Ok, FACT…this is a great feature! It’s the exact reason I’m totes, completely happy that Greg has joined the clobbership.
I wanted a feature that really focused on the basics of denim, something I could point indigo curious carnivores towards, and with the @denimhound at the helm I got JUST THAT!
So sit back, relax, crack open a bevvy and let’s enjoy the Q&A with Greg Tamura on THE BASICS OF DENIM.
1. So Greg, What is denim made from?
Denim is made from the hair of wild stallions, woven by hand in a hut on the summit of mount Fuji, during a thunderstorm… fact.
No Ben, I have to get serious, here is the technical answer. Traditionally, denim is a fabric woven from sturdy cotton yarns. The weave consists of two sides, the warp and the weft. The weft passes under two or more warp threads creating what is called a twill weave. This twill weaving produces a diagonal ribbing that distinguishes it from cotton duck. The most common denim is indigo denim, in which the warp thread is dyed with indigo, while the weft thread is left white.
The thing is… denim can so much more than a bulk textile, It has become an art form. So to answer the question, what is denim? It is all of the above. It is technical specifications, stories of the meticulous manufacturing techniques and a way to honor history and craft. I like to think denim is made from the balance of: Technique, experience, passion and vision.
2. What is selvedge? How come some jeans have it and some don’t?
The name Selvedge, Selvage, or Self-edge comes from the fact that selvedge denim is woven into itself at its edge. This means the denim will not fray, eliminating the need for stitching to seal the edges. This stitching can unravel and need repairs. It is also less aesthetically pleasing. I think the selvedge ID was first used by Cone Mills in the early days, as a way for the workers to identify the different fabrics, as some did not speak english and some may not have known how to read at all.
Interesting fact: Cone Mills set up school houses and daycare for the children of the families that worked at their Mills. This was not a common practice of the time.
3. Who first created denim/selvedge and all that other cool jazz we love so much?
The first pair of denim trousers comes from Italy. the French word for Italy is Genoa (Gênes). The name “denim” derives from the French term, serge de Nîmes, meaning ‘serge from Nîmes, where denim fabric originated. Although the 5-pocket, rivited denim pants we currently know as jeans started in Nevada in 1873.
The first pair of rivet-reinforced” denim pants was made by Jacob W. David, a tailor from Nevada, manufactured the first pair of “His concept for making reinforced jeans was inspired when a customer requested a pair of durable and strong pants for chopping wood. When Davis was about to finish making the denim jeans, he saw some copper rivets lying on a table and used the rivets to fasten the pockets.
At this time, clothes for Western workers were not very durable. Soon, the popularity of denim jeans began to spread rapidly and Davis was was struggling to keep up with the demand . He then wrote a proposal to the dry goods wholesaler Levi Strauss & Co., that had been supplying Davis with bolts of denim fabric. Davis’s proposal was to retain the rights to the patent while Levi would take over production. Levi Strauss & Co. then hired Davis to be in charge of the mass-production in San Francisco.
4. Why do people regards selvedge as better? You know, better than…well, not selvedge?
Possibly because it is cleaner looking, maybe because it is more resistant to fraying, or maybe because it is made on a narrower loom than non-selvedge and therefore limited, and less common.
5. When and how is the colour applied to the fabric? And what are fades? Are these to do with the colour?
The dye most used to color denim is called Indigo. There are different versions such as pure indigo and natural indigo. As well as tints applied to indigo such as greencast or redcast.
Fading occurs when the indigo becomes slowly removed from the cotton over time by the friction of wear, revealing the original color of the cotton yarns.
Okay so we know where it comes from, Who created it and why selvedge is so cool so let’s ramp I up a little…
6. What’s the difference between American and Japanese denim?
Do you mean difference between American and Japanese denim? ERRR Yeah! (Blush Face) If so, there is only one factory in the US that makes selvedge denim and that is Cone Mills. Cone Mills makes a very tight weave, flat surfaced, usually sanforized denim in the 10 to 16.5oz range. It is known for having a slightly hairy surface and usually produced low contrast, “vintage” fades.
Japanese denim is sought after more for its loose weave, unsanforized and textured qualities, such as Slub, Nep, and Hair. Japanese denim is usually rope dyed in a way that will produce a hi contrast fade with plenty of Tate Ochi (vertical falls) fading.
7. Whats makes raw denim raw?
It means it has never touched water. It can be sanforized, unsanforized, or even stretch denim. As long as it hasn’t been touched by water it is raw denim.
8. What does sanforized mean?
Sanforized denim has undergone a process using steam to shrink the cotton yarns before it is woven into denim. This will eliminate most but not all shrinkage upon first soak or wash.
9. Can you explain what warp, weft & twill are please?
Warp: the yarns in the twill weave that run vertically along the front side of the denim.
Weft: the yarns that are horizontally woven underneath the warp.
Twill: The type of weave used to make denim fabric. There are three types of twill; left hand, right hand, and broken twill.
10. And Finally, for somebody who is just learning about raw denim and is completely intrigued by the fades. What would you advise they buy to achieve the best fades in the business, and why?
What is it that makes some fades better/quicker than others?
“Best” fades are a subjective thing. Some like high contrast, some like vintage fades, some like dirty looking fades, and some like cleaner fades.
What you can look for in any perspective denim is how the yarns are dyed. Rope dying will give you the fastest and possibly highest contrast fades. This is because you can get yarns that are dyed very darkly on just a thin outer layer while the inside remains untouched by indigo. You can look for stray yarns in the belt loops or button holes to see how the yarns are dyed to predict fade qualities.
~ The Denim Hound 6-28-17