MEN’S DENIM 101

MEN’S DENIM 101

FPO_will-be-replacedYour Guide to Men’s Jeans
Consider this your intro to denim fundamentals, from detailing to the perfect fit, and even its origins. Dive in and get acquainted.
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The Fundamentals

HOW DENIM IS MADE

It all starts with cotton. The denim we know and love is cotton that’s been woven and then dyed with synthetic indigo, which gives jeans their distinctive color. To finish the fabric, the denim is coated with a natural starch or wax-based resin before being woven into looms. This makes the fabric rigid and robust enough to handle the cutting and sewing of the production process.

Once cut and sewn, the denim is washed to the desired base shade. The wash process will vary depending on the desired style. Sometimes pumice stones, desizing enzyme washes, bleaches, or other abrasives are added, but the most important element is time. After a bit of patience, the newly born jeans are pressed and tagged.

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Raw denim is never washed during production, and is therefore very stiff and rigid. You break in a pair of raw-denim jeans like a pair of shoes – over time, the fabric conforms itself to you and your movements. Similarly, each pair of raw-denim jeans will fade in a particular way. Raw denim is more expensive than washed denim.

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Selvedge denim not to be confused with raw denim, is created through a slower, less automated process than mass-produced denim. The edges are
finished and bound in a way that prevents them from easily fraying or unraveling, hence the loftier price tag.

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DYES
From synthetic indigo to resin-bonded pigment dyes, different processes produce different shades and hues for a rich array of color options. While all jean material is yarn-dyed – meaning that the cotton yarn fibers are dyed before being woven into denim fabric – the specific process used can affect the look and the way a pair of jeans holds its color.

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Rope dyeing:

Because it holds color the best and allows multiple dips, this is the most common method of dyeing denim. Basically, individual threads are twisted into “ropes” and dipped together.

Loop dyeing:

The oldest denim-dyeing process, it is somewhat similar to rope dyeing, except additional dips are required for darker shades.

Slasher (sheet) dyeing:

It’s slower than rope dyeing because each individual thread gets dyed separately.

Ring dyeing:

A surface-dyeing technique that applies to indigo dyes exclusively, ring dyeing only touches the outer ring of the cotton fibers, leaving a white core. It’s this white core that gets exposed with different types of washes and fading.

Foam dyeing:

It’s a newer process that uses air to transfer the dye instead of water. Because of the lower amount of water and energy used, it is considered a more environmentally friendly dyeing technique while also being more cost-effective.

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FADING TECHNIQUES
Jeans naturally tend to fade over time with use and washing. However, there are a number of processes that can mimic normal fading or induce other types of fading for aesthetics. Many of these techniques use abrasive washes to achieve that worn-in look and feel.

terakeet-mens_14Garment wash helps give denim a soft feel and looks cleaner and more natural than some other wash styles. After slightly singeing and scouring the fabric with phosphate esters, the jeans are put through a two-step wash process and dried under tension to remove any creases or marks left during the wash. A fine sanding process helps polish up the final look.


terakeet-mens_17Acid wash
denim is perfect for helping you bring out your inner rock star. By bleaching the denim with chlorine and granulated pumice, a random pattern of contrasted fading and color is created. The faded look of acid wash jeans first spread among surfers in the 1960s, but it didn’t catch on commercially until the 1980s, the decade it’s most closely associated with.

terakeet-mens_21Stone wash denim has historically been treated with pumice stones to induce a worn-out look as well as make the fabric soft and flexible. However, since the 1980s, an enzyme process has largely replaced the use of pumice.

terakeet-mens_25Enzyme wash has become a popular alternative to other types of washes because, depending on the chemicals used, it can mimic various looks while using fewer natural resources. Also, enzymes naturally break down, and therefore they are more ecologically friendly than other washes. Enzyme wash also does less damage to the fabric, which can improve the garment’s lifespan.

terakeet-mens_28Sandblasted finish creates an uneven, aged look that’s popular for a more nonchalant look and pairs well with solid colors. Compared to wash methods, sandblasting allows for more control over where the fading occurs on the garment. Although the sandblasted look is popular, it is time-intensive, and in some parts of the world, the use of sandblasting techniques has been criticized for creating potentially harmful conditions for factory workers.

