Denim Glossary


ABRASION – Process of making garments look worn and aged by scraping or rubbing the surface of the fabric causing abrasion. Pumice stones are most frequently used by industrial laundries.

ACETATE/TRIACETATE – The oldest man-made fibre and the first one made using tree pulp. Fabrics were made from acetate during World War 1 and used in airplane wings. Acetate has fair absorbency, high luster, (silk like) poor abrasion resistance, poor fastness to the sun and low strength which reduces 30% when wet.

ACID WASHING – (also know as Marble Wash/Moon Wash/Snow Wash). Practice in which pumice stones soaked in chlorine are tumbled with jeans in the dryer to etch white highlights into denim. Patented by the Italian Candida Laundry company in 1986, the finish gave indigo jeans sharp contrasts. The process was achieved by soaking pumice stones in chlorine and letting these stones create contrast.

ACRYLIC – Synthetic fibre that is made with just the right combination of coal, air, water, petroleum and limestone. The fibre has fair affinity to dye, and pills easily.

AGED – A kind of wet processing that gives the garment an artificial worn look and a softer feel through prolonged abrasion.

ANTI-TWIST – A step in the finishing process, before sanforization, that corrects denim’s natural tendency to twist in the direction of the diagonal twill weave. Also known as skewing.

ARCHUIT or ARCUATE – The distinctive double stitching used on the back pocket and unique to each denim brand.

ATARI – A Japanese term describing the selective fading of the ridges of creases. The most common areas for ‘Atari’ are along side seams, on the front and back of the knees, the upper thigh, along the hem, on belt loops and along pocket seams.

AUTHENTIC – A Jeanswear term used to describe both original jeans qualities and stone and enzyme wash optics. Among the characteristics of authentic jeans are traditional fabric weaves and styling details.

AZOIC DYES – Azoic dyes are insoluble pigments formed within the fibre by padding, first with a soluble coupling compound and then with a diazotized base.


BACK CINCH – Also known as martingale, the back cinch with a back buckle was used to tighten the waist on jeans before widespread use of belts; hence the terms ‘buckle back’.

BARTACK – A sewing procedure that reinforces stress points on jeans- usually found near zippers and pocket openings.

BELT LOOPS – Belt loops were first added to the waistband of a jean in 1922 to allow a belt to be worn without slipping. A classic pair of jeans usually has 5 belt loops – 2 in front above the front pockets, 2 more at each side and one at the back.

BLACK-BLACK DENIM – Denim where the warp yarns is black instead of blue and which is also dyed black after weaving. This makes the jeans truly black rather than grey.

BASKET WEAVE – A fabric weave where more than one filling threads pass over and under the same number of threads on alternate rows of the warp.

BEDFORD CORD – A fabric weave with ribs down the length of the fabric. The ribs can be any width. Looks like an uncut unbrushed corduroy without a velvet feeling.

BIG E’S – To collectors, Levi’s 501s made before 1971, which have a capital E in the word Levi’s on the red pocket tab

BLEACH – A chemical used to make denim fade. Liquid bleach is usually an aqueous solution of sodium hypochlorite, and dry powdered bleaches contain chloride of lime (calcium hypochlorite).

BOOT LEG – A popular jeans style cut wide enough in the leg to accommodate a pair of cowboy boots underneath.

BROKEN TWILL – A denim weave that reduces the natural torque characteristic of regular twill weaves, and has the effect of eliminating leg twist.

BULL DENIM – A heavyweight denim weave (14oz. plus) with a typical 3×1 twill construction. An ecru fabric, bull denim is later printed or garment dyed.

BUTTON – The traditional jeans button is made of two parts: a short ‘nail’ fixed on the fabric and the visible part pressed on the nail. It is typically made of a metal alloy- copper, brass or aluminium- and bears the brand’s logo, symbol or initial on its face. Some jeans buttons, composed of three parts, have a moveable head for better flexibility in fastening.


CARDING – The industrial yarn preparation process where raw cotton is separated, opened, cleaned and made into sliver.

CASTE – A term that describes shading. Depending on the method and type of dye used, indigo denim can have a black, brown, grey, green, red, or yellow caste to it.

