3x1 vs. 2x1 weave

This refers to the number of weft threads per warp thread. Most denims have been traditionally 3x1 weaves, though lighter weight denims (under 10.5 ounces/sqare yard) often use the 2x1 configuration.


The famous Levi's model of jeans, widely copied by Japanese repro companies.

Acid washing

The quick definition can be summed up in one word, "horrible". Also called "Snow wash". This technique reared it head up in Italy in the late 80s. Basically you soak your pumice stones in bleach and tumble them with the jeans. Then neutralise.

Arcuate Stitching

A trademark of Levi's since 1943, used on the back pockets of jeans.


Fixed on the back of the waistband of some old vintage jeans, used to adjust the size of the waist, much like a belt.

Bar tack

Strong stitching used to reinforce points of stress, instead of using rivets.

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. Post-1971 Levi's jeans are written "LeVI'S" on the red tab.


A slight flare from the knees down originally meant to accomodate boots.

Broken Twill

A denim fabric weave first used by Wrangler in 1964 in their jeans style 13MWZ. The diagonal weave of the twill is intentionally interrupted to form a random design. Instead of the twill running to the right or left, broken twill jeans (traditionally considered the cowboy-preferred denim) contain no distinct direction of weave. The weave is instead alternated right and left - the end effect resembles a random zig-zag. Wrangler made the first broken twill jeans in 1964. Broken Twill was designed to combat the twisting effect that was a characteristic regular twill (and considered a 'fault' by many at the time). By going on both directions, the tension in the yarns is balanced in Broken Twill.


A process for finishing fabrics in which such special effects as high luster, glazing, embossing, and moiré are produced.


A process which eliminates fibers too short for inclusion in the spun yarn. The process also removes dirt and foreign matter still remaining in the fiber mass, and arranges the fibers into a very thin layer. Raw cotton is separated, opened, cleaned and made into sliver.


A more expensive type of stitch, used in some parts of jeans, especially vintage. Despite being less resistant in that it unravels more easily than single-stitch, it stretches better and therefore is used in some parts of denim that will shrink or stretch. It causes more "puckering" and is normally used at the hems of vintage jeans.


A term used to describe a dyed fabric's ability to resist fading due to washing, exposure to sunlight, and other environmental conditions.


The combing process is an additional step beyond carding. In this process the fibers are arranged in a highly parallel form, and additional short fibers are removed, producing high quality yarns with excellent strength, fineness, and uniformity.

Core Spun Yarn

A yarn in which a base yarn is completely wrapped by a second yarn.


Cotton, one of the world's most important crops, produces white fibrous bolls that are manufactured into a highly versatile textile. 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. The best cotton is arguably Zimbabwean. It can be harvested once or twice a year. Twice a year is more expensive and provides a longer fiber, but is rarely used for jeans, although it was common at the time of vintage Levi's.


A term used to describe how dye rubs off fabric on skin or other fabric. Sometimes called "atari" by Japanese.

Crotch Rivet

Used in some old vintage models, not used any longer.

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.


Dips is used to describe fabric or yarn when they are immersed in dye. Indigo yarns are dipped in an indigo bath usually 6 times but up to 16 times.

Doughnut Button

Buttons with a hole in the center.


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

Enzyme wash

The environmentally friendly way to stone wash jeans, through the application of organic enzymes that eat away at the fabric, i.e. the cellulose. No pumice stones are used. When the desired colour is achieved, the enzymes can be stopped by changing the alkalinity of the bath or its temperature. A final rinsing and softening cycle is next, before the jeans are ready to be sold.

Felled Seams

When the edges of the denim (usually non-selvage) are folded inside themselves to give a cleaner look. This increases the thickness of the edge, however.

Five Pocket Jean

Means your jean has 2 back pockets plus 2 front pockets and a watch pocket inside one of the front pockets.

Rise - Front / Back

Front rise is the measurement taken from the crotch to the top of the waistband on the front side. Back rise is the same but on the back side.


Sturdy cotton pants worn by Genoese sailors.

Hand / Handle

The way the fabric feels when it is touched. This is a very subjective judgment of the feel of a fabric. Terms like softness, crispness, dryness, silkiness are all terms that describe the hand of the fabric. Finishing and garment wash affect the final handle of a fabric.

