Close-up of denim train tracks on jeans outseam
Close-up of denim train tracks on a pair of jeans at the outseam, around the knee.

What are Train Tracks on jeans explained

Often with denim and fading terminology, things are called what they look like. As is the fading effect known as “train tracks.” To achieve this type of fading, the jeans must have either a selvedge inside construction or two overlocked seams (busted seams) pressed open at the outseams.

During wear, friction can cause fading along the high points of the pressed open seams or selvedge. See the image below for an example of the train track fading at the outseam.

Blue denim jeans with train tracks at the outseam to show what are train tracks on jeans.
Side view of stretch marks on jeans

Knee stretch marks on jeans explained

Knee stretch marks are more common on skinny and slim jeans because of the way the fabric stretches when worn and the stress that comes from bending your knees. When it comes to jeans with a looser fit around the knees, the effect will be minimal to nonexistent.

Side view of naturally formed denim stretch marks on the knees of raw denim jeans.
Naturally formed knee stretch marks on denim.

The effects of stretching start from the center back of the knees as honeycombs that extend over the seams to the front. Just beyond the seams, the stretch marks quickly lose their height, depth, and color as they fade into the knees.

On the left, artificially manufactured denim honeycombs are compared to naturally formed denim honeycombs on the right.
On the left, artificially manufactured denim honeycombs are compared to naturally formed denim honeycombs on the right.

What are denim honeycombs on jeans?

Looking at the images above, it’s easy to see why you don’t need to be a denim guru to see why some individuals prefer to let their jeans fade naturally over time from the raw denim state rather than buying jeans that have been artificially aged through manufactured washing processes. The details and three-dimensional texture that come from time and natural wear are too complicated for the fast industrial washing process to recreate.


Denim honeycombs are made from compression and decompression at the back of the knees. When denim begins stiff, such as raw denim, the initial breaking points in the bends become the points of least resistance, resulting in repeated bends and well-defined folds.

Denim honeycombs are so named due to their striking resemblance to honeycombs. They are formed as a result of compression and decompression at the back of the knees. When denim begins stiff, such as raw denim, the initial breaking points in the bends become the points of least resistance, resulting in repeated bends and well-defined folds.

The highest points, like whiskers, undergo the most abrasion and hence lighten the most in color. The lower points remain darker, resulting in transitional fades between them.

Image and graphics shows how the height of the folds in naturally occurring denim honeycomb influences how much indigo color is removed by abrasions.
A denim terminology fading guide identifies and describes well-defined natural aging effects on aged raw denim jeans.

The Anatomy of Aged Jeans & Fade Descriptions

As a denim designer, I researched the causes and consequences of denim fading like a scientist to aggressively imitate real-world denim aging in my pre-washed jeans designs. This guide is a great tool for understanding how to create the various fading effects that develop on jeans for those looking for tips on “how to fade jeans” naturally. Here’s what I discovered.

A – Whiskers

Whiskers, also known as mustaches, hige, crease lines, are lines that naturally form along folds in the front hip area of jeans as a result of repetitive stretching and movement. With abrasion, the highest points of the folds fade the lightest in color. The denim fabric holds more color and appears darker as you move down the folds.

B – Whisker Texture

Highs and lows form around whiskers, giving them a texture. When denim is stretched and pulled around the hips at the front rise, dark patches form. There are lighter areas (whisker lines) where the color has been worn off by friction.

C – Thigh Fading

The indigo color in the denim yarns fades because of abrasion against the thighs. When we sit, our arms and hands rest on our thighs, which wears away the color.

D – Knee Fading

The knees are one of the most stressed areas in jeans. If you frequently work or perform tasks on your knees, they will rapidly fade.

The front side of naturally aged denim jeans with industry denim wash and fading terminology highlighted to summarize what causes jeans to fade in different areas.

E – Knee Stretch Marks

Knee stretching will happen along with fading. This is particularly noticeable in jeans made of raw denim that has naturally aged. Lines with high and low basins protrude like whiskers in the knee flexion direction.

F – Seat Fading

Each time a person sits in a pair of jeans, the seat fades slightly. This is the result of a small amount of color rubbing off the yarns, which lightens the overall appearance.

G – Waistband Fading

Belt-related friction is the most common cause of waistband wear and tear. Randomly, the seam line within the waistline becomes visible.

