Understanding Denim Part 1: The Basics

Hey guys,

I am going to be blogging a series of posts that I hope will help most people understand raw denim and hopefully convert some of you to becoming denim-heads yourselves!

Starting with the basics, “What is raw denim?”  is probably one question most are asking, which typically leads to, “Why the hell does it cost so much?!”. We just want to cover these two questions briefly so all you potential denim heads know what you’re getting yourselves into.

Firstly, “What is raw denim?” Basically raw denim is unwashed and untreated denim which given enough wear and time, will evolve to individualizing each person. Instead of buying jeans that have been washed to purposefully create fade and wear – raw denim starts off as usually a uniform and dark colour due to the dye retained in the denim. Over a combination of time, wear and washing the dye will “fade”, most prominently in areas that have been subject to the most stress. Wearers will notice that items kept in pockets will become apparent, as well as the folds and creases around the upper thigh and behind the knees just to a few general areas.

Now to make sense of the polarizing price points of unwashed denim. Many will have noticed by now the prices of denim can range from $85 Unbranded’s to Nudies which retail for around $240 up to some of the most premium Japanese brands such as Iron Heart which go for $350 up to $450. To begin with, raw/unwashed denim is not limited to the “Japanese selvedge” that we sell. The difference is in the quality. Japanese denim is hands-down the highest quality denim in the world – no question about it. You will see even high-end fashion brands such as Dior producing separate denim lines incorporating Japanese denim. The reason for this without getting into the technicalities is that Japan has the best denim mills that dye and weave denim differently to mass-produced denim. As a result Japanese denim has greater character – they can have amazing qualities such as “slub” as well as more detailed fading properties.

The term “selvedge” is often associated with Japanese denim and it refers to the by-product of creation on a shuttle-loom. Selvedge denim is generally of higher quality than regular denim and gives the jeans a nice edge in the out seam of the pants. The purpose of this selvedge is mean to be so the denim does not unravel itself and is traditionally used as a mark of quality. However more mainstream retailers are beginning to promote selvage in their collections but the same stringent quality controls are likely non-existent.

Selvedge denim

Regular denim

Non-selvedge denim

Finally there are two things you pay for in most clothing you buy – brand and quality. We often automatically associate branding with quality, however that is definitely not the case with most retail jeans. Brand names such as Nudie, G-Star and many more mainstream brands give off the perception that brand and quality correlate – however you will find that you are really paying for the brand. For instance – the big name brand Nudie uses denim from all around the world that for the price point – are far inferior in characteristics to what you would find in a similarly priced premium Japanese label. The fading properties area also less pronounced than Japanese brands due to lower quality dyes used and less dipping (some Japanese brands dip and dry their jeans in dye over 47 times resulting in more pronounced fading). Quality generally relates to the Japanese labels as their manufacturing procedures are a lot more complex using stuff most people wouldn’t even give a second thought to such as hidden rivets to reinforce and strengthen the denim, unique dying techniques to give their denim more character and higher quality hardware to withstand even the most rigorous of activities.

I could really go on and on about this topic and into much further detail, however to save your boredom I will stop here. This is part 1 of our Understanding Denim series. I hope this is met well so I can keep these kinds of posts coming. Show your support by leaving a comment, and most importantly joining our Facebook and Twitter accounts!

*EDIT* Rather than me posting images of other peoples jeans which may cause a bit of trouble – if you guys would like to check out some fine examples of faded denim check out Styleforum (We have a thread on there – check that out too!), or Superfuture.

If any of you guys have pictures you want us to put up – send it our way and I will make a post about them.


Jeans, Faded Blue Planet


Just a neat trailer for denim documentary called “Faded Blue Planet”. It’s a really good introductory primer for anyone wanting to learn more about the rich history and culture of the iconic blue jean. This is basically what Inseam is all about!