CHAIN STITCHING – A series of looped stitches that form a chain-like pattern. Chain stitching pulls the denim at slightly different tensions on either side, causing the distinctive ‘roping’ that really shows the beauty of worn indigo-dyed denim.

COIN POCKET – The fifth pocket, also called watch pocket. Strictly functional, it sits inside the right front pocket and justifies the term five-pocket jeans. Also known as match or watch pocket.

CONE MILLS – Cone Mills started producing denim in 1895 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Cone is still one of the world’s biggest denim manufacturers.

CATALYST – A substance or agent that initiates a chemical reaction and makes possible for it to proceed.

CELLULOSE – The basic structural component of plant cell walls, cellulose comprises about 33% of all vegetable matter (90% of cotton and 50% of wood are cellulose) and is the most abundant of all naturally occurring organic compounds.   Cellulose is processed to produce papers, fibres and is chemically modified to yield substances used in the manufacture of such items as rayon, plastics, and photographic films. Other cellulose derivatives are used as adhesives, explosives, thickening agents for foods, and in moisture-proof coatings.

CELLULOSIC FIBRES – The chemical processing of short cotton fibres, linters, or wood pulp produce fibres like rayon, acetate, and triacetate. Other materials modified to produce fibres include protein, glass, metals, and rubber.

CHAMBRAY – A plain weave fabric, with a single but different warp and weft colour. In Jeanswear, fabric mills usually use a medium depth indigo warp colour and natural (unbleached) weft.

CHINO – The name came from both the trouser style worn by British Colonial troops in the 1800′s and the fabric used for the fabric. Today a cotton trouser is considered as a chino and the fabric would be considered as a tightly woven 2 ply right hand 3×1 combed cotton twill.

COMBED YARN – A yarn whose sliver is combed – uses finer fibre than carded yarns and is more regular and expensive than carded yarn.

COTTON – Cotton, genus Gossypium, one of the world’s most important crops, produces white fibrous bolls that are manufactured into a highly versatile textile. The plant has white flowers, which turn purple about two days after blooming, and large, divided leaves. Length of fibre ranges from 3/8″ to 2″ (Egyptian, Sea Island). The longer the fibre, the higher the price and the more luxurious the fabric. Cotton withstands high temperatures, can be boiled and hot pressed. It is resistant to abrasion has good affinity to dyes, and increases in strength 10% when wet.

COWBOY CUT – Cowboy Cut is a style of jean made only by Wrangler. Designed and wear-tested by real cowboys, the jean features high-back pockets (so cowboys don’t sit on their wallets), a tapered leg from knee to bottom to fit over boots, a wide space between front belt loops to accommodate a western belt and trophy buckle, smooth round rivets and extra room in the seat and thigh to make riding easier and more comfortable. Cowboy Cut is available in original, slim, classic and relaxed cuts for women and in original, slim and relaxed for men. Each style is cut to fit over boots. To find the fit that fits you, there’s no substitute for grabbing a few pairs and heading to the dressing room. But you can get a head start here by browsing our online catalogue for sizes and colours.

CROCK – A term used to describe how dye rubs off fabric on skin or other fabric.


DEAD STOCK – To collectors, a pair of jeans with the original price tag that has never been worn or sold. These rare jeans are extremely valuable.

DENIM – Fabric made with a blue cotton warp and white cotton filling. Denim was originally called serge de Nimes because it was produced in Nimes, France.

DIPS – Used to describe fabric or yarn when they are immersed in dye. Indigo yarns are usually dipped in an indigo bath six times.

DOBBY – A fabric with small geometric figures incorporated into the weave, it is made on special looms.

DOUBLE NEEDLE – A seam commonly used in Jeanswear garments (shirts, jeans, jackets) where a sewing machine stitches two threads side by side for strength at one time.

DRAWING/DRAFTING – The industrial process where slivers are pulled out after carding and/or combing.

DRILL – Usually a left hand 2×1 weave, twill fabric.

