refers to how long or short the cotton fiber is. Higher-quality cotton has a higher fiber length. 

First, the seeds are removed from the cotton which is called ginning. After ginning, the cotton is processed for making yarn. There are two common techniques for making denim yarn. One is open-end rotor spinning, and the other is ring spinning. Ring spinning provides a stronger and softer quality of denim yarn.

Dyeing

As we mentioned earlier, indigo dyeing was the traditional way to achieve the signature blue color of denim. Even today, most of the denim companies follow the traditional way of dyeing denim. Sulfur dyeing is another way to dye denim clothes. Sulfur dyes are also very common to attain different colored denim, like black, mastered, ash, and white. 

There are also synthetic indigo dyeing methods that follow similar principles as traditional indigo dyeing. The indigo is not inherently blue. It has a deep greenish color. But it helps in oxidation which creates the blue color. 

The denim yarn dyeing involves several times of dipping and oxidizing. Stronger and deeper color is achieved by dipping and oxidizing several times.

How Denim is made?

Weaving

Denim fabric is made by twill weave. Twill weave is one of the strongest weaving that creates strong and durable fabric. In this weaving, the weft yarn interlaces the weft yarn by following 2×2, 3×1, or similar patterns. For the 2×2 pattern, the weft follows an over-over and under-under pattern. 

The following weft starts one step forward from the previous weft. This creates a ladder-like 45-degree pattern. As this weaving creates more interlace points, the fabric becomes very tough and durable. The denim weaving is done with an automatic machine. 

Types of Denim

It would not be wrong to say denim is one of the most used fabrics of modern times. The average American has 7 pairs of Jeans. The picture is not very different in other parts of the world. With great demand and popularity, producers started producing different grades and types of denim to compete in the market. That led us to a variety of denim types.

Let’s find out the common denim fabric types below.

Raw denim jeans

Raw jeans are non-washed and have a rough quality. Although the washed ones are more comfortable, rough ones have their place in different stylings.

Washed jeans

Jeans that are washed after dyeing are called washed Jeans. Many jeans go through several washes. Washed jeans are softer, do not shrink. The more times a jeans is washed, the softer it gets. Usually, most jeans are sold after washing.

Pure cotton denim

Pure cotton denim consists of only organic cotton without any other materials. To get the most out of denim fabric, 100 percent cotton ones are the best.

Stretch denim

You may have seen or used some denim that can be stretched. Elastic, lycra, or other synthetic material is used to make those denim fabrics.

Acid-washed denim

Some denim fabrics are acid-washed to get a faded color. Old jeans are quite trendy as many literary works and movies popularized them. Acid washing provides that oldish look.

Selvedge Denim

Selvedge denim is a type of denim that has clean edges. The edges are sewn to get a neat look. Apart from that, it’s similar to regular denim.

Depending on the weight of denim fabric, there are also 3 types of denim. 

  1. Lightweight denim: Lightweight denim is up to 8 ozs which means it has 270-300 GSM (grams per square meter)
  2. Medium-weight denim: Medium-weight denim weighs about 10 ozs or 300-350 GSM.
  3. Heavyweight denim: It is about 12 oz or around 400 GSM on average.

Characteristics of denim fabric

To help you understand the characteristics of denim fabric, we have done several experiments with denim fabric. The denim in our hand was 100% cotton, washed, and the most common type of denim. 

Let’s find out the characteristics of common denim fabric.

Construction

The sample in our hand has a composition figure 10×34/78×98 (WarpxWeft/EPIxPPI). From the construction, we can see it has a 320 GSM which falls in the medium-weight denim category. 

Appearance

In the fabric, we can see it has 45-degree diagonal lines all over the fabric. It has dark blue on the front side and a mixed white color on the back like other denim.

Softness

The sample in our hand is quite soft and comfortable. There is no washing information in the fabric, but we assume it has been washed several times. Otherwise, the softness & finishing never come to this point.

Yarn quality

The yarn quality can vary in price and style in different brands of denim. But our sample has quite good quality yarn. After removing a weft of yarn and looking at it under the magnifying glass, we observed the richness of the fiber and the strong color of the yarn. 

Breathability

No wonder that denim fabric has a low breathability as the fabric is tightly constructed. For the same reason, the fabric does not over-insulate our bodies and keeps us cool. As denim fabrics are commonly worn a bit loose, the air will naturally pass from the gaps in your clothes.

Heat absorption

Denim is not a very insulating fabric. So it may not keep you that warm in winter if worn alone. But the same character makes it perfect for different seasons.

We did a little experiment to test its heat absorption. After lit a lighter close to it, we barely felt any heat from the other side. 

Stretch

Denim is a non stretchy fabric. But our sample seemed like it stretched 2-3%. Light stretch is common for even non-stretchy clothes.

Water absorption of Denim fabric

Water absorption

Denim fabric is not the quickest absorber of water. After sprinkling a few droplets of water in the denim fabric, it absorbs the water slowly within 10 seconds. This number can vary depending on the type of denim. Raw denim absorbs less water than washed denim.

Transparency

Denim does not pass almost any light at all. However, certain light denim can pass a small amount of light.

Denim Transparency

Shrinkage

Raw denim fabric can shrink 2-3% but washed ones usually do not shrink. But still expect to shrink slightly over time.

