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Denim: It’s in the Jeans
You’ll find lots of denim on the shelves here. Find out how this unassuming fabric gets its look and strength.
Comfortable, casual, and durable, denim is perhaps the most ubiquitous fabric in the modern world. The cotton twill is distinguished by a unique weave in which each weft—or horizontal—thread passes under at least two of the warp—or lengthwise—threads. Like steel cables, the yarn is tightly twisted, adding strength. This pattern makes denim incredibly tough without sacrificing softness and lends the material its distinctive diagonal ribbing.
Look closely at a pair of jeans in a traditional blue wash. You’re likely to notice that the color’s not uniform but flecked with off-white, and the pants make it easy to tell if you have them on inside out by sporting a lighter shade on the reverse side. This is because of that same weave pattern: the warp threads, which cover more of the cloth’s face, are dyed blue, whereas the weft threads are left undyed. Today there are many washes on the market, and jeans and other denim duds may just as easily be made from uniformly dyed fabrics.
- The word “denim” is, in most corners, thought to come from serge de Nîmes, a type of fabric made in the French town of Nîmes. However, that fabric seems to have been made from wool, with a quite different look and feel than cotton denim.
- In the 1970s, Volkswagen released a special-edition Jeans Beetle, which boasted all-denim interior upholstery and even, in some special editions, hubcaps designed to look like buttons.