DUAL RING-SPUN – Also called “ring X ring”. Signifies a denim weave in which both the warp and the weft threads are made of ring-spun yarn. Creates a much softer and textured hand than both open-end and regular (single) ring-spun denim.

DUNGAREE – Comes from the Hindi word used to describe the trousers worn by sailors from the Indian port of Dungri many years ago.

DUPONT – They brought you Nylon, Teflon, Lycra….

DYEING – The industrial process to add colour to fibre, yarn, fabric, or garments.


ECRU – The natural colour of cotton.

ENZYMES – Are proteins and as such are present in all living cells. Enzymes speed up chemical processes that would run very slowly if at all. They are non-toxic and readily broken down. Enzymes are used in textile processing, mainly in the finishing of fabrics and garments.

ENZYME WASHING – Use of cellulose enzymes to soften the jeans and lighten colour.

EXPRESS – Populariser of European-cut jeans, innovative fabric blends in denim.


FAIR TO MIDDLING – The name for the grade of cotton usually used in the spinning of yarns that will be used for the production of denim fabric.

FIBRE – The smallest textile component. A near microscopic, hairlike substance that may be natural or manmade. Are units of matter having length at least 100 times their diameter or width. Fibres suitable for textile use possess adequate length, fineness, strength, and flexibility for yarn formation and fabric construction, and for withstanding the intended use of the completed fabric.

FIVE POCKET JEANS – The most common style of jean; they have two back pockets, two front pockets and a coin pocket inside the right front pocket.


GABARDINE – A distinctive 45 or 63 warp face left hand twill if single plied yarns are used or right hand twill of a two ply yarn is used in the weft. Gabardines are made from any fibre not just cotton.

GINNING – The industrial process where seeds are taken out of picked cotton.

GOOD MIDDLING – The name for the best grade of cotton.

GRAY GOODS/LOOMSTATE/GREIGE/GREY – Words used to describe fabric that is just off the loom, woven but unfinished in any way.

GREENCAST – This is when yellow-green sulphur is used in the indigo dye.


HAND – A description of the way a fabric feels. A subjective judgement of the feel or handle of a fabric used to help decide if a fabric is suitable for a specific end use.


IRO-OCHI – Japanese term referring to the fading of indigo dye in denim. The term specifically relates to fading in exposed areas and not across the entire garment.


KHAKI – Khaki uniforms were introduced by Sir Harry Burnett Lumsden for British colonial troops in India and were later widely used at the time of the Indian Mutiny (1857-5 and became the official colour for uniforms of British armies, native and colonial, in India.


LEFT-HAND TWILL – Also known as an ‘S Twill’, this is a weave in which the grain lines run from the top left-hand corner of the fabric towards the bottom right. Usually in piece dyed fabrics, left hand twill fabrics are woven from single plied yarns in the warp. The denim brand Lee has always used left-hand twill denim as it is basic denim. Left-hand twills will often have a softer hand feel to them after washing than right hand twills.

LOOP DYED – One of the three major industrial methods of dyeing indigo yarns. In the loop dyeing process, the yarn is dyed in a single bath instead of several. The desired depth of colour is attained by passing the yarn through the vat several times. Subsequently as part of the same process, the yarn is sized.


MERCERIZATION – An industrial process used on yarn or fabrics to increase it is lustre and dye affinity. For fabrics used in the denim industry, mercerization can be used for keeping dye on the surface of the yarns or fabrics and to prevent dyes from fully penetrating the fibres.


NATURAL DYE – Up to the middle of the 19th century there were only natural dyes and most of these were vegetable origin. Natural indigo being one of the more important dyes. Natural dyes usually have no affinity for textile fibres until the fibres are treated with aluminium, iron, or tin compounds to receive the dye (mordanting). This is a problematic process and the dyes in any case have poor fastness to sun or abrasion.


OPEN END DENIM – Open End or OE spinning was introduced in the 1970s, reducing costs by omitting several elements of the traditional spinning process. The cotton fibres are ‘mock twisted’ by blowing them together. Open End denim is bulkier, coarser and darker, because it absorbs more dye, and wears less well than Ring Spun denim.