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Care & Fit Tips
SIGNATURE BRAND FITS
Here’s a quick look at five top brands and how they run.
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7 For All Mankind: This brand offers a wide range of fits, from tapered to roomy – all with the label’s famous comfortable rise.
terakeet-mens_39Big Star USA: It’s a more casual brand with plenty of relaxed, straight-fit varieties.
terakeet-mens_30James Jeans: No need for an extended style catalog here – James Jeans runs true to size and remains classic.
terakeet-mens_36HUDSON Jeans: Aiming for classic with a personalized twist, this brand’s jeans offer slim boot-cuts and slouchy-waist slim styles with the signature button-flap low-sitting back pockets.
terakeet-mens_41AG Jeans: This label is tailored and slim, but still relaxed.
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HOW TO MEASURE
First, refer to the product measurements in the “Details” section of your chosen pair of jeans on Rue, then grab some measuring tape.
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Waist:
Tilt to the side and find the bend of your natural waist. Keep your measuring tape snug (try placing a finger between your skin and the tape) and measure around. This is your standard denim size.

Leg opening:
Measure generously around your bare ankle for relaxed or boot-cut fits and measure more closely for straight or slim styles.

Inseam:
Still wearing those jeans, measure from the bottom of the crotch seam to the bottom of the hem, following the inside seam.

Front & back rise:
With a pair of your best-fitting jeans on, measure from the bottom of the crotch seam to the top front of the waistband to find the front rise, and the bottom of the crotch seam to the top back of the waistband to find the back rise.

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DENIM CUTS

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Boot-Cut
Recognized by a slightly larger hem – which accommodates sturdier shoes like work boots – and a fitted silhouette from waist to knee, these jeans sit right at the hips.Best fit: athletic or average men. Consider this your go-to pair of jeans. A little on the tall side? The enlarged hem balances out a long frame.
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Relaxed
A pair of relaxed jeans has wide legs that take any and all attention away from your bottom.
Best fit: average or athletic men. Even if you’re known as the teddy bear of the group, these will keep you looking fashionable and proportional.
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Straight Leg
Straight-leg jeans create a sleek line all the way down, from hip to foot. Simple and straightforward, this is as versatile as it gets.Best fit: athletic, average, or thin men. This is the everyman’s jean. Snug enough to sit comfortably on the hips and show off your sculpted lower half, yet not too baggy.
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Narrow
Basically straight leg with one difference: They’re less full from the knee to the bottom opening. They should never be skintight, but they should skim your rear.
Best fit: athletic, average, or thin men. These jeans are a great way to change up your daily straights.
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CARE TIPS

Don’t wash them: Or so say “denim purists.” But if you must, only launder your jeans when they’re stained or starting to sag. When you do have to subject your denim to the spin cycle, turn it inside out and use cold water to maintain the color. If it’s your first-ever wash, try vinegar instead of detergent – the acid will help set the hue.

Shower for two: If you’re worried about odor, hang your jeans in the bathroom before a shower and let the steam go to work. Or you could try taking a bath while wearing them.

Quick-dry: Keep machine drying to an absolute minimum. Toss the jeans in for ten minutes on high, then hang them upside down to air-dry. If you don’t have time to air-dry, choose the lowest possible heat setting.

Tailor-remade: When you start to see signs of wear in places like the crotch, visit the tailor and have them reinforce the seams.

