Sep 23, 2014

Jeans vs. Denim

First, just a quick logistical mention: As things have been...

First, just a quick logistical mention: As things have been uber-busy, we're temporarily going back to two posts a week, rather than three. However, we do have a ton of good stuff in the pipeline that has to get fit into the schedule, so this change may be short-lived (or flexible, at the very least)! Anyway, just wanted to keep y'all abreast of the goings-on round here. On to the article:

I'm admittedly a sucker for terminology, and as much as I love learning the definitions and origins of menswear nomenclature, it bugs the hell out of me when people (especially professionals) get it mixed up! Sure, in the big scope of things, it's not the end of the world, but as a personal pet peeve, I'll keep trying to shed light on the correct classifications as much as possible.

With that in mind, today I want to take a look at a common misnomer, and the distinction between 'denim' fabric and 'jeans' trousers.

Pretty regularly, the two terms are kind of jumbled together, when there is actually a pretty significant difference between the two - and it's not even that the terms aren't interchangeable. In fact, they refer to two completely different categories.

As I alluded to above, 'denim' refers to a fabric, while 'jeans' refers to a cut of pants.

Denim is merely a sturdy cotton twill fabric woven with (traditionally) indigo warp threads, and undyed, white weft threads that provide the signature color and fading of denim fabric. Beyond that, the fabric (and terminology) is not limited to pants at all, but can be applied to literally anything, from shirts to jackets to ties to even shoes, and even inside the 'pants' category, it can be used to make traditional 'jeans' or more formally cut trousers, or even the dreaded 'jorts'.

Denim, not jeans. Notice the fabric - and the fact that they aren't pants.
So what are 'jeans' then? Jeans are a very specific cut of pants, inherently casual, and yes, most commonly made out of denim. Originally, the term was used for work pants that were introduced by Levi Strauss in the 1800's. These pants were reinforced at 'stress points' with copper rivets, and were at first made with just three pockets. Over time, the design developed and two more pockets were added, for a total of five (two in the back, two at the hips, and coin pocket), thus the now-interchangeable term 'five-pocket pants (or jeans).' Like I said, these days jeans are most often made out of a denim fabric, but they were actually first made out of canvas, and today can be found in corduroy as well as other fabrics, usually more hefty and sturdy than more formal trouser materials.

Jeans, not denim. Notice the five-pocket styling and riveted seams, but canvas fabric.
So there you have it - not a life-changing distinction, but it never hurts to get it right!

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tagged denim, details, fabric, jeans, menswear terms, origins...