Hidden Rivets

Found on the back pockets of some old vintage jeans, the rivets are concealed and covered on the outside with the fabric of the pockets, while reinforcing them. Used from the 1930's to the 1960's.


Fading marks in the back of the knees.


Indigo is a blue vat dyestuff, that was originally taken from the "Indigofera tinctoria" plant by fermenting the leaves of the shrub. In 1897, fourteen years after Adolf von Bayer identified the chemical structure of indigo, the chemical became synthetically manufactured. Indigo's inherent features are good colourfastness to water and light, a continually fading and its inability to penetrate fibres completely. This allows the blue color in jeans made from indigo to always look irregular and individual. There is no dyestuff like it.

Indigo - Pure / Synthetic

Chemically made in a pure way, but not necessarily used so by the diverse jeans companies. It is the same indigo found in nature but without any vegetal impurities. It normally fades with sharp light/dark contrasts.

Indigo - Natural

Natural indigo is the traditional dyestuff used for centuries before the invention of synthetic (pure) indigo. It contains some vegetal impurities along with the indigo and can be made in several ways, using several varieties of plants, and with higher or lower quality. Sometimes, it fades differently from synthetic indigo in that it doesn't give sharp contrasts but a more blurred all-over fade instead.


The seam going all the way from the crotch on top to the bottom leg opening on the inner side of the legs.


The junction of the parts in the crotch, in the form of a "J".

Jean / Jeans

Comes from the French word "Genes" used to describe the pants sailors from Genoa once wore. While the historical definition implied that all jeans were made of denim, jeans today usually refer to a garment that has 5 pockets (two in the front, two in the back and a small change pocket on the front right pocket) and this style can be made using any kinds of fabrics be it corduroy, twills, or bull denim.


A manufacturing company that takes unwashed jeans, and processes them. This processing includes washing, stone washing, sandblasting, and garment dyeing. Laundries today are critical in making jeans look commercial and wash development has become equally important to fabric development in the jeanswear industry. The best laundries and wash developments come from Italy, Japan and the United States.

Left Hand Twill / LHT

A fabric weave where the twill line runs 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. In the jeans industry Lee has always used Left Hand twill denims as their basic denim. These denims are softer, fluffier fabrics.


The weaving machine.


Fabric that is just off the loom, woven but unfinished in any way.


A process of treating a cotton yarn or fabric, in which the fabric or yarn is immersed in a caustic soda solution and later neutralized in acid. The process causes a permanent swelling of the fiber, resulting in an increased luster on the surface of the fabric, an increased affinity for dyes, and increased strength.


The company which makes the denim fabric.

Natural / Vegetable Soap

Better for washing denim, natural soaps don't use optical whiteners or phosphates.


Jeans which have been theoretically shrunk but still retain most qualities of raw denim.

Open End denim

The denim most people are familiar with is "Open End Denim". The term Open End Denim describes the yarn that is used to weave the denim. About 17 years ago, a process was developed that was more economical and produced a more consistent yarn thickness. For the jean purist, this denim is considered too refined and does not posses the unique character or strength of the denim of the past.

Optical Brighteners or Optical Whiteners

Chemicals that make fabrics appear to reflect more light than they really do, to make them brighter (they convert ultraviolet light to visible light in the blue region). They are sometimes used in the manufacture of fabrics and are often included in the formula of many detergents sold for home use.

Organic Cotton

Cotton grown where toxic chemicals have been eliminated in all growing process steps. Living soil (defined as being free of toxic chemicals for three years) is the basis of an organic farm and organic farmers have proven when plants are healthy they are able to resist insects, weeds and disease.


The seam on the outer side of the legs, where sometimes the selvage edges are found.


Fabric dye process on denim fabrics. Most frequently used on indigo or black denim fabric which is overdyed black.

Overlock Stitching

Used to prevent the fabric's edge to unravel. Usually found instead of the selvage in non-selvage denim.

Pigment Dyes

Dyes without affinity for fibre and are therefore held to fabric with resins. They are available in almost any color and have been used extensively in the jeans wear industry by fabric dyers who want to create fabrics that fade.

Plain Weave

The simplest and most common fabric weave where the filling yarn passes over and under each warp yarn in alternating rows.