H – Hem Fading

Fading or destruction at the hem can occur in a variety of ways. Rope-like twisting fade lines will appear at the high points if the hem is sewn unevenly at the in-and-out seams. Shredding or fraying can occur over time when jeans are too long and drag on the ground.

I – Chevrons

Chevrons are the fade lines that appear on the inner thighs of jeans just above the inseam. Walking, squatting, and sitting can all stretch the inseam. Friction on the high points of the stretch lines rubs away the yarn color, resulting in chevrons.

J – Rear Knee Honeycombs

One of the most sought-after fadings among raw denim fans, the rear knee honeycombs, are the result of months or even years of natural aging. When fabric bends and collapses on itself on the back side of the knees, the high points fade from abrasion while the low points remain darker, creating a honeycomb appearance.

K – Fly Abrasion

The fading around the fly is a continuation of the whiskers and adheres to the same principles. The high points are abraded the most, while the lower areas remain darker. It’s worth noting that zippers and button-fly jeans fade in different ways. The spaces between the buttons on button-fly jeans facilitate the formation of high and low fading horizontally, which extends into the hips across the front rise, resulting in more detailed fade patterns. There are typically more vertical abrasion highlights on the zipper fly, which does not bend as easily.

L – Seat Seam Abrasion

On jeans, the seat and back pocket seams are high points that take a lot of abuse every time the wearer sits. The high points and edges of jeans deteriorate and fade the fastest in time.

The backside of naturally aged raw denim jeans, with industry denim wash and fading terminology, highlighted to explain why jeans fade in different places.

M – Back Pocket / Wallet Fades

If you carry items in your rear pockets on a regular basis, such as wallets or phones, the color in the high spots of the denim will fade faster due to abrasion each time you sit on them.

N – Outseam Lines / Train Tracks

Due to their resemblance to railway tracks, the two faded lines that develop on either side of the outseams of jeans manufactured with selvedge edges or overlock seams that have been pressed open on the inside of the jeans are frequently referred to as “train tracks.” If the outside seams of the jeans are sewn together, these lines won’t show up.

O – Cuff Lines / Roll Creases

Depending on how you wear your long, rolled, or cuffed jeans, lines will appear differently. The bottom of the denim may become ragged or frayed if you roll them such that the length hits the ground. If the roll or cuff is high, a dark line may appear on the face of the denim from a lack of abrasion.

P – Inseam Abrasion

Because the inseam is a high point on jeans, they tend to wear faster from abrasion, especially in the crotch and at the hem, where there is a lot of friction. These highlighted high spots often get whiter and brighter with age than other regions of the jeans.

Q – Belt Loop Fading

Belt loops, like other elevated places, suffer a lot of abrasion damage. With aging, they wind up with fraying plus having some of the brighter white portions, particularly at the ends and center points.

R – Front Pocket Whiskers & Crease Lines

The aging process here is comparable to that of the whiskers around the thigh. The denim stretches as a result of sitting and walking, and the waistband compression exaggerates the peaks and valleys inside the hand pockets just below the waistline. The coin pocket suffers from wear and develops highlights on the coin pocket side.

S – Hip Whiskers

Hip whiskers extend from the middle of the front rise and wrap around the hip outseams before fading out on the back side, just past the seamline.

T – Crotch Fading / Blowout

Due to the continual rubbing of the fabric against fabric between the legs, the crotch of jeans sustains the most wear and tear. Complete crotch blowouts that result in crotch holes are influenced by the wearer’s body type, how high or low they wear their jeans, and the denim’s thickness (lighter weight textiles may blowout more quickly than heavy).

U – Seat Lines / Rear Crotch Whiskers

Because of the lower resistance and compression at the location where the fabric folds, subtle whiskers can emerge just below the back pockets. These lines originate from the crotch’s center point stress area.

V – Crotch Seam Damage

During normal wear, the elevated seams in the crotch receive the most abrasion from all of the rubbing inside the crotch and frequently acquire frayed edges, high contrast, and even tears.

W – Denim Stacks

Stacks on jeans occur when the length of the jeans is so long that the denim fabric buckles and crinkles, or stacks on top of itself. Over time, honeycombs form above the hem. The longer the excess length is at the inseam, the more and higher the stack forms over the leg opening.

