Some Words About Denim: #30folds30days, Four Point Fold, Day 17

Denim is a quintessentially American piece of clothing. Which is to say that its origins are rooted outside of the country, and its trail through history spreads across the globe. Clearly, I’m still on the Fourth of July America kick.

Legend has it that the fabric itself has its origins in France, coming from the region of Nimes. Hence fabric “de Nimes” quickly transformed to denim stateside. The term jeans also has a supposedly foreign root, as Genoa produced fabric which was commonly known and used for worker pants. Hence they quickly changed to jeans.

Both of these stories are more likely legend than fact, as history indicates that both of the fabrics were not made with 100% cotton as nearly all denim and jeans are, but were blends of various fabrics including wool, silk, and other textiles.

However, jeans or denim as we know them today did not really come around until the 1800’s, with the birth of Levi’s in 1873, with the filing of a Patent for riveted denim waist overalls. Eventually, they became the most popular work pants for men.

However, as time went on quality declined. The original dying process was changed and lightened. Washes were added to avoid staining. The fabrics manufactured in the looms of New England were eventually exported overseas. People wanted pre-fades and rips and tears, rather than those earned in the pants through hard work.

However, while Levi’s and the United States were exporting and driving down the cost of jeans, companies in Japan picked up the slack. They bought many of the old looms that the original 501’s were made on, and started to attempt to remake the classic original 501’s from Levi’s. Many brands attempted to mirror the Levi’s style as closely as possible, right down to the red tab on the pocket, the arcs on the pockets, and riffs on the two horses pulling apart the pair of jeans.

As many of these brands gained notoriety, Levi’s, a notoriously litigious brand, did not take this laying down. Their sales had declined, and they ended up being sold in Wal-Mart for $30, while many premium denim brands ended up selling for upwards of $200. Their marketshare shrunk, mainly because their product wasn’t up to snuff. They came late (or left early) to the premium denim revival. So they sued people!  Everyone from Von Dutch to smaller manufacturers. In 2007 they received a court order stating that several brands from Japan, including Studio D’Artisan, Iron Heart, Toyo/Sugarcane, Oni (BS United), and Samurai.

Many of these Japanese brands had to change their logos overnight, or simply stopped importing to the United States. Which is kind of sad. Since then Levi’s has joined the premium denim line, and now you an buy the original 501’s made in America for $200. And then break them in yourself.

With the rise of premium denim, there are a few obtuse terms that most people would not know about. And are important, if for no other reason than you shouldn’t be ripped off by not getting what you want.

For those unfamiliar, raw denim is simply the denim that has not been washed or treated. So there’s none of the fading etc. that you see with many jeans. This also means that it will rub off on your grandma’s white couch, so be careful.

Also, selvedge. Selvedge is the shortening of the word self edge, and basically means that the fabric that the jeans are made of were done on looms that wove tight fabric and had bands or edges that prevents fraying or curling. These bands are typically white with a line of red. They look pretty sweet and are the reason why a lot of guys will cuff their selvedge jeans. Also, there’s a part that’s probably a bit pretentious and is just showing off, like having the first cuff button on a suit jacket undone to show that it’s a custom suit.

Then there’s sanforized jeans. And what sanforized means is that the denim is pre-stretched and treated to avoid shrinking in future washes. If you buy unsanforized denim that is perhaps the purest denim you can buy. It is often called “loomstate” denim, as it’s taken right off the loom and made into jeans. Unsanforized jeans will shrink when washed. Sometimes a lot.

These are simply quick and dirty definitions, and you can read a whole lot more on the links provided. But denim is really something every man should have, and shouldn’t skimp on. A good pair of jeans will stay with you for life. They shape around you, sometimes they can grow around you (but not much), and turn into an old friend. And don’t buy pre-faded and pre-ripped jeans. Fade and rip them yourself. And if you’re really daring, go wear them into the ocean. The salt water and sand gives a unique wash. Beyond that, dark denim with a jacket or sport coat is always a good call for a date or casual event.

Today’s fold is a four point fold. Different in the way the four points are achieved from out prior folds, it can lead to a crisper look and requires less fabric to achieve, so can be done with smaller squares.

1. Start with a square.

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2. Fold in half diagonally.

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3. Separate out the top of the fold to two peaks.

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4. Fold the corner across.

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5. Fold the other corner across as well.

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6. Fold in the sides and fold up the bottom. Flip around to be inserted into pocket.

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7. Place into pocket and arrange.

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That’s it for today. Sorry for missing the past few days. Fourth of July got in the way. Any questions: Seamus@smkstyle.com

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