Freeze clean: To neutralize odors another way, fold the jeans in a plastic bag and freeze for a day or two.
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TIMELESS LOOKS
That one pair of jeans you wear for every occasion? Give it a bit of well-deserved rest. Instead, try going for one of these classic combinations, which look good on just about any man.
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Plain tee + leather jacket: Roll up the cuffs on a pair of dark narrow-leg jeans, throw on a plain tee and a leather jacket, and lace up a pair of work boots or Chuck Taylor shoes for a dose of classic masculinity.
terakeet-mens_63Flannel: Add a flannel to your most comfortable jeans, and you have a versatile look. Button up the shirt and break out the work boots for a look of rugged lumberjack masculinity. Or leave the flannel open to display your most obscure vintage band tee.
terakeet-mens_66Button-down shirt: When it comes to working denim into your office look, you’ll want to stick to dark narrow-leg styles. Tuck the shirt in – because hey, you’re still at work – but roll the sleeves for a more laid-back vibe.
terakeet-mens_69Graphic tee + blazer: Perfect for an evening out with your significant other, a pair of relaxed or boot-cut jeans in dark blue combines with a graphic tee and blazer for a mix of polished and casual. A button-down and a sport coat will amp up the formality without sacrificing the cool factor.
Graphic tee, Henley, or hoodie: The weekend’s the time to break out your lighter distressed denim styles. Just throw on a graphic tee, Henley, or hoodie. Add a pair of canvas or leather sneakers and hit the bar to watch the game and have a few brews with the guys.
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A Look Back: The History of Men’s Denim
The story of blue jeans goes all the way back to the invention of denim, which happened in Genoa, Italy, or Nîmes, France, depending on who you ask. The modern blue jean, however, began with Levi Strauss.
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19th century:
The California Gold Rush was well underway, and Levi was a hopeful immigrant seeking prosperity in the land of opportunity. He moved his family’s supply company out to San Francisco, where he soon learned that there was a demand for clothing that could withstand work conditions in the mines. Coincidentally, Levi had already been selling work pants made out of excess canvas. With a few modifications to that style, he and tailor Jacob Davis obtained an official U.S. patent for the rivets we see on denim today.
Levi decided to use durable denim in lieu of lightweight canvas for his alternative to the trouser. And for color, the classic five-pocket style was given a uniform indigo hue. Copper rivets were set strategically at tension points to prevent wear and tear. And, just like that, the blue jean took off as the official uniform of the working class.

Early 20th century:
Jeans slowly moved from the workplace to the runway and became embedded in American culture in a way that has yet to be matched by any other item. What began as a utilitarian necessity gradually became a fashion statement and an indelible part of American mythology and masculinity.

1930s – 1940s:
Around World War II, jeans were closely identified in film and advertising with perhaps the most iconic figure in American mythology, the cowboy. The immense success of Westerns helped make denim popular, and factory workers wore it to work throughout the war effort. Since then, cultural movements from hippies to hip-hop have embraced the humble jean, and denim styles have come to define entire decades.

1950s:
Jeans in the 1950s were still worn mostly by men and remained primarily a symbol of masculinity. Their popularity was spurred in part by a pair of Hollywood bad boys, as Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause helped define postwar countercultural rebellion. While Marlon Brando went on to a long career and is more closely identified with later work like The Godfather, James Dean’s untimely death and limited filmography mean that dark slim-fit jeans with upturned cuffs evoke him to this day.

1960s:
Bell-bottoms, originally worn by sailors and only later considered a high-fashion item, were adopted by hippies who personalized their jeans with embroidery, patches, and other colorful flair and paired their denim with tie-dye. In the UK, jeans-clad Rockers, inspired by the fifties greaser culture embodied by James Dean and Marlon Brando, famously feuded with the more clean-cut Mods in their custom suits.

1970s:
Celebrities like Sonny and Cher and James Brown gave bell-bottoms staying power. The seventies also saw the rise of designer denim, as high-end labels like Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Jordache got in on the action. The Washington Post went so far as to dub 1978 “the year of the status jeans.”

1980s:
The decade kicked off with Calvin Klein’s infamously risqué ad featuring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields, pushing the designer-jean craze forward among men and women alike. Narrow styles and acid washes replaced the wide legs of the previous two decades. In the meantime, the anarchic DIY ethos of punk bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols popularized ripped jeans.

1990s:
In many ways, the early nineties continued the trends of the previous decade. The “kids” of Beverly Hills 90210 kept the denim-on-denim look alive while grunge propelled the lived-in look forward. Nevertheless, denim’s popularity declined. British designer Alexander McQueen reintroduced low-rise jeans with his Taxi Driver collection, and hip-hop helped bring baggy jeans to the fore.

2000s & onward:
Society groggily awoke from its baggy pants–fueled fever dream and stumbled awkwardly in the direction of more “authentic” styles. Brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle helped make distressed jeans and whisker fades popular, while hipsters and indie rockers brought narrow jeans – often in bright, nontraditional colors – back to the masses by the end of the decade. The rise of artisanal production helped make selvedge denim popular.

Today:
In the business world, we aren’t just wearing denim on the occasional dress-down day. Casual dress in corporate America is having a major moment, and with that comes an influx of indigo in the office. You’re as likely to see denim in the boardroom or a swanky club as you are at a construction site.

Read more about denim trends on the Rue La La blog, The Style Guide.

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