17 Things You Need To Know About Denim

When Levi’s declares their jeans “the original,” they’re telling the truth. The company invented the modern blue jean—in which rivets reinforce stress points—in 1873. “Levi’s is the father of all of us,” says Imogene + Willie cofounder Carrie Eddmenson. “We have major respect for them.”

Jeans were originally called “waist overalls.” The term “jeans” originated in the Italian town of Genoa, where soldiers wore clothing made from a tough, durable, blue-dyed fabric called fustagno genovese. By 1960, the name derived from this tongue-twisting Italian term was common enough for Levi’s to use it in an advertisement for its denim.

And while we’re on the topic of word origins, “denim” is a derivation of a French wool/silk blend called Serge de Nimes, which originated in the 17th Century.

In case you were wondering, acid wash jeans are created by washing normal denim in an industrial machine loaded with permanganate-soaked pumice. When Carrie was a teenager, part of her job at her family’s denim company was loading permanganate rocks into the washing machines. People who go by the DIY method use chlorine, which is how it was done in the early days of acid washing.

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How to Wash Raw Denim

In a word: Don’t. That’s the advice proffered by your average denim snob. But while members of the Cult of Selvage may turn their noses up at those who would dare to disrespect the fabric’s provenance by washing it, what they ought to turn their noses up at is the scent of a pair of jeans that’s been worn every day for a year and never cleaned. Here’s our take on how to wash your jeans while doing as little damage to them—and to your style cred—as possible.

Step 1: Fill a sink, tub, bucket or other jean-sized vessel with lukewarm water and a small amount of ultra-mild detergent. Woolite Dark is a good bet, but it’s very concentrated, so start with just a couple of teaspoons. Take a deep breath, ignore the anticipated slights from the hip police running through your mind, and put your smelly-ass jeans in the tub. Make sure they’re fully submerged (this may require you to weigh them down).

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(Brought to you by the good folks at Park & Bond)

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