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Since the time denim fabric originated in Genoa, Italy, and Nimes France some 500 years ago and Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss introduced work pants made from the material in the late 1800’s, blue jeans have become a casual outfit fashion staple. While the intentional distressing of jeans has been noted in 1935 and in !965, it was in the early 1980’s that the fashion trend of distressed denim took off. Blue jeans, that stalwart garment, has undergone a transformation and jeans are now available in a variety of washes, treatments, and embellishments

Methods of processing jeans has changed over time. Environmental considerations and the health effects on workers have been taken into account. For example, sandblasting caused serious health problems for garment workers and has been widely banned and alternative methods to achieve the same look have been put into practice. Another example is the development of the enzyme wash process as a more ecological alternative to stone washing jeans.

Content:

Raw Denim

Colors and Shades of Denim

Rinse Wash/Dark Wash

Medium/Mid Wash & Light Wash

Tint/Color Jeans

Garment Dye

Worn Look, Faded Jeans, Distressed Denim

Stone Wash (Stonewash)

Acid Wash & Mineral Wash

Enzyme Wash

Fading on Jeans

Whiskering & Creases

Resin Set Wrinkles

Destroyed/Distressed Denim

Bleached Spots & Grungy Tint

Embellished Jeans

Raw Denim

Just as the name implies, raw denim (also called “dry” denim) is left untreated after the dyeing and finishing process.The denim isn’t washed before it’s sewn into garments so the stabilizing agents applied to the cloth remain and because of this and being that the cloth is usually 100% cotton, the denim garments are stiff and rigid upon purchase. The indigo dye used still saturates the fiber and because the fabric isn’t pre-washed the dye is likely to rub-off. Some raw denim is pre-shrunk (sanforized) while some raw denim is left untreated( unsanforized ). Usanforized raw denim can be expected to shrink 5%-10%. Most purchasers of raw denim are men but there are some women enthusiast for raw denim. Because of the rigidity of the cloth, jeans made from raw denim may suit women who have a slim rectangle body shape / boyish figure best because there isn’t much “give” to accommodate curves. However, curvy girls can wear raw denim but may require restriction to fewer brands that are cut for women’s figures that may have some curve or else purchase bespoke jeans.  In the pictures below, the boyfriend jeans are 2% spandex and 98% cotton and the skinny jeans are also made with fabric that has some stretch.

women's raw denim boyfriend jeans
Women’s Raw Denim Boyfriend Jeans
womens raw denim skinny jeans
Women’s Raw Denim Skinny Jeans

 

Colors and Shades of Denim
Rinse Wash/Dark Wash

After raw denim, rinse wash denim (also called dark wash denim) is the least processed denim. This darkest hue of denim can have a slimming effect. Rinse wash removes some of the residual dye and also removes starch applied to the denim cloth during weaving which makes the cloth softer than raw denim. Sometimes a softener is added to the wash to further increase the pliability of the fabric. Because some of the residual dye remains, launder rinse wash jeans alone for the first few washes

Dark Rinse, Dark Wash Skinny Jeans
Dark Rinse / Dark Wash Skinny Jeans
Women's Rinse Wash/Dark Wash Skinny Jeans
Women’s Rinse Wash/Dark Wash Skinny Jeans

 

Style Tips
Medium/Mid Wash & Light Wash

Medium or mid wash and light wash jeans are processed in the same way as rinse wash/dark wash denim. The only difference is that they are washed for a longer period of time to remove more of the indigo dye to achieve the look of faded jeans. The color saturation for what is defined as light wash or mid/medium wash varies by brand.

