Petit tour d’horizon du denim

A brief overview of denim

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The term denim seems familiar to us. As part of the collective vocabulary. It is easily used, too often as a synonym for jeans, and takes us back to a particular imagination, ranging from American westerns to the slim jeans of the 90s. Today, denim is widely used in the fashion industry, and can be found in jeans as well as work jackets , but also in a less traditional way, in dresses, shoes, or even bags. At Hast, we love denim, when it is quality, and have always used it for strong pieces like overshirts or jackets. A brief overview of its history and its uses.

A brief history of a legendary fabric

It is not easy to precisely date the first uses of denim fabric. However, there is agreement that its origins lie in the Italian city of Genoa somewhere in the 19th century, and later that it is linked to a fabric used in the French city of Nîmes – hence the term “denim”. However, it is our American colleagues who are really democratizing and developing denim. More precisely, the Californian Levi Strauss, who marketed this fabric in San Francisco in the 1870s for American farmers and workers. One of his buyers, Jacob Davis, had the revolutionary idea of ​​reinforcing the somewhat weak seams of pants with copper rivets – jeans were born. Long popularized by cinema; the imagination of the gold rush and cowboy films, jeans quickly became a symbol of pop culture, a bad boy attribute, a myth of all-American virility.

As our societies evolve, jeans become part of different spheres and subcultures; moving from the Wild West to street wear, becoming a characteristic piece of the democratization of clothing.

From Marlon Brando in Wild Escape embodying the myth of Hollywood freedom, to American rap stars favoring the “baggy” style, through the hippies of Woodstock with torn outfits, jeans followed, like many other pieces iconic such as the leather jacket, the history of our societies and its political and sociological events (gold rush, Vietnam War, oil crises).

Nowadays, denim in the form of jeans is one of the most worn items in the world. According to a report on the subject carried out on Arte by Thierry Aguila, there are more than 7 pairs of jeans per person in the world. A symbol of modernity and comfort, then of sensuality in the 90s (when clothing became closer and closer to the body), this piece of clothing has a very particular symbolic force. Today, denim weave is of more or less good quality and no longer used just for jeans or jackets , but for the entire contemporary wardrobe.

Technical characteristics and contemporary issues

Denim is a cotton fabric, historically dyed indigo, with a so-called twill weave. Twill is one of the main existing weaves in weaving and has a diagonal effect easily recognizable to the naked eye.

It is a dyed textile, which fades with use, gradually regaining the white color of the original cotton. This faded effect, together with the diagonal surface of the twill weave, gives denim pieces a particular singularity, that of a garment that is a little rough, but ultimately unique and even cool. This fabric has been used since the 19th century, mainly for its robustness. Originally, the qualities of denim made it very strong, thick fabrics, used by the working and agricultural classes and gold prospectors. The development of fast fashion during the second half of the 20th century unfortunately favored the development of low quality denim fabric, whose cotton threads were finer (one thread instead of three interwoven, for good quality fabrics). ), and therefore less solid (but also less expensive to produce).

The United States, the world's leading producer of denim, is turning to mass production, using faster but less efficient machines and getting rid of its looms.

Japan, long fascinated - since the end of the Second World War - by the American lifestyle, decided to preserve the know-how of denim, by buying looms and developing gentle dyeing techniques. Japanese denims are today part of their great expertise in textile terms, with thicknesses of fabrics that are rare today.


Denim therefore remains one of the most popular fabrics, due to its symbolic strength, its infinitely different cuts and its timeless casual style. Long washed using chemicals, denim is now worn – and more and more so, fingers crossed – using new techniques that are truly less polluting, such as ozone washing. Denim, with its history, will, we hope, continue to rethink its industry to also evolve towards production with a low environmental impact, whether through its use in upcycling or through improved techniques. recycling.

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