X – Pocket Bag Fading

Abrasions on the thighs can cause fading over the pocket bag. The pocket’s outline, or high points, or items that stay in the pocket for an extended period of time can form outlines of their shapes.

Faded jeans natural aging vs. factory manufactured wash
Naturally aged faded jeans vs. Factory manufactured wash

Denim fades explained: Natural vs. Manufactured

Mastering the rules that go along with owning a pair of raw denim jeans can be a chore to some. This is one reason some opt for pre-washed jeans. However, for raw denim aficionados, the rewards of naturally aging from a pair of raw jeans out weights the alternative.

Know the differences between naturally aged raw denim jeans and factory washed

People new to raw denim and those who love jeans, but only know them in the pre-washed form, often can’t tell the difference between a naturally aged pair of raw denim jeans and one that is purchased pre-washed. However, if you fall into this category don’t feel bad. You may be surprised to learn many of the people earning salaries as designers, editors, and denim buyers at some of the largest department stores, publications, and brands making the decisions on what jeans are sold, seen, and made, don’t know the difference either. I can’t tell you how many times one of the aforementioned asked about a pair of my raw denim jeans (new/unworn) and referred to them as a dark wash.

Below, I placed two jeans side by side to compare naturally aged jean which started as a pair of raw jeans and premium washed jean, which was designed to replicate dark-aged jean and then I detailed the attributes. Both are Williamsburg jeans. Although we take pride in trying to recreate really authentic-looking aged jeans, there is really just no substitute for the real thing. However, if you seek a worn, broken-in jeans and don’t have the time or patience to weather a pair of raw, please opt for washed jeans with authentic-looking attributes and try to avoid washed jeans that were meant to look aged but look more like jeans decorated with harsh white spots and lines drawn on them.

Naturally faded raw jeans (left) manufactured jeans wash (right)


Named for obvious reasons, whiskers are the most difficult to imitate and can be the defining detail that makes a wash look artificial or authentic. Real whiskers develop texture over time as the jeans tuck and fold in a repeated manner, with the highest point receiving more abrasion, removing more indigo, and the lower less fiction, which stays darker. High stress at the hip area causes the fabric to bend horizontally. In the early years of whisker reproduction, workers used clamps and tacks with resin to harden the texture in place, in an attempt to give jeans a realistic look. The drawback of making textured denim with resin is that it weakens the yarns. Too much resin on jeans may look good, but the fabric becomes brittle and easily tears. In about 2003, as I was seeking to create more authentic-looking whiskers, I created a new way to add texture and naturally shaped wrinkles to jeans, which is now used at factories all over the world. You can read more about that on the Maurice Malone website.


The second most important parts of a denim wash are the thigh and seat abrasion. In general, these areas usually take the most beating, along with the knees. In hand sanding, the factory worker usually starts out making the whiskers followed by the thigh, then seat sanding. Lower-quality washes often use sandblasting for speed. This is why with many low-priced and mass-market jeans, the aging at the thigh is bright white or looks like big spots. Sandblasting, although faster is harder to control in the manufacturing process. It also lays down an even amount of abrasion which doesn’t look natural. These areas are finished off with potassium to quickly fade sanded areas. Again, in lower price jeans, the chemical is sprayed on, while some higher-priced manufacturing sometimes applies the potassium by brush for a more natural uneven effect.


Chevrons are stretch marks on the inner thighs. They are usually more intense higher in the crotch and fade out closer toward the knees.


One of the characteristics routinely avoided in premium washes, but always seen on naturally aged jeans is stretch marks created by the stress of bending the knees. These marks usually extend over the outer seams and fade into the wrinkles at the rear side of the knees. 


Not pictured, but sometimes added to washed jeans are the honeycomb-like texture that forms at the rear side of the knees from walking and the sitting position. Wash factories tend to overdo effects more often than not and this feature is not so easy to replicate, so most of the time, the rear knees are either avoided or badly done. The worst example of this is the look of lines drawn at the rear sides of the knees, usually with the placement low on the calf.


Most often, this wearing away is seen on men’s jeans from the friction caused by wearing a belt.


Fly abrasion can take many forms, depending if the jeans have a button or zipper fly. It also depends on how loose or tight the fit of the jeans is. When you see whiskers across the fly, it is affected by the stress from the hips and this usually occurs with button fly.

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.