Everything you never knew about denim

Denim facts

Wear denim on the daily but don’t know your rise from your rivet? We’re on hand with a helpful glossary to unravel that jeans-related jargon and share a few fun denim facts along the way…

From ’70s-style flares to ’90s mom jeans, the appeal of classic denim never fades. It’s one of fashion’s most versatile fabrics and, quite frankly, forms the bulk of our wardrobe. When it comes to denim terminology, there’s a whole lot of lingo to get your head around. That’s why we’ve put together this A-Z of denim definitions (think of it as a denim dictionary) so you can add to your fashion vocab. You’re welcome!

A-Z of denim definitions

Abrasions: Surface damage and distressed sections that sit on the denim and don’t go entirely through the fabric. The abrasions give the jeans a worn-in, authentic look (which we’re a big fan of).

Acid wash: A washing technique made famous in the ’80s that strips the top colour off the denim.

Ankle grazers: This refers to the length of the jean. The hem sits on the ankle for a slightly cropped style — great for showing off your favourite heels. Take a look at our handy guide on which shoes to wear with jeans.

Authentic: Jeans that have a vintage-inspired look. See abrasions above.

Authentic stitching: A term used to describe contrast stitching, which makes all the design details of the jeans stand out.

Blasting: Areas of the garment (usually the front and back thigh or pocket areas) are sanded off to create a worn, lived-in look, leaving different shades. Saves waiting for it to happen naturally, right?

Denim facts

Bootcut: The bootcut jean has a wider than average hem, originally intended so the jeans fit over boots more easily. This shape is notoriously figure-flattering as a wider hem balances out the hips on curvier figures.

Boyfriend jeans: The boyfriend jean is a relaxed design with a looser fit. It’s supposed to look like you casually borrowed your guy’s clothes… this also works for shirts, coats or anything with a roomier fit.

Brushed: Brushing is part of the final treatment for a worn-in look. The denim is actually brushed with an electrical brush that smoothes over rough edges.

Button fly: Jeans which have a front button fastening only, and no zip. A pain when you need the loo, but hey, they look nice.

Cat scratches : Slight scratches on the surface of the denim that add a little extra interest. No cats actually required, or harmed, in the process.

Cigarette jean: A slim-fit jean, which isn’t tapered at the leg, making it a straighter cut.

Female model wearing denim shirt dress

Coated: The jeans are coated to give a leather-look effect. We love this style for a glam, going-out look.

Coin pocket: The small pocket that is found at the front of jeans, inside one of the main functional pockets. Do we ever use them for coins? No. But someone must have in the distant past.

Colour fast: This refers to the level of dye attached to the garment. Indigo is commonly used to dye denim because of its low colour fastness, meaning it fades at a slower pace than other colours.

Distressed jeans: Jeans that give a lived-in look. This is achieved with rips, abrasions or frayed hems. Feeling crafty? Check out our handy guide on how to distress your jeans yourself.

Fabric weight: Refers to the ounces per square yard of a fabric. Denim is typically woven in weights from 4 to 15 ounces per square yard. The weight indicates the thickness and durability of the denim.

Faded denim: An effect that is achieved after repeated wear and wash of indigo-dyed denim. This can be done by stone washing or bleaching… or wearing them for years and years and years.

Denim facts

Fit: Describes the cut, shape, length and design of jeans i.e. skinny fit, bootcut and straight leg. Trends come and go, but the classic cuts stand the test of time.

Flat fronted : This is a pull-on jean with stretch and no zip or button fastening.

High waist: Jeans designed with a high-waisted cut mean they sit on the true waistline of the wearer. They help create the illusion of having longer legs… and we’re all for that, thank you very much.

Jegging: The term ‘jegging’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, and is going nowhere. Similar in style to jeans, but extra-comfy, slightly stretchy and pull on like leggings.

Laser design: Lasers are used to burn away areas of the dye on the surface of jeans to create patterns. It sounds slightly more futuristic than it actually is.

Let down hem: A normal hem is placed on the jeans, then after washing, is unpicked and ‘let down’, creating areas of darker denim and giving that cool raw-finished effect.

Female model wearing jeans and a pink coat

Mid rise: Mid rise refers to where the jeans sit on the waistline. Not too low, not too high, it’s a happy medium on most figures.

Mom jean: A classic 90’s staple and the current ‘cool girl’ jean made popular by, you guessed it, American stay-at-home mothers. The Mom is high-waisted, hugging the midriff with a baggier fit around the zipper and legs, giving the appearance of a larger bum.

Overdye: The application of additional colour to the fabric in order to achieve a different shade.

Patch: An additional piece of fabric added to give more fashion detail. You can also do this yourself if you’ve got the sewing skills.

