Essential Jeans Guide

Jeans are an essential part of your wardrobe. Most people (including me) search their whole life looking for that “perfect” pair of jeans. The reason they are so hard to find is because their are so many colours, washes, cuts, brands and styles available out there. How do you know which ones are perfect for you? Well unfortunately their is no definitive answer and you will only know by trying them on and looking at all the available styles available. Hard work huh? Especially for a pair of jeans.

However, jeans are that important to your wardrobe and you need to get it right. They can make or break an outfit. They can make you look smart (slim fits), casual (loose/comfort fit) and even make you look like a fashion icon or misfit (stone wash with black anyone?). Denim and jeans in particular are an endless source of fascination. They have a cult like status that transcends all economic classes and have successfully survived every fashion trend since the first recorded use of Serge De Nimes in 1600s.

It is for this reason that Oki-ni have created a complete guide to denim, and we are going to publish extracts from it each week right here on this blog. If you know what you are looking for when shopping for jeans, then you are half way there. You will be able to make decisions quickly and easily because you know if you suit a skinny fit or comfort fit better. You will also know what type of cut you want when lookin for formal or casual jeans. It will help sculpt your personal style and help you pull different outfits together on the fly in those times when your stressed for time.

So without further ado, part one details the Anatomy of the Jean…

Part 1 – The Anatomy of a Jean

Here we have dissected a generic 5-pocket style to show the function of the different components and how they fit together in a pair of jeans.

JEANS – classic jeans are made with heavyweight indigo denim, feature five pockets, twelve rivets, contrast stitching, five to seven belt loops and a zip or button fly – see fig a and b

DENIM – a sturdy cotton twill fabric characterised by a 3×1 warp-faced weave in which the weft passes under two or more warp fibres producing the familiar diagonal ribbing, identifiable on the reverse of the fabric. Traditionally denim is made with indigo-dyed yarn for the warp and natural (or more usually bleached) yarn for the weft.

fig a:

anatomy of a jean

left-hand twillwhiskeringseatarcuateyokerivetback-cinchsuspender buttonspatch
  1. branding patch
    The patch most commonly found on the rear waistband above the right hip pocket. Either real or imitation leather, the tag identifies the brand – often bearing the logo and the size, lot number or style of the jeans.
  2. suspender buttons
    Attached to the waist bands of jeans to attach suspenders and braces these became less common from the late 30s when suspender buttons were removed to make getting dressed easier for the modern belt-wearing man. However many retailers stocked and fitted ‘Press On’ buttons for customers who preferred suspenders to a belt.
  3. 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 term ‘buckle back’. Most jeans makers abandoned them by 1942; with renewed interest in vintage-style looks, cinch backs have returned on modern jeans including Evisu, Atelier La Durance and Levi’s®.
  4. rivet
    A metal accessory that is used for reinforcement of stress points as well as for non-functional ornamentation.
  5. 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.
  6. arcuate
    Distinctive  double stitching used on the back pocket of the very first  Levi’s® jeans, now acknowledged as the world’s oldest clothing trademark. The shape became synonymous with Levi’s® jeans by 1900, although it’s conceivable that other early work wear might have used the device before them. LS&Co. trademarked the stitching in 1943.
  7. seat
    The seat or saddle of a pair of jeans refers to the rear body and pockets of the garments.
  8. 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.
  9. 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’s basic denim. Left-hand twills will often have a softer hand feel to them after washing than right hand twills.

see fig c below

fig b:

anatomy of a jean

selvageright-hand twilltate ochibartackataribelt loopscoin pocket
  1. 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.
  2. belt loop
    Belt loops were first added to the waistband of the Levi’s® 501 jean in 1922 to allow a belt to be worn without slipping. Both suspender buttons and the cinch back still remained on these first styles.
  3. 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.
  4. bartack
    A sewing procedure that reinforces stress points on jeans- usually found near zippers and pocket openings.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Most Levi’s® jeans are right-hand twill whereas most Lee jeans are left-hand twill.

    see fig d below

  7. selvage
    Also referred to as ‘Redline’ or ‘Aka-Mimi’. Originally called ‘self-edge’, the selvage is the narrow tightly woven band on either edge of the denim fabric, parallel to the warp. A selvage end prevents the edge of the denim from unravelling. Old 28 to 30 inch shuttle looms produce denim where selvages are closed, whereas on larger modern weaving machines, the weft yarn is cut on every pick, creating what is called a ‘fringe’ selvage. Coloured thread was used by Cone Mills to identify the particular fabric used by it’s major manufacturers. Vintage Levi’s® jeans began with an all white strip and later had a single red strip along both selvages, Lee’s had a blue or green strip along one end and Wrangler’s was yellow.

fig c: left-hand twill shown from Evisu no.13 True Left Hand Twill Vintage Jeans

left-hand twill

fig d: right-hand twillshown from Levi’s® Vintage 1937 501 Rigid Jeans

right-hand twill

fig e: right-hand & left-hand twillshown from Evisu Japanese New Vintage Jeans
which feature both types of twill on seperate legs

right-hand & left-hand twill

fig f: broken twillshown from Atelier La Durance Prescott Broken Twill 12.5oz Jean

right-hand & left-hand twill

fig g: selvageshown from Evisu 5 Pocket Jeans
which use the famous Rising Sun 13.5 oz red and white selvage denim found on Evisu #3 jeans.

right-hand & left-hand twill