Medium/Mid Wash Skinny Jeans
Medium/Mid Wash Skinny Jeans
Light Wash Straight Leg Jeans
Light Wash Straight Leg Jeans
Light Wash Straight Leg Jeans
Light Wash Straight Leg Jeans
Style Tips
Tint/Color Jeans

Indigo dyeing is used to produce blue hues of denim while sulfur dyeing produces jeans in colors such as khaki black, green, pink, and mustard.

khaki skinny jeans
Khaki Skinny Jeans
Cropped Boyfriend Jeans in Mustard
Cropped Boyfriend Jeans in Mustard

 

Straight Leg Jeans in Black
Straight Leg Jeans in Black
Straight Leg Jeans in Green
Straight Leg Jeans in Green
Garment Dye

For classic indigo denim in a twill weave, the warp thread is dyed and and the weft thread is white leaving the underside dominated by white threads and the outer surface dominated by blue threads (though in some denim both the warp and weft thread is dyed). Garment dyed denim has undergone a dyeing process after the garment is sewn. This can lead to characteristic uneven fading which is actually sought by those who are fans of this wash. The  over-dye can match the color of the finished garment or the over-dye can be in a different color than the finished garment.  Examples of the latter case – a black dye over blue/indigo jeans or a mustard yellow dye over white jeans.

Cropped Garment Dyed Brown Jeans
Cropped Garment Dyed Brown Jeans
Skinny Ankle Jeans Garment Dyed Ivy Mist
Skinny Ankle Jeans Garment Dyed Ivy Mist
Skinny Jeans Garment Dyed Dusty Red
Skinny Jeans Garment Dyed Dusty Red
Tapered Jeans Garment Dyed Sea Spray
Tapered Jeans Garment Dyed Sea Spray

 

 

Style Tips
  • Garment dyed and tint/color jeans are a great way to welcome warm weather in spring or break up the winter doldrums with a bit of color.
  • Mixing tint/color jeans or garment dyed jeans with standard indigo/blue denim or a chambray shirt keeps your denim-on-denim outfit from being monochromatic.
Worn Look, Faded Jeans, Distressed Denim

What are distressed jeans? Distressed jeans can be defined as a process or series of processes that are applied to the finished garment to make the jeans look broken in or aged. There are varying degrees of distressed denim – from the conservative removal of dye and fiber material  which simulates the natural fading on jeans to the destroyed denim look with rips, fraying and abrasion. In this section   denim processing techniques are covered. These mechanical processes are additional step that give jeans a much worn or aged look.

Stone Wash (Stonewash)

Stone wash (sometimes referred to as stonewash)  jeans are laundered with pumice stones to achieve the look of “broken-in” faded jeans that have been frequently washed and worn. When we machine wash jeans, over time this not only removes indigo dye  but breaks down some of the fibers. Washing jeans with abrasive pumice stones accelerates this process  and softens the denim, simulating the wear and tear that occurs when we machine wash jeans at home. The look achieved with stone washed denim can vary with stone size and washing time.

 

Straight Leg Jeans in Heavy Stone Wash Stonewashed Denim
Straight Leg Jeans in Heavy Stone Wash
Flared Jeans in Stone Wash Stonewash Denim
Flared Jeans in Stone Wash
Straight Fit Stonewashed Jeans
Straight Fit Stonewashed Jeans
Acid Wash & Mineral Wash

The acid wash process usually involves tumbling the garments with pumice stones or other abrasive agents which have been soaked in a bleaching agent. in the acid wash phase of  garment processing, the garments are ”dry washed”, that is the chemical soaked stones and the garments are tumbled in a rotary washer without adding water.  The acid washing process can produce a high contrast faded effect on darker shades or a distinctive mottled look on lighter shades of jeans. Different looks of acid washed denim can be achieved by varying factors such as stone size and shape, bleaching agent concentration and the use of additional additives. Acid wash jeans (also called moon wash or ice wash) became popular in the 1980’s and regained popularity in the late 2000’s decade.

The mineral wash process produces a similar contrast-fading, mottled look on the denim. The abrasive agent is, in this case, a foam block sprayed  with a bleaching agent. The garment is then washed in a similar process as stated above

Acid Wash Cropped Jeans
Acid Wash Cropped Jeans
Acid Wash Skinny Jeans
Acid Wash Skinny Jeans
Acid Wash Mom Jeans
Acid Wash Mom Jeans
Mineral Wash Cropped Jeans
Mineral Wash Cropped Jeans
Enzyme Wash

This technique uses enzymes in processing to achieve a worn look and feel to garments. Enzyme washing was developed as an ecological friendly alternative to stone washing. Cellulase enzymes break down the cellulose in cotton fibers on the surface of the garment and also removes some of the indigo dye since the color is on the surface in denim fabric.

