Denim Dictionary

Chances are you’ve worn jeans every day of your life and never had the first clue about any of these denim terms. That's alright. History (even pants-related history) can be intimidating — and we're here to help. From arcuate to zipper, here's our definitive guide to denim.
So what is denim anyway?
Denim is a durable cotton or cotton-blend twill textile, typically used to make jeans, jackets, and (for adorable children and highly confident adults) overalls.
To create denim fabric, the horizontal weft threads pass under two or more vertical warp threads. This process makes diagonal ribbing of denim that distinguishes it from cotton duck, which may sound like a stuffed animal but is actually the name of a similar twill fabric.
Where did denim come from?
The quintessential American fabric originated far from America. The earliest use of denim refers to a serge material (a twill fabric commonly used in military uniforms) from Nimes, France in the 1850s. Historically, fabrics were named after their place of origin — serge de Nimes later evolved to “de Nim.” The fabric then was not the cotton denim we know today. It was a blend of silk and wool. Today’s all-cotton denim was first created in England and later perfected in American mills.
What’s the history of the blue jean in 75 words or less?
Denim work pants have been around since as early as the 17th century, when nobody could tell how they looked after 5pm because electricity had not been invented. But the first official blue jean dates back to May 20, 1873, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted patent #139,121 to Levi Strauss & Co. and Jacob Davis for the process of placing rivets on men’s denim work pants for strength.
Blue Jeans
Blue jeans are pants made of denim, typically featuring riveted reinforcements. In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis combined quality denim and patented copper rivet reinforcements, creating the first-ever pair of Levi’s® jeans.
Raw Denim
Real denim, also known as raw denim or dry denim, refers to denim that hasn’t gone through any pre-washing or shrinking processes in production. Most jeans in stores today have gone through some sort of pre-washing process to soften the fabric and reduce shrinkage post-wear and wash.
Shrink-To-Fit™ Denim
Shrink-to-Fit™ refers to raw, unsanforized denim, meaning that no shrinking was applied during the production process. The fit, wear and finish of garments made with Shrink-to-Fit™ denim are all unique to you, depending on how you wash, wear and care for the jeans. Before 1960, this was the only way to buy jeans: you deliberately purchased them too big and then shrunk them down to your size.
5-Pocket Design
A classic Levi’s® design, referring to jeans or pants designed with two back pockets, two front pockets and one smaller fifth pocket (sometimes referred to as a “coin pocket”) on the right hip.
Sherpa Trucker Jackets
An update to the original Levi’s® Trucker Jacket, the Sherpa Trucker Jacket is cold-weather-proof with fuzzy sherpa insulation and soft quilted lining in the sleeves.
Trucker Jackets
The Levi's® Trucker Jacket is the first of its kind and the prototype for all jean jackets today. It's a denim jacket complete with riveted reinforcements, shank button closures and historic Levi’s® design that originated in 1962.
Sunset Tee
Modeled after designs from the Levi's® Archives, this T-shirt has the same sunset pocket shape as a piece from 1902.
Western Shirt
The typical western shirt features a stylized yoke (the shaped pattern piece that forms the upper part of the shirt) on the front and back as well as distinct pockets, like a “Barstow” (a Levi's® term for a single-yoke pocket) or “Sawtooth” (another Levi’s® term for a double-yoke pocket) design. Western shirts typically have snap closures instead of buttons to minimize the need for repair.
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Contrary to its name, anti-fit is not a pair of jeans that doesn’t have or want a fit. It’s just a slightly looser cut of our men’s jeans that deliberately leaves some room in the butt area. A silhouette that pays tribute to bikers—the ultimate thrill-seekers of the 1950s — think: a little extra comfort and an effortless cool factor.
The iconic stitching on the back pockets of Levi’s® jeans is referred to as an “Arcuate” because of — can you guess? — its arc formation. The Arcuate trademark is one of our most globally recognizable design details, and almost certainly the first thing you notice about, uh, a person’s backside if they’re wearing Levi’s®. Fun fact: we even used it on our earliest “waist overalls,” the original name for the blue jeans patented in 1873.
Back Leather Patch
Our jeans are so tough that even two horses pulling in opposite directions couldn't tear them apart — or so this patch suggests. Even today, when horses are generally not used to measure tensile strength, the leather rectangle over our back right pocket illustrates our legendary durability and reinforces our status as the originator of patented riveted clothing.
Bar Tacks
A series of tight zigzag stitches used to reinforce stress points and provide strength and durability. During World War II, we used bar tacks instead of rivets in an effort to conserve metal.
Belt Loops
Strips of fabric sewn onto the waistband of pants to hold a belt. You know, to keep your pants on.
Button Fly
The front metal button closure, most often associated with Levi’s® 501® jeans.
Chain Stitch
A sewing technique in which a series of looped stitches form a chain-like pattern. Chain-stitched embroidery is so realistic that it actually looks illustrated onto the fabric.
Coin Pocket
The smaller front pocket, known originally as the "watch pocket," that sits inside the right-front pocket. Once people stop using coins, which should be any day now, we'll find another name for it.
When dye rubs off onto another fabric or surface. Crocking most commonly happens with raw or dark indigo denim and is the reason no one who works for Levi's® owns a white couch.
Dropped Hem
A garment’s hemline that’s slightly longer than standard length.
The art of using needle and thread to embellish garments. Made popular by hippies in the ‘60s and ‘70s, custom embroidery gives denim a personal, one-of-kind look. We've come a long way since peace signs and rainbow designs. Visit a Tailor Shop near you to create a new embroidery design on your denim pieces.