All yarns are single ply unless twisted with another yarn. Terms used are: 2 ply if two yarns are twisted together and 3 ply if three are twisted. Plied yarns are used to make yarns stronger. In the jeans-wear industry it has become important to ply yarns in piece dyed fabrics that are intended to endure a long stone wash cycle.


"Pre-shrunk" means the denim has been pretreated to ensure that the garment will shrink less than 3% in washing. And that's just a technical way of saying that washing your jeans should not affect the fit of the garment.


A rugged appearance on denim caused by shrinking, and accentuated with the use of pure cotton chainstitch. The highs and lows eventually fade in a rope-like appearance.

Raw / Rigid / Unwashed Denim

Typically when denim is manufactured it is sent to a laundry to undergo many washing processes to give it a worn look. Unwashed denim, however, is not washed before it is sold to the customer (although some companies will sell a one-wash jean). It is stiff, and depending on the weight can feel as though you're walking in sheet-metal. It will also be very dark and will sometimes appear black. Traditionally, all jeans were sold unwashed and it was up to the customer to break them in.

Red Line

To collectors, jeans made before 1986, which have a red line running up the inseam.

Red Pocket Tab

A red tab which appears on the inner side of the right back pocket on Levi's 501XX since 1937.


Reproductions of vintage denim, such as Levi's 501. Many Japanese jeans are repros.

Right Hand Twill / RHT

A fabric weave where the twill line runs from the top right hand corner of the fabric towards the bottom left. Usually in piece dyed fabrics right hand twills use two plied yarns in the warp. In the jeans industry Levi's has always used Right Hand twills for their basic denims in their 501 model as well as their other basic models. RHTs denims are smoother, flatter (a more uniform surface texture), and more resistant.

Ring Spun

This is the denim of the past. Ring Spun Denim is more rugged and is a less refined yarn. This yarn adds character to the denim because of the "slubs" running throughout the yarn. Slubs are tiny knots of cotton, and these slubs are found randomly throughout the yarn. All in all, ring spun is stronger and will last longer than normal Open End Denim. You generally need better quality cotton fibre for Ring Spinning, you can spin finer counts and give the yarn higher twist: the end result is a yarn which has superior quality, better appearance (sometimes randomly irregular), higher performance. Open End yarn is, on the other hand, cheaper to produce and more regular.

Ring Ring / Double Ring Spun

A denim's weave has yarn running both lengthwise and widthwise. Most Ring Spun Denims are woven with Ring Spun yarns running lengthwise and Open End yarns running widthwise, this is called a Single Ring Spun Denim. A Double Ring Spun Denim is made with pure ring spun yarns woven into the length and the width of the weave.


Metal tabs placed at stress points. Traditionally made of copper.

Rope Dyed

The best method of dying denim, most (should be all) upscale denim manufacturers use this method. It refers to twisting the threads of yard into a rope-like shape, then dipping the rope into a bath of indigo. It is often dipped multiple times - the more bathing of the yarn, the darker the shade.


Lot number of 501XX on the Second World War. The "S" comes from "Simplified", due to the fact that the material shortage of the war caused the jeans to be produced with less rivets and stitchings.


A Cluett Peabody and Company trademark for the preshrinking fabric process that limits residual fabric shrinkage to under 1%. Developed in the late 1920's by the Sanforize Co., the process was used on the garments in Wrangler's first jeans line in 1947. Sanforizing denim is a method of stretching and manipulating the cloth in the factory prior to any washing so that any shrinking during future washes will be minimalized. It is important to note if your raw jeans are sanforized or not before determining what size to buy, non-sanforized jeans will shrink 7-10%, while sanforized jeans will shrink 1-5%. It is often advised to give non-sanforized jeans a warm soak before wearing them to get the shrinking done before you create wear marks on the jeans.


A laundry process where jeans before washing are literally shot with guns of sand in order to make the jeans look as if they have been worn. While originally done only by hand, this processing has recently become automated. Chemicals are also now used in many laundries replacing sand.

Scratchless Rivet

Smooth rivets which don't scratch the surfaces it comes in contact with, such as horse saddles in the past.