Skinny Crop Jeans in Light Enzyme Wash
Skinny Crop Jeans in Light Enzyme Wash
Flare Jeans in Dark Enzyme Wash
Flare Jeans in Dark Enzyme Wash
Bootcut Jeans in Dark Enzyme Wash
Bootcut Jeans in Dark Enzyme Wash

 

 

 

Fading on Jeans, the Sandblasted Look

Sandblasting is the technique of lightening specific surface of areas of jeans by spraying sand onto garments at high pressure to get a worn look and fading in specific areas of jeans. Because sandblasting has caused serious health problems for workers in the garment industry, the practice has been widely banned . Alternative methods to achieve the same look are used instead in the majority of cases. Fading is one of many design elements that can effect how you look in jeans. This design element, which has a sort of 3-D effect in adding the illusion of volume is especially helpful for slim body types like some rectangle body shapes and the inverted triangle body shape.

 

 Dark Wash Sandblasted High Waisted Skinny Jeans
Dark Wash Sandblasted High Waisted Skinny Jeans
 Dark Wash Sandblasted High Waisted Skinny Jeans - Back
Dark Wash Sandblasted High Waisted Skinny Jeans – Back
Vintage Wash Sandblasted Look Skinny Jeans
Vintage Wash Sandblasted Look Skinny Jeans
Vintage Wash Sandblasted Look Skinny Jeans - Back
Vintage Wash Sandblasted Look Skinny Jeans – Back
Vintage Wash Skinny Jean Sandblasted Look
Vintage Wash Skinny Jean Sandblasted Look
Vintage Wash Skinny Jean Sandblasted Look
Vintage Wash Skinny Jean Sandblasted Look – Back

 

The Sandblasted look & Whiskers, Hand sanding or scraping

Hand sanding or scraping is a technique used to get a sandblasted look on jeans. The jeans are placed over inflated rubber balloons and areas such as the thighs or the seat of jeans are sanded by hand.

hand scraping jeans
hand scraping jeans
hand scraping blue jeans
hand scraping blue jeans

 

 

 

Whiskering & Creases

Whiskering is the effect achieved when dye is removed to simulate the creases that occur on the front of jeans at the bend of the hip and leg area from ordinary wear and tear. The whiskered jeans look can be achieved using a variety of techniques that usually involve sandpapering the area with or without a mold or whiskering template placed underneath the surface to be whiskered.
Honeycomb creases are creases in the back of the knee on jeans. Honeycomb distressing is most often seen in men’s jeans but can be found in some high-end women’s jeans.

Dark Wash Slim-Boot Cut Jeans with whiskers
Dark Wash Slim-Boot Cut Jeans with whiskers

 

Below is a close-up of the jeans above

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whiskering on jeans
whiskering on jeans

 

Whiskering on jeans in a lighter wash.

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Destructed Boyfriend Jeans with whiskering
Destructed Boyfriend Jeans with whiskering

 

The following jeans have whiskering on the hips and honeycomb distressing behind he knee area

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Crop Skinny Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-front
Cropped Skinny Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-front
Whiskers detail - Cropped Skinny Jeans
Whiskers detail – Cropped Skinny Jeans
Cropped Skinny Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-back
Cropped Skinny Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-back
Honeycombs detail - Cropped Skinny Jeans
Honeycombs detail – Cropped Skinny Jeans

 

Another example of jeans with whiskering and honeycomb distressing

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Cropped Flared Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-front
Cropped Flared Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-front
Cropped Flared Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-back
Cropped Flared Jeans with whiskering and honeycombs-back
Style Tips
Resin set wrinkles

Resin is used to permanently set and emulate the wrinkling that occurs on jeans on the front hip and thigh area and at the back of the knees on jeans. This resin process is most often applied to the front hip and thigh area but is sometimes applied at the back of the knees.

