Style: Our Guide to Jeans

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Photo: Urban Thrift

Denim is a staple year-round, but with summer and stampede season approaching, it’s time to add some new pieces to your wardrobe. At Urban Thrift we have a plenty of jeans, jackets, and shorts for men,women, and kids.  Since we stock a variety of pieces from different decades and a variety of retailers, you’ll be sure to find a fit that is as unique as you are. Thrift shopping for jeans is always an adventure: our selection of items is updated multiple times a week, meaning there is a tremendous variety of items to choose from. Here is a quick rundown of different kinds of jeans and how to care for them, so that you’ll be able to select and maintain that perfect find.

Cuts and Dyes

Denim is a durable fabric that is made of cotton, and its recognizable look comes from the way that the fabric is dyed and woven together. They can be styled in an infinite number of ways: originally they were a looser bootcut, but there have been many alterations over the years ranging from tapered to wide-legs. Crops range from long enough to cover a high-heeled shoe to the shortest of summer shorts. Some people select their jeans based on which style of cut is their favourite or which one is in style, but there are many other factors that can make or break whether you like a pair of jeans, including the colouring, the weight and other construction factors such as how the jeans are washed and how they are meant to fit.

With traditional jeans, half of the cotton threads  are dyed classic blue-jeans shade, usually with indigo-based dye. The other half of the threads are left plain white. When the threads are woven together in a twill pattern, the resulting fabric is blue on one side and white on the other. Some jeans, such as Levi’s, use right facing twill, while other brands use a twill with left-facing threads. Different weaves can result in different types of wearing: generally right-facing twill is softer. Usually, the accent threads along the pockets and inseams are yellow, white, or matched to the denim.

Different dyeing techniques can lead to different results as the jeans wear through. For example, Naked & Famous uses threads that are dip-dyed in shades like red, or rainbow colours, before being dyed over with indigo.  This coloured effect is more subtle than all-over dyeing and results in the colour gradually showing through instead of the usual baby blue or white of worn denim.

Jeans have always looked great when they are broken in–in fact, for many people, denim gets better with age.  In the mid 1960’s, distressed jeans were introduced onto the market and varying degrees and styles of pre worn-in jeans became popular as time went on. Stone washing and acid washing involves washing denim with stones or chemicals to give it a softer and more faded appearance before it even hits store shelves. There are also a variety of techniques that can be used to create smaller artificial signs of wear and tear, such as cutting, sanding, and whiskering.

Weight and State

Denim comes in a variety of different weights. Heavier denims are thicker and denser, and the difference in weight can be easily seen when two pairs of jeans are folded and set beside each other. The weight of a pair of jeans usually measured in ounces. However, extreme amounts of precision with regards to the weight of jeans aren’t really necessary: you really only need to be able to determine whether a pair of jeans is light, medium, or heavy. These simple generalizations are usually enough to help you determine whether a pair of jeans suit your needs. Lighter weight and blended denims are great for summer use. They are comfortable to wear and they break in easily. Heavier weight denims (ranging from 16-32 oz) are tougher and more difficult to break in. They may not be as flexible as other jeans are to wear at first, but can look fantastic after being broken in and are warm enough to keep you comfortable in cold winter months. Medium weight jeans generally sit between these two extremes.

Selvedge Denim Image from rawrdenim.com, a fantastic resource full of facts and reviews that focus primarily on men’s jeans and fashion (we recommend checking it out!)

Denim also comes in a raw state, which means that it has not been washed after the dyeing process. It is not washed or artificially worn in in any way, and some buyers like the unique way that the denim develops as they break it in day to day. Creases, whiskers, and “honeycombs” (the creases behind the knee) that are unique to the wearer begin to show through. After a few months of wearing, the jeans can be washed and the dye will become more fixed, and the jeans will wear in more slowly after that point. There are more raw denim choices for men, but there are still many options out there for women, especially those looking for the straight-leg or “boyfriend” fit. If you are a woman shopping for a pair of raw denim or heavy weight jeans, you should note that these pants may have less stretch than other jeans that they are accustomed to. However, although this rigid fit can appear be a drawback, with time it can end up resulting in the most flattering fit of all. This is because while heavy denim may not have much give at first, it will gradually mold to your body, resulting in a custom fit.

Selvedge may be another important characteristic to some buyers. Selvedge or  “red selvedge” refers to the way the inner edges of the jeans are finished. The term selvedge comes from the word “Self edge”’ which alludes to the way that the edges are finished off on a smaller, narrower loom. “Red Selvedge”, is a reference to the fact that this kind of finishing is usually done using red thread. Jeans with this kind of hemming are less likely to fray and are generally considered to be more durable.

Other kinds of jeans may not be made of 100% cotton: spandex or other fibers may be added to create a more flexible fit while allowing for a tight and streamlined silhouette. Certain synthetic fabrics, when blended with cotton, reduce wrinkles and improve draping. They can also change the look or texture of the jeans. Stretch jeans, jeggings, and even denim-print leggings would fit into this category. These are ideal for anyone who is looking for a lightweight garment with a comfortable fit.

Finding the Perfect Fit

Once you’ve selected the perfect cut in the wash that you love and the weight that you want, there is one more thing to consider. When it comes to fit, whether or not the denim is pre-washed can impact how the jeans will look and feel over time. This is where you need to pay attention to the difference between sanforized and unsanforized jeans. The difference between these two types of clothing can basically be characterized as preshrunk/prewashed vs. shrink to fit. Sanforized jeans undergo soaking, washing, and drying procedures to ensure that they will not shrink down when the customer washes them. Unsanforized jeans do not undergo this process. These jeans need to be soaked and washed after purchasing. This can often shrink them a few sizes, and it is often recommended that if you are purchasing shrink-to-fit jeans, you should buy a pair that is a size or two larger than the one that you actually wear. Some makers of shrink-to-fit jeans take into account the fact that the jeans will shrink when they size them, meaning that the jeans will shrink to the size that they should be. Most jeans sold in stores are pre-washed. Shrink-to-fit in thrift, consignment, and vintage shops have likely already been shrunk if they are pre-owned.

To be certain that you’re getting the right size and that the jeans will fit properly after purchasing them, talk to a salesperson or look up a sizing chart on the manufacturer’s website. This is especially true when thrifting for jeans, because although there are many sizes and styles, sizing is not always standardized (especially for women’s and children’s clothing). If you have any questions about a particular new or used pair of jeans that we have on sale, don’t hesitate to ask us in person or online and we’ll do our best to assist you.

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