To help give you a deeper understanding of the world of denim, we’ve compiled a glossary of terms that will have you sorted from A – Z.
A – Apple Bottoms
Made famous in the lyrics to Flo Rida’s “Low,” Apple Bottoms is a brand of womens jeans cofounded by rapper Nelly. Referencing the apple-like shape of a woman’s derriere while wearing pants, the brand went one step further and even included apple-shaped back pockets in the design.
B – Bleach
The general name for a number of different chemical solutions that are used to lighten and create artificial fading in jeans, for a pre-worn look straight off the shelf.
C – Cast(e)
Indigo dyed denim comes with various undertones, known as castes. Appearing as either black, brown, grey, green, red, or yellow tones, they show up easier once the denim has faded, but with a trained eye can be seen in the denim’s raw form.
D – Double Denim
Also known as the Canadian tuxedo, double denim is the name given to the pairing of a denim jacket and jeans worn at the same time. One can, of course, triple or quadruple denim and so on. For examples, see here.
E – Ecru
The natural color of denim before it has been dyed with indigo. Basically a colorless cream shade, it is not common to find finished jeans in this state.
F – Five Pocket Design
The modern standard number of pockets on a pair of jeans. Levis’ original design from 1873 had three – two in the front and one in the back. The match or coin pocket was added in 1890, with the fifth back pocket added in 1905.
G – Garment Dying
When a finished pair of jeans is dyed as a last step, rather than dying the yarn before the jeans are constructed. For this method, the finished jeans are stocked in ecru and then dyed in any number of various colors depending on demand.
H – Honeycombs
The area behind the knee on a pair of jeans, where the indigo fades with wear, often leaving a honeycomb pattern.
I – Indigo
Originally from the Indigofera tinctoria plant, indigo is the dye used to make denim blue. It is unique in that it is colorfast to water and light, but as it doesn’t penetrate fibers the whole way through, it gradually fades, prompting it to be called the “living color.” The blue color is the result of oxidation of the textile, and will take on a deeper color with each time it is dyed. Since the start of the 20th century, most manufacturers use synthetic indigo rather than the plant.
J – Jeans
Derived from “bleu de Genes,” the French term for pants that sailors from the Italian town of Genoa used to wear, it soon became the general term for tailored pants that were made from denim. Nowadays the term can simply be used for any pants with a five-pocket design, regardless of what fabric they’re made from.
K – Kasuri
A method of ikat dyeing, in which masks are placed on the yarn before dyeing to create a pattern.
L – Leg Twist
The name given to the phenomenon of left or right hand twills that twist in the direction of the weave, and is most noticeable at the outer seams. Often jeans will be skewed or a broken twill weave is used to prevent this.
M – Match Pocket
Also known as a coin pocket, it is the fifth and smallest pocket that sits inside the right front pocket and was originally intended for matches.
N – New Age Denim
No longer solely the domain of clothing, denim is now frequently incorporated into other lifestyle products including furniture and home goods.
O – Oxidation
In the indigo dyeing process, oxidation is when raw denim is removed from an indigo bath and exposed to oxygen. This causes the deeper blue color to reappear and is integral for the dye to penetrate the fibre.
P – Pumice stones
A tough, lightweight volcanic rock used in the process of stonewashing denim to create a pre-aged appearance.
Q – Quintessential
Seen as perhaps the most democratic item of clothing, denim jeans are a ubiquitous clothing staple around the world. Thanks to the inexpensive and timeless nature of denim, jeans have remained an iconic fashion item for everyone from the rich to the poor, and young to old.
R – Railtracks
A term used to describe the fades along the outer seams of jeans, in which the contour of the folded inseam fades and thus resembles a train track.
S – Selvedge
Also known as self-edge or selvage, this is the thin strip at the vertical edge of denim fabric to prevent the end from unravelling. Often a different color depending on brand and producer, historically selvedge used to be white until mills starting adding red in the 1930s to recognize the best quality easily.
T – Tab
Also known as a flag, it is the small yet recognizable label that usually sits on the side of the back right pocket to identify the brand.
U – Unwashed
Another term for raw or dry denim, this is the original production form of denim before it is washed or treated. The fabric is quite stiff but becomes broken in by the wearer creating unique fades and molding to their body shape.
V – Vintage
A general term used to denote a preowned or pre-worn item of clothing. Vintage denim is highly sought after due to it’s naturally worn appearance and deadstock styles.
W – Whiskers
Horizontal crease lines around the crotch, thigh and knee areas on jeans that are the result of wearing them in.
X – XX
Found on the original model of Levis’ 501 Shrink-to-Fit silhouette, it signified the denim fabric woven by Cone Mills.
Y – Yoke
The V-shaped section at the back of jeans above the pockets, which gives a curved seat. The bigger the V, the greater the curve.
Z – Z-Twist
A right-hand spun yarn, as opposed to a left-hand spun yarn which is known as an S-Twist.
Illustrations: Uli Knörzer/Highsnobiety.com
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