Know Your Denim: 9 Denim Fabric Types to Choose From

Denim is a cotton twill fabric with a diagonal weave. In the United States, it is most often associated with jeans, but denim can be made into all sorts of clothing items, such as skirts, jackets, and even dresses. There are many different types of denim fabrics available, each with its unique properties. Here’s a look at some of the most popular types of denim fabrics.

Raw Denim

Raw denim, also known as dry denim or hard denim, is a type of denim fabric that has not undergone any pre-washing or distressing processes. Instead, it is left in its natural state after production to allow for unique wear patterns and a personalized fit. 

The fabric is made using traditional techniques, such as shuttle looms and experienced craftsmen, resulting in tight, evenly spaced diagonal weave patterns known as “selvedge.” This sturdy fabric typically has a dark indigo color and stiff feel but will soften with wear and mold to the wearer’s body shape. Raw denim also boasts unparalleled durability, capable of lasting for years with proper care.

Colored Denim

Colored denim, also known as dyed or tinted denim, is made by adding color to pre-manufactured denim fabric. The result is a vibrant, saturated shade that adds visual interest to any outfit. On the other hand, colored denim may not have the same lived-in, faded appearance as traditional blue jeans. 

In terms of feel and texture, colored denim often has similar properties to standard denim: a sturdy but flexible fabric that can withstand wearing and washing without losing shape. Overall, colored denim offers the same durability and versatility as classic blue jeans with an added pop of color.

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Stretch Denim

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Also known as spandex denim or stretchy denim, stretch denim is a type of denim fabric that includes added lycra or elastane for added stretch and comfort. This type of denim is typically made by mixing regular cotton denim with small amounts of elastane or lycra before it’s woven into fabric. The resulting material has a smooth appearance with an almost glossy sheen and a soft, stretchy feel. 

Stretch denim can be used in the same ways as regular cotton denim, but thanks to its added stretch, it’s often used in body-hugging fits like skinny jeans or leggings. It also tends to have less durability due to the added softness and flexibility of the spandex fibers.

Crushed Denim

Crushed denim, also known as “distressed denim” or “destroyed denim,” is created through various techniques such as sanding, ripping, and bleaching to give the fabric a worn-in and imperfect appearance. This style of denim often features frayed edges and prominent creases in the fabric. 

In terms of feel and texture, crushed denim is typically soft with a slightly rough texture due to the distressing process. However, its durability may be compromised depending on the severity of distress – for example, ripped sections may experience further tearing over time.

Poly Denim

Poly denim, also known as polyester denim or cottonized denim, is a fabric made from a combination of polyester and cotton. It is created by weaving polyester fibers with traditional cotton threads to create a fabric that has the appearance and texture of regular denim, but with improved durability and strength. 

Poly denim can also be treated with special finishes to have a distressed or faded appearance, making it a popular choice for fashion garments. While some purists may prefer the feel of 100% cotton denim, poly denim offers greater longevity and resistance to wear and tear.

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Ecru Denim

Ecru denim, also known as raw or untreated denim, is a unique fabric that has not undergone any chemical treatments or hardware finishing. This allows it to retain its natural color and texture and gives it a slightly rough, rugged appearance. 

The fabric is created using traditional weaving methods, resulting in a durable material that will soften and develop unique fading with wear and wash. While ecru denim may require some breaking in at first, its unfettered nature means it will also develop its unique patina over time.

Selvedge Denim

Selvedge denim, also known as “self-edge” or “non-selvage,” is a type of denim fabric recognizable by its clean finished edges and distinct weave pattern. It is produced on old-style shuttle looms, which limited the width of the fabric and resulted in the narrow selvedge line down each side. 

Selvedge denim also uses a different weaving technique, resulting in a tighter weave that is denser and more durable. In addition to its signature finish and weaving pattern, selvedge denim has a distinctive feel and texture. It tends to be stiffer initially but develops unique fading and character over time with wear. 

Sanforized Denim

Sometimes known as pre-shrunk denim, sanforized denim is created by stabilizing the fabric to reduce shrinkage after washing. This process involves steam-treating the material before it is cut and sewn into clothing. The result is denim that maintains its size and shapes relatively well, without shrinking significantly over time. 

Most denim other than raw denim is sanforized. In terms of appearance, sanforized denim usually has a smooth, even texture. It may also have a stiffer feel compared to non-sanforized denim, which tends to soften and become more comfortable with wear. While some prefer the softer look and feel of non-sanforized denim, sanforized options often have greater durability and stay true to size over time. 

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Bull Denim

Bull denim, also known as bull denim twill or steer denim, is a sturdy fabric made from 100% cotton. It is characterized by its weight, typically between 12 and 14 ounces per square yard, and trademark diagonal ridges on the fabric’s surface. The ridges are created through a unique weaving technique known as twill weave, in which yarns are woven into diagonal rows on the loom. This creates a strong, stable fabric that can withstand heavy use and wear. 

The raised texture also gives it a distinctive appearance and feel, making it a popular choice for upholstery and durable clothing like workwear and outerwear. Despite its strength, bull denim remains soft to the touch with age and wears comfortably against the skin.

Denim is a versatile fabric that can be used for various garments. By understanding the different types of denim fabrics, you can select the right type for your project. With so many options available, there is sure to be a denim fabric perfect for your needs.