OVERDYE – A fabric dyeing process in which additional colour is applied to the fabric or garment to create a different shade or cast. ‘Dirty Denim’ is often created by applying a yellow overdye to denim. By localising the application of the tint, you can create specific areas that look dirtier than the surrounding areas.


PIGMENT DYES – Dyes that do not have an affinity for fibre and must therefore be held to the fabric with resins. They are available in almost any colour and are used extensively in the denim industry by fabric dyers who want to create fabrics that fade more easily.

PLY – All yarns are single ply unless twisted with another yarn. Plied yarns are used to make yarns stronger. In the denim industry, it has become important to ply yarns stronger. In the denim industry, it has become important to ply yarns in piece dyed fabrics that are intended to endure a long stone wash cycle. The method of twisting and length of each yarn is a major

PUMICE STONES – Volcanic stone used for stone washing garments. Pumice is popular because of it is strength and light weight. Before the use of pumice, rocks, plastic, shoes and just about every other material was used to wear down and soften denim during the laundry process.


QUALITY CONTROL – This term unfortunately can mean everything and nothing! It is normally used to imply inspection of products throughout the manufacturing process to ensure that the finished products meet the standards.


RIGHT-HAND TWILL – Most denim is right-hand twill, a weave which produces a diagonal, or twill, line which rises from left to right. This was standard practice in weaving; single yarn warps were woven right-hand, double yarn warps were woven left hand.

RING DYEING – Describes a characteristic unique to indigo dye in which only the outer ring of the fibres in the yarn is dyed while the inner core remains white.

RING-SPUN DENIM – Ring spun yarns were traditionally used in denim up until the late 1970s, but were later supplanted by cheaper Open End yarns. This is a spinning process in which the individual fibres are fed onto the end of the yarn while it is in the ‘twisting’ stage. The process consists of a ring, a ring traveller and a bobbin that rotates at high speed. The ring-spun yarn produced by this method creates unique surface characteristics in the fabric, including unevenness, which gives jeans an irregular authentic vintage look. Ring-spun yarns add strength, softness and character to denim fabric.

RING-RING DENIM – Ring/Ring, or double ring-spun denim uses ring-spun yarn for both warp and weft. This is the traditional way to produce denim. It’s possible to combine a ring-spun warp fabric with an Open End weft, to get much of the strength and look of the traditional ring/ring denim at lower cost.

RIVET – A metal accessory that is used for reinforcement of stress points as well as for non-functional ornamentation.

ROPE DYEING – Considered the best possible method to dye indigo yarns. The threads of denim yarn are twisted into a rope, which is then fed through sequence of being dipped into a bath of indigo dye, followed by exposure to air, multiple times. The frequency determines the ultimate shade of blue.


SANDBLASTING – A laundry process performed before washing in which jeans are shot with guns of sand in order to abrade them and cause a worn appearance. While originally done by hand this process is now automated at most large laundry houses.

SANDING/EMERSING – A fabric finishing process where fabrics are sanded with real sandpaper to make the surface soft without hair. It can be performed before or after dying.

SANFORIZATION – A pre-shrinking fabric process that limits residual fabric shrinkage to under 1%. The process includes the stretching and manipulation of the denim cloth before it is washed. Raw, un-sanforized jeans will shrink 7-10% after the first wash, and continue to shrink slightly up to the third wash.

SHRINKAGE – Traditionally before denim is woven, the threads it’s made of are treated with wax or resin to stiffen them and make them easier to weave (although with most repro denim starch is used instead.) When dry/raw/unwashed denim is washed for the first time the fibres constrict and the denim shrinks. Raw denim can be sanforized (treated with a sanforizing process that lessens shrinkage) but all raw denim will shrink to some degree upon immersion in water, up until it’s third wash.

SHUTTLE – The device that carries the weft yarn across the loom in vintage shuttle looms. Selvage denim can only be woven using a shuttle loom.

SKEWING – Refers to the occurrence of twisting that happens when the fabric shrinks more perpendicular to the twill line than along the twill line. Without compensating for this occurrence, the twill line will cause the right angles that the fabric is woven in to torque approximately 5° after washing. To compensate for this, denim is skewed about 5° in the same direction as the twill line to prevent the side seam from twisting to the front of the jean. You will often find authentic vintage jeans with one or both of the side seams twisted towards the front of the jean.