Selvage / Selvedge Denim

Selvage and selvedge mean exactly the same thing - different companies spell it differently and there apparently is no "right" way to spell it. It comes from the phrase "self-edge" which refers to the edge being finished by the loom instead of sewn together after weaving. Old 28/29 inch shuttle looms produced denim where selvages were closed. The "selvage denim" or "akamimi" (red ear) as they call it in Japan, is the denim used by Levi's for their 501 jeans until 1986. The fabric was produced on narrow looms and a -normally- red thread was woven into the selvage (occasionally, pink was also used, and so were blue, green or white). Lee used a selvage denim in the early days, their line however was green/blue rather than red; Wrangler's (Blue Bell) was yellow, blue or completely white. Selvage is the term commonly used to refer to denim that has been produced on a shuttle loom. Since the amount of fabric produced from a shuttle loom is significantly narrower than a projectile (wide) loom, the cotton consumption is higher and the time required is greater. In selvage jeans, you will see the actual edge of the fabric where the weaving stops and is finished by the loom, as opposed to denim woven on a projectile loom, where the fabric has been cut off at the ends.

Shrink-to-fit / STF

Unsanforized raw denim which shrinks about 10% upon washing.


A phase of finishing when the fabric surface hair is burnt (or singed) using a controlled flame, to give a clean appearance to the fabrics.

Single- / Lock-Stitch

A cheaper, harder to unravel type of stitching, used in some parts of denim which are not meant to stretch like the top of the waistband.


Starch, gelatin, glue, wax that is added to fabrics in the finishing state to improve touch or weight and to help fabric laying in the cutting phase. Denim fabrics for example have almost 1 oz of sizing. Sizing is also applied to reinforce warp yarns during weaving. Most common starches used are corn in the United States, rice in Asia, and potato in Europe, or PVOH and other chemical substances.


A process which prevents the twisting of the fabric.


Continuous strands of fibre untwisted that come from carding.

Slub Yarn

A yarn that is spun purposely to look irregular in shape (length and diameter). Usually slub yarns are very regular in repeat and size.

Small e

Levi's jeans after the 1970's gained a small "e" on the red tab, becoming "LeVIS" instead of "LEVIS".


Spinning is the process by which cotton or other short fibres are twisted together to produce a yarn or thread suitable for weaving into cloth, winding into rope or cable, or used in sewing.


Short lengths of fibres, normally measured in inches or fraction of inches, like those naturally found in cotton and wool.


Used to make the denim more rigid. Can be used after the production, creating sharper folds and fading marks.

Stone Washing

Process in which pumice stones are added to wash cycle to abrade denim and loosen color.


Legs are cut straight or nearly so from the knees down.

Structure Denim

See vertical falling.


A type of dyestuff used frequently on blacks, and neutrals (khaki's) while economical, has only moderate fastness to washing and light.


When the leg becomes gradually thinner from top to bottom.


The marks left by the selvage in the outseam when the jeans get faded.


In vintage denim the legs usually twist when they shrink.


Seen sometimes near the top button in the waistband.

Vertical Falling

Irregular thread thickness creates vertical lines when the denim fades. Highly appreciated by some people.


The lengthwise, vertical yarns carried over and under the weft. Warp threads are the indigo-dyed thread. Also commonly called "surface threads," as they account for a majority of the thread you see on the surface. It is the opposite on the underside of the jeans, where the weft (filler) threads are more visible, and the warp threads are in the minority. Warp yarns generally have more twist than weft yarns because they are subjected to more strain in the weaving process and therefore require more strength.


Usually the measurement of the upper legs in the height of the crotch or some 5" lower.

Watch / Coin Pocket

The small pocket which is inside one of the front pockets. At the beginning it was devised to carry pocket watches, but later it became more used for coins.

Weft / Filling

Weft, or filler, threads are traditionally ecru-colored, however many companies now bleach their weft threads or dye them. The weft is visible mostly on the underside of the denim, but resemble diagonal stripes on the surface. They are woven in and out of the warp threads horizontally to create the denim twill. Filling yarns generally have less twist than warp yarns because they are subjected to less strain in the weaving process and therefore require less strength.


Also called "hige" by the Japanese. The horizontal marks faded by tension on jeans, usually found in the upper legs and near the crotch.


The original denim fabric used by Levi's for the production of their 501 jeans. According to the legend, the name 501 itself derived from the lot number of this fabric.


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.