Denim - Page 6

Denim-related post. Learn things, see things.

Williamsburg American-made selvedge raw denim jeans with flag pocket bags
Grand Street selvedge American-made jeans produced in Cone White Oak denim made in USA

Angry voters, cheap products, free-trade & trickle-down policies

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Angry voters addicted to cheaper products have finally woken up and realized free-trade and trickle-down policies haven’t really worked out well for them.

Denim manufacturing factory inside China in 2006. Jeans are hand-sanded for aging effects before washing.
Hand sanding area inside Chinese denim factory in 2006

In this super-heated political season, the one good thing politicians are finally talking about is bad U.S. trade policies (we accept goods from some countries with less restrains than they give us to export to them). Many angry voters addicted to cheaper products have finally woken up and realized Free Trade and Trickle Down policies haven’t worked out well for them. It feels like there are now more closed factories than good-paying factory jobs and both Democrats and Republican voters are angry with their Party Establishment whose main interest seems to be supporting Big Businesses and Contributors to their campaigns, which has aided in eroding the U.S. manufacturing base in exchange from greater profits for investors. Over the past few decades, the rich have gotten richer and the middle class has shrunk as the U.S. economy transformed into an Entertainment, Service, and Tech-based economy.

In a manufacturing-based economy, there is usually an economic community that flourishes around manufacturing. Factories require suppliers, part manufacturers, restaurants, travel, and other community businesses that usually thrive around them. When American businesses moved to manufacture overseas to increase profit margins, basically good-paying factory jobs were traded for retail jobs. Great, if you are a teenager but not so great if have a family to support. With few American businesses placing manufacturing orders within the U.S., factories closed and the supplier chains died along with the communities that depended on them.

For years I’ve been saying that Americans have purchased the country’s economic health and manufacturing base away. Big business, politicians, and consumer purchasing decisions have aided the collapse of our manufacturing base and erosion of our infrastructure while contributing to the sudden growth in low-labor countries now manufacturing our products.

Let me tell you a story

When I first traveled to China in the mid-1990s we drove to the factory on dirt roads. Along the roadside were old wooden homes that you would swear no one could possibly be living in. Within 15 years those dirt roads were replaced by paved highways with exits that spun off into other new highways in construction. Not far in the distance were massive new factories, apartment buildings, and whole new communities in construction. Now, juxtapose that to what has happened in the U.S. over the same period.

Hope Street American-made jeans

During the downturn in the economy, a small percentage of Americans started paying attention to where the products they bought were made. This small change in the buying habits of some has helped contribute to slowing the tremendous growth in China and other countries while the U.S. economy rebounded. During my last trips to China, I noticed business was no longer booming and many construction projects were stalled.

Many factors go into changes in economies and I know this to be true: How you spend your money makes a difference along the chain of who you decide to spend it with as much as it affects you. I can go on, but I’m not trying to be a political pundit or running for office so I’ll leave it at that.

Close-up of naturally faded vintage Levi's jeans with whiskers at hips and extending from crotch
A pair of old naturally faded Levi's jeans with whiskers, also known as mustaches or hige.

What are whiskers on jeans? How are they made naturally and commercially?

Denim enthusiasts know the best whiskers are made by starting with a pair of dark raw denim jeans and just wearing the hell out of them. An example can be seen in the image below of a 1-year-old 15-oz pair of Williamsburg jeans. On the other hand, the average consumer may be asking, “what are whiskers on jeans?” Because they only know the jeans they buy in stores come with a worn-in look and can’t tell what looks natural and what looks manufactured.

If you don’t have the patience to break-in a pair of raw jeans or can’t deal with the rules of wearing them – choosing rather buy pre-washed ones. You should at minimum be educated on what looks real or good in terms of washes. This is the first article in a new series where we break down many of the effects seen in naturally aged denim jeans. We will explain how the effects are created to make prefabricated washes look naturally aged.

What are jean whiskers?

Whiskers, also called mustaches, hige, crease lines, etc., can be seen on the jeans below, which formed naturally from the state of raw denim jeans. Lines from repeated stretching and pulling motion develop at the front hip area. Crease lines extend out from the crotch and across the out-seams of the hips. As raw jeans age. Abrasion on the high points of the surface fades and becomes brighter than the surrounding areas as indigo or dye rubs off.

How to put whiskers on jeans

On pre-washed or commercially processed jeans, fabricating whiskers is one of the most copied and difficult effects to achieve. They are artificially created by hand sanding the jeans before they are washed and still in “raw denim” form. On lower-priced jeans, the effect usually looks fake, like drawn white lines. On jeans that garner higher price tags, sometimes known as premium denim, more time and effort is spent to make the whiskers look as real as possible by fading them in and out, mimicking high to low points.

Chart shows how raw denim stretches and shrinks

Raw Denim Growth

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I recorded the changes in my selvedge Grand Street jeans as they went through the process of wearing and washing. I did this because lots of our customers often ask the same set of questions when it comes to raw denim jeans.

  • How much do raw denim jeans shrink? 
  • How much do raw denim jeans stretch or grow?
  • Should I buy a size larger and then soak the jeans?
  • Do I buy a size down, and then wear them until the jeans stretch & grow?

Above you’ll find on the left an image of a new pair of raw jeans combined with jeans on the right worn 9 months without a wash. The best thing about aging your jeans as opposed to purchasing a jean pre-washed, is you get authentic wear effects unique to your own body and wearing experience.

Combined photos of new raw jeans vs. aged unwashed raw denim jeans on the right side show shrinkage and stretching growth
Unworn new raw jeans vs. 9 months worn unwashed on right side

Below, you will find the whole process detailing how I ended up at the measurements above. Again, the new pair of raw jeans on the left combined with jeans after wearing 9 months without a wash, merged on the right.

The chart explains the measurements in detail of raw jeans before wearing and stretching growth after. It also shows shrinkage due to washing and how much the jeans expand again after being worn.

For a guy like me, with a large seat and athletic legs, the outcome was growth in the highly stressed areas of the seat and waist from bending, even after washing. There is also a lot of friction in the crotch area, which causes fraying at the seams and holes to develop in the denim, which is typical for guys that wear their jeans lower on the hips. Those who wear jeans higher near the waistline may not get as much friction and wear in the crotch area.

On another note, the white in the base color becomes slightly dark from oils absorbed from the skin. After I did the first wash of the jeans, the blue was still pretty dark, but the white yarns were brighter. You can see this in the animated images from my earlier post or in the slide show on Heddles.com.

Raw denim jeans fading over time-laped

Fading raw denim jeans time-lapsed

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Back in the summer of 2015, I wore my new selvedge raw denim Grand Street jeans working inside our warehouse about 4 days per week to beat them up and to create and record these time-lapsed photos to show how raw jeans fade over time. After 9 months of wearing the jeans without washing, I gave them a machine wash to quickly get rid of the loose dye, oils, and dirt. I then wore them another month before giving them another machine wash for more abrasion, speed fading, and to create streaks. At this point, I lost another shade and the jeans were a perfect medium blue with some fraying.

How do raw jeans fade explained in time-lapsed photos feature Williamsburg Garment Co. American-made selvedge raw denim worn over a 9-month period.
Unworn raw denim jeans, morph to worn-unwashed, to finally worn and washed.
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