Denim is known worldwide for its fit, ease and durability. As one of the few fabrics in the world that is used in both high fashion and work-a-day apparel, common denim is a quintessentially American creation. Since denim is so versatile and simple to use in manufacture, it's become a staple textile in many different industries besides apparel, with steady demand around the world. Denim is an old favorite, with a pedigree that goes back to the days of the western American gold rush.
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Historical Significance of Denim
Denim has a long history in the world of fashion. The fabric was known as a work clothing textile for a lot of history, and was popular in the frontier West. Used by the U.S. Navy for uniforms, manufacturer Levi Strauss started to manufacture work clothing from the fabric in 1853. Denim fabric soon became signature American apparel.
Denim is an important fabric that enabled people to own long-wearing, easy-care clothing that was affordable. It was cheap, made from a plentiful fiber and came in a pleasing shade of indigo. Because of these facts, few garments have risen to cultural resonance like a rugged pair of American-made jeans.
Functionality of Denim Fabric
Because denim comes in so many weaves, it's a fabric that can be used for practically any occasion. Depending on the composition, denim can stretch, sparkle, or flow; conversely, it can hold a shape steadily, take on any number of colors and fold into myriad pleats and forms.
Designers in all sorts of industries create items from denim. Some popular uses include trousers, skirts, jackets, purses, furnishing covers, book covers and shoes. It's especially useful for objects that require laundering or washing, whether they be for apparel purposes or not.
Denim Weaving and Dyeing
Denim's twill weave is the secret to its great staying power. The interlaced warp and filling yarns create a sturdy textile with the strength of a bias stretch. Manufacturers sometimes come up with weaves that are a little different to create specialty lines, but the twill configuration is the most utilized.
Dyeing denim is simple. Cotton takes on dye easily, and also bleaches with little effort. Its malleability allows designers to age and distress the fabric to produce different washes. However, the fabric does lose some color over time, and can end up looking like a slightly different textile after years of wear and tear.
Wear and Durability
There are few fabrics as forgiving as denim. Most denim fabrics will last for years with proper care and laundering. As with most woven fabrics, denim will not fray if is sliced lengthwise, but will shred if cut along the width. In order to avoid fraying, try to minimize cross-wise trauma and wear in key areas such as the knees or hem.
To make jeans and other denim items last longer, launder in cold water with a nonbleach detergent. If desired, use a specialty detergent for dark clothing to preserve the dark dye of the fabric. Avoid tumble drying, since the friction and heat work to wear the surface of the cloth down; this leads to fading, shrinkage, softening and dye loss. Instead, hang denim fabrics up to dry in indirect sunlight.
Denim Fiber Composition
Most denim is 100 percent cotton. However, there are denim textiles that are composed of cotton blends. The base cotton fiber may be woven with Spandex, silk or metallic threads. Fabrics with stretch fibers have become very popular with consumers because of their slim, comfortable fit and increased figure control.
As consumers have become more environmentally aware, the denim textile market has sought to keep up. Now, cloth manufacturers offer organically woven denim that has less impact on the environment without sacrificing style or quality. One popular designer, Nudie Jeans, sells their organic denim products for several hundred dollars a garment. Although out of the reach of most American shoppers, other brand names are starting to follow suit with cheaper organic denim lines.