Durability

When it comes to durability, very few fabrics can be comparable to denim. We tried to stroke the fabric with a knife lightly, but there was no scratch. No wonder denim is the best for workwear fabric.

Denim durability

Color retention

Denim fabric is expected to lose its color slightly over time with washing. The process is gradual and regular. 

Denim and Sustainability

Natural fibers are good for nature. They are biodegradable. Denim is good for the environment as most denim is made from natural cotton fiber.

Cotton uses the most amount of water during production and no wonder denim does it too. But denim is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics in the sense  of durability. You can use denim  at least 2-5 years. 

Even if you wear your jeans every day, it is going to last at least two years. In this fast fashion era, jeans last longer than 95% of regular fabric. The less cloth you use, the better it is for the environment. Denim can be recycled too!

Uses of denim

Denim is known for Iconic jeans pants but it is also a multifunctional fabric with many uses. Many types of clothes are made with denim fabric. 

Denim jackets, shirts, suits, sneakers, outdoor fabric, cosplay fabrics, and jugglers are commonly made with it. Also used for making furniture and upholstery fabric, such as covers, and lampshades. 

Different accessories like sunglasses, bags, rucksacks, canvas, and belts can be made with denim fabric. Some car companies also use it for seat covers.

Denim Fabric Uses

The advantages and disadvantages of denim fabric 

Let’s see the prime advantages and disadvantages of denim fabric. 

Advantages

  • Lasts longer
  • Durable
  • Never goes out of fashion
  • It is common to repeat jeans
  • Not very worm
  • Usable in different seasons
  • You can enjoy the color fade

Disadvantages

  • Very hard to hand-wash
  • Takes longer to air dry
  • Feels uncomfortable if you lay around with it
  • The color can fade off

Denim vs Chambray fabric

Denim and chambray have a bit of a similar look and function. That’s why people sometimes mistake chambray fabric as denim. After reading this you will never confuse denim and chambray.

Denim is more popular than Chambray fabric. Although they both are thick, there are differences in construction and features. Denim is made of twill weave while chambray is made of plain weave. Denim fabric is not breathable, while chambray is somewhat moderately breathable. 

So, how can you differentiate between chambray and denim fabric? If you look closely, you will see diagonal lines in denim fabric while chambray will have plain lines. After touch and feel, you can also differentiate them.

It’s hard to identify only by looking at these fabrics. Both can be dyed the same way and have the same color. So, color may not be a reliable way to identify them.

How to care Denim?

How to care for Denim fabric?

Denim fabric needs so little attention. It’s tough and durable enough to handle daily wear. But just a bit of care can preserve the color and strength of your jean’s clothing for longer years. Here are some tips that can help you.

  • Wash less: The less you wash your denim, the longer it will last. Washing loosens the cotton fiber and makes it softer. But it fades the color a bit. If you want to reserve the color for longer, wash it at least every 10 uses. 

Note: Even with faded jeans, it’s very hard to go out of style.

  • Mild washing powder: Use mild and natural washing powder for cleaning.
  • Air dry: Don’t use a dryer for your jeans. It will reduce your jean’s longevity. Instead, air-dry it in a shade. Drying in the sun can fade the color.

Denim fabric by the yard

10 dollars is approximately the average price of standard denim fabric by the yard. The standard range is between 5-20 dollars. High-quality denim is mostly between 20-50 dollars by the yard depending on the brand. You can easily find them online or in your nearby market for your DIY projects. 

For luxury japanese denim, the price is very high. You can read about the most expensive fabrics to know more.

5 best Denim fabric brands

Nowadays, there are so many denim fabric brands out there. But some of them lead the market with their amazing quality and consistency. 

According to our research, here are 5 best denim brands :

  1. Levi’s
  2. Wrangler
  3. Gucci
  4. Lee
  5. Calvin Klein

Where can you buy Denim?

After knowing all the fascinating information about denim, you may want to buy some denim. Generally, AmazonGoodamerican, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a few other online shops should not disappoint you with their quality. Rose Flavors denim is quite standard for DIY projects. I also found some stunning jeans in Abercrombie & Fitch. Don’t forget to see Etsy!

FAQ

What is the basic difference between denim and jeans?

Denim is the name of the fabric, while Jeans are pants made of denim. Denim fabric can be used for making a lot of other clothes and accessories. 

Why is denim always blue?

Denim is generally blue, but not all denim is blue. There are a lot of other colors. At the initial time of the denim invention, indigo blue was used to dye it. Over time that became a tradition and still most of the denim fabrics are dyed blue.

Is all denim 100% cotton?

The actual denim is 100% cotton. But there are other variants of denim made by cotton blend with synthetic fibers like spandex, polyester etc.

Do jeans stretch over time?

Stretch jeans may stretch over time, but pure cotton denim does not stretch. It’s even more likely to shrink slightly over time.

Conclusion

If you reach this point in the article, we can confidently say you know more than 99 percent of people about denim fabric. Denim is not just a name of fabric, it’s the fabric that defines modern styles and human culture. 

There is no sign that it will lose popularity anytime soon. We sincerely hope this article meets your interest. If you get value from the article, you can read similar blogs about other fascinating fabrics. Stay curious! 

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!

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