Denim Terms You Need to Know

The more you know, the happier you’ll be with your purchase.

via @theamateurprofessional

via @theamateurprofessional

We know what you’re thinking. We’ve been there too. You’re looking to pick up some new denim, but you’re not really sure what the hell all these guys are talking about. Well allow us to step in and give you a hand.

Raw Denim

Raw denim simply means it has been dyed but not washed. They’re almost always dark blue (indigo) or black, but come in other colors as well. The real reason raw denim is prized lies in the ability of the wearer to imbue it with character. Generally, you should wear raw denim for several months before washing it the first time. Over the course of those few months, the indigo die will rub off, particularly on the upper thigh and the back of the knees. Once you wash your raw denim, those areas will lighten in a way that is unique to your particular pair of jeans.



Prior to the mass production of jeans, denim was made on shuttle looms, which would leave one continuous yarn at all the edges so the fabric itself seals, or creates a “self edge.” The slower process was abandoned as companies sought to produce more denim at a faster pace, but its made quite a comeback now. You can recognize selvedge denim by the tell-tale colored lines running along the outseam of a pair of selvedge jeans, which is also referred to as the “selvedge ID.”

Those who love selvedge do so for two main reasons. First, for the most part, mills producing selvedge denim do so with more care than those mass-producing denim, which leads to a higher quality fabric. Second, if you prefer to cuff your jeans, then the selvedge ID has a much neater and cleaner appearance than the rough edges of the non-selvedge outseam.



Slubbiness refers to the uneven, bumpy and rough textured denim that’s caused when the denim manufacturer accidentally or intentionally causes irregularities in the yarn. Depending on your preferences, slubbiness can be sought after because it adds extra character to your denim.


Sanforized denim, which is most denim, has already been stretched, fixed and shrunk in length at the mill, which helps to reduce shrinkage when you finally wash you jeans.

Unsanforized denim, also sometimes called loomstate denim, has not been treated or shrunk in any way. As a result, you can expect unsanforized denim jeans to shrink up to 10% after the first soak, so you should size accordingly.


The weight of denim refers to how much a yard of the fabric weighs. Typically denim weight anywhere from 5 to 32 ounces. Denim is often divided into three categories: lightweight (12 ounces and under), mid-weight (12-16 ounces) and heavyweight (above 16 ounces). Different denim weights will not only feel and wear differently, but they’ll also allow you to wear your denim through all four season if you would like. If you’re looking for sharp fades from your raw denim though, you’ll want to go for a heavier weight.

Tying It All Together

Now that you know what you’re looking for, you’ll notice that denim comes in innumerable combinations, and then when you throw in the different cuts, there’s bound to be denim that fits your style perfectly. If you’re a bigger guy, a straight or wide leg might fit best. If you’re a thinner guy, a skinny or slim fit will be better. 

High quality, boutique brands who specialize in denim are a great way to go, such as Freenote Cloth, Railcar Fine Goods or Charles Miller Brand.

Here are some entry level options we love for getting your feet wet in the designer denim game:

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