denim school

The 5 Basics About Jeans

Jeans are everywhere and everywhere are jeans these days. They became such a strong (fashion) item that can’t be missed in everyone’s wardrobe. Whether you’re young or old. Everyone looks great in a pair of blue jeans, right?! The denim industry boomed after World War 2 as denim became available everywhere outside of America too. Many denim stores opened their doors as the demand for fine jeans grew day by day.

In the beginning, jeans were still a workwear style but were adopted by many to wear on each and every occasion. Nowadays, there are so many different jeans styles available in the market. All kinds of fits, styles, colors, washings, and brands. You name it and it’s available. But, what are the 5 basics that you need to know about jeans? The 5 elements that are attached to each pair of the all-time classic that changed the industry and outfits of many forever!

1. Fabric

A pair of jeans is made with a denim fabric. This is a sturdy fabric, called twill fabric. Typical for these fabrics are that the warps are dyed with indigo while the weft (the filler of the fabric) is undyed, so ecru. If you flip your jeans inside out, you will notice that the inside is mostly ecru. Most denim fabrics are woven with a so-called 3 x 1 (3 by 1) twill. This means that the weft went three times under the warps and then one time over. And this is repeated constantly in order to create a fabric.

In the end, this weaving method shows diagonal lines on the fabric. Most of the fabrics show diagonals that are going to the right, hence the name righthand denim fabric. An opposite weave technique is the lefthand twill, so a denim fabric where the diagonals are going to the left. And mix these two and you will have the classic broken twill fabric. Developed by Wrangler in 1964 to avoid leg twisting. (More cornerstones of the Wrangler denim brand can be read here.)

More details about denim fabrics;

Back in the day, all denim fabrics were made with 100% cotton. This was the time before stretch denim kicked off. These days, most denim fabrics are made with a denim blend, cotton mixed with a small percentage of stretch fibers like elastane or spandex for added flexibility and comfort.

Denim fabrics are made in all kinds of various weights. They’re measured in ounces per square yard, also shown as oz/yd². Lighter-weight denim for example is made with around 8 to 12oz. This type of denim fabric is perfect for warmer climates and gives a more breathable feel to the wearers. Mid-weight denim, ranging from 12 to 16oz is versatile and commonly used for everyday wear. And then you have the heavyweights. These denim fabrics are most of the time 16oz and more, up to 25oz. These fabrics are sturdy and need to ‘break in’ for a softer feeling and more comfort. They are embraced by the true denim connoisseurs.

And lastly, denim fabrics used to be made with a selvedge finish. So woven on an authentic shuttle loom. Learn more about the beauty and characteristics of these fabrics in the previous article here.

2. Fit

The fit of jeans refers to how they conform to your body. As each body type is different, there’s a jeans fit for everyone. Also, some prefer to wear a more baggy or loose-fit style, while some people prefer to wear their jeans tight and slim-fitted. So, next to your body type, it also depends on your personal preferences.

The common fits that can be found in most denim stores are skinny, slim, straight, bootcut, and relaxed. These fits are available in different rises, from low-rise, mid-rise, to high-rise.

The most popular fits for women and men are;

  • Skinny: Tapered from the waist to the ankle, with a snug fit.
  • Slim: Narrow through the thigh and leg, but not as tight as skinny jeans.
  • Straight: A consistent width from the hip to the ankle.
  • Bootcut: Slightly flared from the knee down to accommodate boots.
  • Relaxed: Loose fit for comfort, especially around the thighs and hips.

3. Wash

In the early days of jeans, each pair was made with an unwashed (aka rigid or dry) denim fabric. This was before factories started to replicate natural worn-in pairs of jeans. The patterns on jeans appear when wearing (and washing) them for a (very) long(er) time. As most people these days don’t want to wear a pair from scratch and prefer a distressed look from day one, denim factories create all kinds of washings. Luckily, most of the factories are using sustainable techniques with laser or ozone to achieve a more vintage look on a eco-friendly way.

The most common washes include:

  • Dark Wash: Deep indigo tone, often with minimal fading.
  • Light Wash: Light blue, giving a more casual and worn-in appearance.
  • Distressed: Features intentional wear, like fading, whiskering, and rips and patches.
  • Raw or Unwashed: Denim that hasn’t undergone any pre-washing treatment, allowing for unique fading over time.

4. Details

The base of each pair of jeans are most of the time five pockets (hence the word: 5 pocket) and two legs. But, the details on a pair, next to the denim fabric, make jeans different and unique.

The core of each pair is the following;

  • Pockets: Placement and design of front and back pockets. Not to forget, the inner pocketing. There are many options as it comes to different fabrics to use, and also to print the inner pocketing.
  • Hardware: Buttons, rivets, patches, and zippers. Each can be made in different finishes.
  • Stitching: The color and pattern of stitching, can add decorative elements.
  • Stretch: Some jeans include stretch fibers like elastane for added flexibility and comfort.
  • Brand and Style: Different brands and styles may have unique design elements or signature details.

5. Price

The price of a pair of jeans can vary a lot. You can buy jeans at all kinds of price levels. It all starts when you’re going to shop for a new pair of jeans. Are you going to a fast fashion chain store, a regular authentic denim store, or a special (denim) boutique for example? The importance of the price of jeans can vary depending on individual preferences, priorities, and circumstances.

Some factors that reflect the price in different retail denim stores are based on the following;

  • How is the jeans produced? Is it a fast-fashion pair of jeans or a so-called slow-fashion pair, which means an eye for detail, quality elements, and so on.
  • Where is the jeans produced (and what type of denim factory)?
  • What kind of denim fabric (cotton or other blend) and trims (buttons, rivets, and patches) are used for the jeans?
  • The brand reputation of a denim brand.
  • The size of the denim brand, so the company behind it (is it an established denim brand that produces already big volumes (because of big sales in the market) or a small independent denim brand that just kicked off).

Of course, there are way more elements that you need to know about jeans, but these 5 basics are a good start to understand more about all the variations that are available in the market.

Tip! Learn more about jeans next to these 5 basics in the previous articles;

In case you want to learn more about denim, this to train yourself, store or brand staff, send me an e-mail to:

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.