SLUB – Refers to thick or heavy places in the yarn. Slubs and other inconsistencies are common in denim produced on vintage shuttle looms. Modern yarn spinning technology is able to engineer these vintage looking textures into yarn in a predefined manner.

STONEWASHING – A process that physically removes colour and adds contrast. A 20 yard roll of fabric, generally 62 inches in width, is put into a 250-pound washing machine along with pumice stones. The fabric and stones are rotated together for a set period of time. The washing time dictates the final colour of the fabric – the longer the denim and stones are rotated the lighter the colour becomes and more contrast is achieved. The denim is then rinsed, softened and tumble dried.

SULPHUR BOTTOM – Many manufacturers apply a sulphur dye before the customary indigo dye; this is known as Sulpher Bottom dyeing. This can be used to create a grey or yellow ‘vintage’ cast.


TATE-OCHI – Japanese term referring to occurrences of ‘Iro-ochi’ forming in vertical lines in vintage denim. As the thread width is not uniform in vintage denim, the colour fades the most where the thread is the thickest. This creates a white or severely faded thread of several centimetres along a single vertical indigo thread.

TOP STITCH – A commonly used straight simple stitch.


UNEVEN YARN – Ring Spun yarn is by nature never perfectly regular; these irregularities can be used to give character to the yarn and subsequently to the fabric. It can be either light to give a natural appearance, or pronounced, to give an “antique” effect.
Even Open End yarns can sometimes reproduce the antique effect, although they are very regular and cannot give a natural effect.


Velour – A knit or woven fabric with a thick, short, cut pile.

Velvet – A fabric with a short, closely woven pile, originally made of silk, it is today made of rayon, nylon, acrylic cut pile fabrics.

Virgin Fibres – Fibres never made into fabric before, primarily used for wool fibres (virgin wool), to differentiate between these and reclaimed, reprocessed, and reused fibres.


WARP – This is the lengthways vertical yarns woven into the weft yarn. They usually have more twist and are stronger than weft yarns. In denim it runs parallel to the selvage and is dyed indigo.

WEAVE – The combination of warp and weft yarns woven into the weft yarns to produce different weave designs. The warp face designs used in the denim are called out by the number of weft yarns that the warp ends pass over followed by the number of weft yarns they pass under. Some of the most common denim weaves are 3×1 and 2×1 can be made in left or right-hand twill directions. 3×1 right-hand twill is the most common design.

WEFT – The un-dyed, crosswise filling yarns used in denim weave.

WEIGHT – Denim is traditionally graded by its weight per yard of fabric at a 29-inch width.

WHISKERING – A fading of the ridges increases in the crotch area and back of the knees, which gives the appearance of aged denim. It can also be inverse – dark creased in faded denim.

WOMEN’S JEANS – Women’s jeans are created to flatter her figure. The thighs are cut closer to the body. And the depth of the back yoke gives a nice fit from the waist to the thighs.


X-DYED FABRICS – Cross dyed fabrics present a two colour weave, obtained using different colour yarns in the warp and in the weft.


YARN – A generic term for a continuous strand spun from a group of natural or synthetic staple fibres, or filaments, used in weaving, knitting to form textile fabrics.

YARN DYE – Refers to fabric in which the individual yarns are dyed prior to weaving – denim is a yarn dyed fabric.

YOKE – V-shaped section at the back of jeans, also known as a ‘riser’, which gives curve to the seat. The deeper the V of the yoke, the greater the curve. Cowboy jeans often feature a deep yoke whereas workwear or dungaree jeans might have a shallower yoke – or no yoke at all.


ZIP – The alternative to the button fly, first used for jeans in 1926. The innovation was considered hazardous at first, but eventually became a huge success.

Z-TWIST – A right-handed twisted yarn, as opposed to S-Twist.

One thought on “Denim Glossary

  1. Shela Eastling
    16/07/2012 at 5:01 AM

    You are my aspiration , I own few blogs and rarely run out from to post : (.