what is

A close-up of two red bar tacks stitched onto the hem of a pair of Gustin jeans highlights what a bar tack is.
For branding and to secure the chain stitch, Gustin blue jeans are commonly sewn with a red bar tack on the hem.

What is a Bar Tack (Bartack)

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What is a “bar tack” (also spelled “bartack”)? This is a question we get almost every day because our denim service is one of the very few that offers bar tacking. The close-up image above shows two red bar tacks sewn onto the hem of a pair of Gustin blue jeans. When you choose to add bar tacking in the dropdown box of our chain stitch hemming service, this is the type of stitching that will be added.

First, an explanation for the majority of our customers who are interested in having their jeans hemmed. The close-up image above shows two red bar tacks sewn onto the hem of a pair of Gustin blue jeans. When you choose to add bar tacking in the dropdown box of our chain stitch hemming service, this is the type of stitching that will be added.

Brands like Gustin, Nudie, and Brave Star jeans have bar tacks sewn over the chain stitching on the hems, both as a branding identifier and to reinforce the sewing. Although they add a bit of extra security by preventing the chain stitch from unraveling, they are not found on the vast majority of jeans. We usually inform our customers that it is not necessary to add them.

"What is a bar tack?" pointed out on Nudie jeans with bar-tacked chain-stitched hem.
Nudie blue jeans are typically sewn with a chain stitch that extends off the hem with a bar tack on the seam.

Definition Summary

A bar tack is a machine-made stitch with a zigzag pattern used to reinforce areas on clothing that experience high stress, such as where belt loops join, pocket corners and flaps, hip seams, and the fly of jeans.

bar tack | bär tak | noun a zigzag stitch made by industrial sewing machines to strengthen areas of a garment with potential weak spots or other sewn items.

bar-tacked adjective

bar tacking noun

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

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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.
The hem of tailored jeans next to parts of the original leg size shows an example of what it means to have "tapered jeans alterations."
This photo is an example of "tapered jeans alterations." It shows the hem of a pair of selvedge jeans that have been tapered from the inseam to narrow the leg opening. Next to the resized legs of the jeans is the original, wider portion of the jeans leg and discarded denim fabric, which has been cut away from the garment to decrease the leg size.

What are tapered jeans and pants?

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There are two meanings when it comes to “tapered” as related to jeans, pants, and other garments designed to wear over the legs.

  1. Related to alterations or tailoring: The term “tapered jeans” and “tapered pants” refer to garment bottoms worn over the legs that have been altered to narrow the shape of the legs.
  2. Related to the design or style of a garment: It’s a jean or pant with a leg that narrows dramatically from the knee to the leg opening. Tapered clothing should not be confused with slim-fit or other jeans and pants with legs that gradually decrease in size from the knee to the leg opening.

Example of use (related to alterations): I had my jeans tapered because the legs were too baggy.

Raw denim selvedge jeans that have been tapered using the tapering alterations process to narrow the leg shape. The excess denim from the jeans can be seen in front of the jeans.
Selvedge jeans that have been tapered using the tapering alterations process to narrow the leg shape while shortening the inseam length. The excess denim from the jeans can be seen in the front of the jeans.

Example of use (related to design or style): I bought tapered jeans because I wanted the leg opening to be small enough that the hem wouldn’t cover my shoes.

Lightwash tapered American-made jeans for women by Williamsburg Garment Company
Women’s boyfriend tapered fit jeans
Hope Street men's tapered American-made jeans
Men’s Hope Street tapered jeans
Side view of stretch marks on jeans

Knee stretch marks on jeans explained

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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?

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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.

Summary

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

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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.