misconceptions denim jeans

Picture by Jenneke Luijmes.

The 5 Most Popular Misconceptions About Denim

There are many myths and misconceptions about denim. Sometimes this is also the ‘romantic’ part of denim. This is also why denim is such a cool fabric to wear, it’s tough, durable, rebellious, comfortable, and timeless too. But, to understand denim and jeans better, it’s time to get rid of these misconceptions. So, let’s zoom in on 5 of them that are one of the most popular ones when it comes to this topic.


Misconception #1) You don’t need to wash your jeans.

To kick in the door, this isn’t true. In fact, it’s better to wash your jeans now and then to extend its lifetime. When washing your jeans the fibers of the fabric will strengthen again and avoids rips and tears.

If you are wearing an unwashed pair of jeans, also called rigid or raw jeans, and if you want to achieve a natural wear pattern with strong fades, then it’s better to wear them first for a few months before washing. However, some people first rinse their rigid jeans before the first wear day, this can also result in beautiful fades, but it will take a bit longer.

The best is to wash your jeans on a regular base when they’re dirty and need a refreshment. This doesn’t mean that you need to wash them after one wear day. But, it also doesn’t mean that you need to wash them after one year of wear. Just with your other clothes, wash them when you think it’s the right time.

Misconception #2) The 5th pocket on jeans is the coin/watch pocket.

This is maybe one of the biggest denim misconceptions. The first pairs of jeans, which were called waist overalls in the beginning, were designed with four pockets. These miner workwear pants had only one back pocket, the right one. In 1901, Levi’s added a second back pocket, the left one, so people could carry more gold, silver and other stuff while wearing their pants. So, the coin pocket, also called the watch pocket, was there already from the beginning. Mystery solved!

Misconception #3) The higher the price of a pair of jeans, the better the quality.

Most people think that when you buy a high-priced pair of jeans, designer jeans, for example, the quality is also better. And that you can wear this pair longer than others. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The price point for a pair of jeans isn’t always lead to quality. There are multiple facts and influences why a pair of jeans last long(er), but let’s highlight just three of them as you can write a book if you want to zoom in on all of them.

First, the features of a well-made pair is key of course. So, what kind of denim fabric is used, and what about the quality of the hardware as buttons, zipper, rivets, thread, and labels? There’re many different price points and qualities to ‘built’ a pair of jeans. And not to forget, how is the jeans constructed, how is the jeans produced? This effects also the durability and longevity of a pair of jeans.

Second, how is the jeans treated by their wearer? Does someone wear the jeans each day or just one day of the week? What kind of activities is someone doing while wearing the jeans? Is the jeans washed very often or not? This all reflects the lifetime at the end of course.

Third, how big or small is a brand? This reflects most of the time also the retail price. If you’re a small brand then your production numbers are probably also small(er) compared to bigger brands. A production factory is giving you a sharper price when the orders are bigger, so a small brand that just starts, and doesn’t make huge numbers yet, normally pays more to produce a pair of jeans.

As said, there are a lot of reasons and influences why a specific pair of jeans has a certain retail price. But it doesn’t always mean that a high(er) priced pair will last longer.

Misconception #4) A zipper as a closure on a pair of jeans is a typical women’s feature.

Until the 1920s, jeans were always made with a button closure. It was Lee jeans that came as the first denim brand ever with a pair of jeans that featured a zipper closure in 1926. This was a revolution and it was used on their now legendary 101Z (Zipper) jeans. This jeans was worn by many famous people, it was one of James Dean’s favorites too. The 101Z jeans is a men’s pair of jeans, made for Cowboys and farmers in the first place. The zipper was added so they could fasten their jeans quicker compared with buttons.

Nowadays many brands are using a zipper closure for men’s jeans. Some men still prefer button closures, but that’s all about personal preferences.

On the other way round, a button closure isn’t common on women’s jeans. This is mainly because it doesn’t look optical that good, but on looser fits like boyfriend jeans, it is common and more used.

Misconception #5) Wear your jeans in a bathtub for the perfect fit.

It was 1986 when American denim brand Levi’s came with their iconic tv-commercial where a cool guy stepped into a bathtub while wearing his pair of jeans. Since then a lot of people think that this is the best way to shape your new jeans into your body. This is only the case when you’re wearing a pair of jeans that is made with the so-called ‘Shrink-to-fit’ fabric. This means a fabric that shrinks and molds to your body within the first wash(es) as it isn’t pre-washed in a factory. The fabric is still stiff and untreated.

These kinds of fabrics are also called ‘Loomstate’, which means that they come off directly of the weaving loom, or ‘Unsanforized’, which means they’re not ‘Sanforized’, so they’re not treated with water or steam to reduce the amount of shrinkage.

Levi’s created the tv-commercial to promote their new 501 jeans in a groundbreaking way. When you’re buying a normal pair of jeans, you buy your true size, but when the jeans is made with a ‘Shrink-to-fit‘ fabric, you need to keep in mind that they will shrink around 1 – 2 inches in the waist and around 2 – 3 inches in the length. Therefore it’s better to size them up 1 size in the waist and 2 sizes in the length. Nowadays, most jeans aren’t made of ‘Shrink-to-fit’ fabrics anymore, it’s more an exception than a standard, so you can buy most of the time your true size, which also means you don’t have to step in a bathtub anymore with your newly bought jeans.


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Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.