Pull on: A garment that has an elasticated waist that is pulled on, rather than zipped and fastened up. Jeggings are usually pull on.

Raw hem: The hem has been undone and manually frayed.

Denim facts

Recovery: A term used when talking about the stretch and fit of a jean staying true to its shape, having a good recovery means the jean will hold its shape for longer.

Rinse wash: Light washing process that softens the denim to make it more wearable without washing out the colour.

Rips: Forms of abrasions which go right through the surface of the jeans. Knee rips are easiest to wear but, if you’re feeling brave, try rips on the thighs.

Rivet: Metal trims used on the corners of pockets to reinforce weaker areas or support areas of ‘stress’, so the seams don’t rip or come away. Rivets help the jeans stay durable and hardwearing.

Slim fit: An overall tight and narrow fit, particularly around the thighs, they are not necessarily tapered and a little bit looser than true skinny jeans.

Stretch denim: A denim fabric that includes elastane or Lycra to give a more comfortable, stretchy fit.

Female model wearing white blouse and grey jeans

Tapered : This just means they gradually become more fitted towards the ankle.

Top stitching : A decorative non-functional stitch detail that’s added for design purposes.

Twill: Twill is a weave technique that gives a diagonal pattern.

Weight: Denim is graded in terms of weight per square yard of fabric — light, medium or heavy.

Whiskering: Whiskers are patterns in the denim created with either chemicals or from sanding.

Yoke: The yoke is the V-shaped section at the back of jeans that gives their curve and determines the fit. The deeper the V, the greater the curve and more shape this gives the wearer. Curved yokes have a clever way of creating the appearance of a lifted bum, so we’re all for them!

5 pocket jean: The most common type of jean which refers to the classic, original jean style, featuring five pockets – two at the front, plus one small coin pocket, and two back pockets.

Denim facts

Phew, that’s it! You’re quite the denim expert now. We’ve just got a few more handy hints about jeans that every girl needs to know…

How to care for your jeans

You’ve probably heard the rumours, and they’re true. Washing your jeans too often is not good for them at all. But before you think we’ve gone completely mad with this unhygienic suggestion, we do have some sneaky tips to keep your jeans clean, without the constant trips to the washing machine.

Spot clean

Grab the damp cloth or an old toothbrush and treat any stained areas. Then allow for your jeans to fully dry out. Hang them up flat in a well ventilated part of the house, but away from direct sunlight.

And literally that’s all you should do for now. Don’t you just love it when doing less is best?!

A time to rest

Lay the jeans out flat once a week in a well ventilated area, this allows them to breathe and stops bacteria from building up, plus deodorizes them a little too. There’s also a spray available called ‘Denim Refresh Spray by Mr Black’ that helps treat and cleanse your jeans, without the need for washing. It’s antibacterial and helps extend the lifespan of denim.

The way to stay fresh

Another hack that denim aficionados swear by is to freeze jeans into staying fresh! When you feel your jeans need a wash, fold them up twice, place them in an airtight, zipped freezer bag and pop them next to your peas in the freezer for a few days, and at least 24 hours. This will kill any bacteria, remove any odours and leave your jeans feeling fresh and clean.

The first time

The first time you wash your jeans they can shrink up to 2-3cm in width or length. Eek!

So let’s steer clear of the washing machine for just a little while longer and opt for a cold wash in the sink first. We know it’s time consuming, but it’s well worth it to preserve your style staples. You can also add a couple of spoonful’s of salt to the wash at this time, as some experts say this will help to set the dye.

And you’ll be saving energy, keeping the bills down and helping the planet too by avoiding all that unnecessary washing. Win-win!

Meet the machine

Okay, so the inevitable day is upon us and it’s time to use the washing machine. Obviously, we always recommend checking the care label (not all jeans are made of the same stuff, so it’s best to check). Let’s start on a cool wash, washing the jeans inside out and just on their own in the cycle. Liquid washing capsules are also the better option over washing powder (as no one wants those unsightly white lines to appear).

Once the wash has finished, be quick to take out your jeans, hang them up flat and allow them to dry out naturally. Some say to dry your jeans on a medium heat in a tumble dryer for just 10 minutes first, then allow them to air dry after that. We say stay safe, and air dry all the way! This will help avoid any shrinkage.

We recommend you follow this method each and every time you need to machine wash your jeans.

Final thoughts…

It may seem obvious, but a great pair of super-flattering jeans is the holy grail of fashion. Once the shape has gone, it’s time to make a change. Life’s just too short (and you’re too fabulous) to wear ill-fitting jeans!

Ready for something new? Check out the DP Denim Guide to discover the most-wanted styles for this season… and any season for that matter.


Jenny - Editor

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