Cropped Straight Leg Jeans with resin set wrinkles
Cropped Straight Leg Jeans with resin set wrinkles

 

Below is a close-up of the jeans above

(click on the picture and click the picture again on attachment page for full size photo)

resin set wrinkles on jeans close-up
resin set wrinkles close-up

 

Here is another example of resin set wrinkles on jeans

resin set wrinkles on jeans
example – resin set wrinkles on jeans

 

 

Destroyed/Distressed Denim – Tears, Rips, Fraying

 Holes, abrasions, rips and fraying of denim is a more extreme distressed look. Sometimes the warp and weft thread are removed but often  the blue of the warp thread and the white of the weft thread is utilized in the distressing. For example, the blue thread is removed in frayed hems, tears or holes and the white weft thread remains.

Destroyed Denim Skinny Jeans
Destroyed Denim Skinny Jeans
Destroyed Denim Skinny Jeans – distressing detail

Destroyed Denim Low-Rise Skinny Jeans
Destroyed Denim Low-Rise Skinny Jeans (Distressed Denim)
Destroyed Denim - Distressed Cropped Jeans
Destroyed Denim – Distressed Cropped Jeans
Style Tips
Grinding

Various machines and techniques are used to abrade prominent, thicker parts of jeans such as hems, pockets and the waistband to emulate the worn edges that “lived-in” jeans have.

abraded pocket on jeans
abraded pocket on jeans
ddestroyed pocket jeans detail
destroyed pocket jeans detail
grinding - jeans pocket
grinding – jeans pocket
Bleached Spots & Grungy Tint

Bleach splattering is a distressed look achieved by varying methods. Also, a tint or pigment overlay can be applied to distressed look jeans. Tint is often applied to areas that have been lightened by sanding to give the jeans a stained or dingy appearance. (Another way to get the dingy look on jeans is to incorporate tan or brown thread in the woven cloth.)

Boyfriend Jeans with bleach spots
Boyfriend Jeans with bleach spots
Mom Jeans with bleach splatter and rips
Mom Jeans with bleach splatter and rips
Cropped Skinny Jeans with bleach splatter
Cropped Skinny Jeans with bleach splatter
Skinny Low Rise Jeans in Tinted Mid Wash
Skinny Low Rise Jeans in Tinted Mid Wash
Skinny Jeans in tinted dust wash
Skinny Jeans in Tinted Dust Wash
Straight Leg Jeans in Dirty Wash
Straight Leg Jeans in Dirty Wash
Embellished

Trends come and go and through the years and adding embellishments to jeans has been a way to do something a bit different with this fashion staple. Crystals, sequins, grommets, embroidery, patches, contrasting or decorative stitching and printing on denim have been some of the embellishments used.

Sequin Embellished Green Jeans
Sequin Embellished Green Jeans
Straight Fit Crystals and Faux Pearl Embellished Jeans
Straight Fit Crystals and Faux Pearl Embellished Jeans
Grommet Embellished Cropped Flared Jeans
Grommet Embellished Cropped Flared Jeans
Sequin Embellished Wide Leg Jeans
Sequin Embellished Wide Leg Jeans
Embroidered Cuff Cropped Jeans
Embroidered Cuff Cropped Jeans
Distressed jeans embellished with patches
Distressed jeans embellished with patches
Sequin Card Distressed Skinny Jeans
Sequin Card Distressed Skinny Jeans
Sequin Card Distressed Skinny Jeans Detail
Sequin Card Distressed Skinny Jeans Detail
Bootcut Jeans with embroidered back pockets
Bootcut Jeans with embroidered back pockets
embellished pocket jeans detail
embellished pocket jeans detail

 

Style Tips
  • Embellishments are a great way to dress up denim for a fun evening out.
  • Not merely decorative, embellished back pocket add fullness to flat bottoms.