Flat Busted Seams
When sewing two pieces of fabric together — such as the leg of a pair of jeans — about an inch of extra fabric is retained on the outside of the seam to protect it. If left as-is inside the leg, this double-flapped strip will eventually fray and destroy the seam. Flat busted seams are sewn and then pressed flat, creating a reinforced closure that covers raw edges.
The edge of a piece of fabric where it’s been turned in and sewn. It most commonly refers to the bottom of a pair of jeans or a pant leg. Lately, raw hems (unfinished hems with frayed edges) have been back in style. Thank you, this saves us a step.
The inseam of a pair of pants is the measurement along the length of the inner leg, from the top of the inner thigh to the bottom.
Levi’s® Logo
Our signature "batwing" logo mirrors the Arcuate stitching on the back pockets of Levi’s® jeans and has become synonymous with Levi’s® authenticity and quality.
The outseam is the measurement along the length of the outside of a pair of pants from the very top to the bottom of the leg. And yes, it's the opposite of an inseam.
Originally added to areas where denim had worn thin, denim patches are also used as a decoration to give jeans a vintage feel.
A rivet is a piece of metal hardware that helps to reinforce a garment. The first riveted work pants were patented on May 20, 1873 by Levi Strauss & Co. and Jacob Davis and are known today as blue jeans. Rivets on our 501® Jeans are made of copper and are designed to add strength to the pockets.
Buttocks. Behind. Bum. You know exactly what area we're referring to here. But since this is a dictionary, here's our technical definition: the seat extends from the top of the jean to just below the pockets, where the legs begin, on the back of a pair of pants or jeans.
Shank Buttons
A shank button is a button with a small hoop on the backside through which to feed the thread. Not to be confused with a button shank.
Top Block
Refers to the area from the lower hip to the waist. It’s also used to describe the fit through your hip, whether slim, skinny or relaxed.
Two Horse Pull
This trademark was designed to demonstrate the incredible strength of our clothing. First branded onto the leather patch of our "XX" jeans in 1886, Levi’s® Two Horse Pull depicts two strapping stallions trying to pull apart a pair of jeans. Of course they failed, because our jeans are horse-proof.
Need a technical definition for the band that sits at your waist? Here it is: The waistband is the strip of cloth at the waist of a pair of jeans or pants, often featuring a front button and belt loops.
In fabric weaving, the warp is the set of vertical yarns held in tension across a loom. But contrary to the name, they do not give your jeans a warped appearance.
In fabric weaving, the weft is the set of horizontal threads or yarns woven through tightly bound warp (vertical) yarns, across the width of the fabric.
As seen on Levi’s® Western shirts, a yoke is the shaped pattern piece that forms the upper part of the shirt, usually around the neck or shoulders. The yoke can be curved or straight.
Zip Fly
Refers to a zipper closure at the front of a pair of jeans, pants, shorts or skirts.
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Acid Wash
The acid wash process involves washing denim with bleach-soaked stones for a marbled finish. Despite their name, these jeans will not produce a bad trip.
The underlying colors or tones in indigo denim. Depending on dye or technique, denim can have red, green or yellow casts
Distressed jeans feature fraying, slashes or rip-and-repair details to create a lived-in look and feel. That's right, we do the hard work for you.
Known for its softness and breathability, cotton is one of the most common fabrics used in clothing of all types. Most Levi’s® jeans are made from cotton.
Dirt Repellent
Dirt-repellent fabrics are treated with a coating to repel liquids and particles.
Elastane, another name for Spandex, is a fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It's used to add stretch and recovery to clothing. Levi’s® fabrics are made with varying amounts of elastane, depending on the level of stretchiness desired. Some of us have even been known to work out in our stretchiest jeans.
Fabric Weight
Fabric weight is the measure in ounces per square yard of fabric. Denim is typically woven in weights ranging from 4 to 15 ounces. Lightweight denim can be more comfortable and easier to break in, whereas heavyweight denim can be more durable and stronger.
A lightweight, breathable knit fabric known for its supreme softness, commonly used in sweatshirts, jackets, scarves and hats. How soft? As soft as a floating cloud on a sunny day.
Heavyweight Denim
Denim weighing 13 oz. or more per square yard of fabric.
A soft, lightweight knit fabric typically used to make tees.
Lightweight Denim
Lightweight denim weighs less than 10.5 oz. per square yard of fabric. Perfect for warm-weather styles.
A lightweight-yet-durable natural fiber that comes from the flax plant. Linen is often used in spring/summer clothing because of its maximum breathability.
Madras is a lightweight plaid cotton fabric, used primarily for summer clothing like shorts and dresses. Big on Martha's Vineyard.
Midweight Denim
Denim weighing between 10.5 oz. and 12.5 oz. per square yard of fabric. Most Levi’s® styles are crafted from midweight denim.
Motion Fabric
Levi’s® stretch denim engineered for maximum comfort. Easy fit for every wear.
Preshrunk Denim
Have you ever taken your clothes out of the dryer and found it to be kid size? Preshrunk denim helps you avoid this laundry mishap. Also known as “sanforized,” preshrunk denim is processed to minimize shrinking after washing and drying. Preshrunk denim first became available in the 1960s; before that, all denim was Shrink-to-Fit™ fabric.
Raw Denim
Raw denim has not experienced any washing or distressing processes. It has a more rigid feel, shrinks roughly two sizes when washed and forms to your body and movements over time.
Sateen is a cotton fabric similar to satin, known for its soft, smooth texture and shine.
Quality meets durability. Selvedge denim is woven on traditional narrow-width shuttle looms and produces a signature self-finished clean edge – and “self-edge” is where the name “selvedge” comes from. You can identify a pair of selvedge jeans by looking at the inside of the outseam. When you roll the pant leg, you’ll find this crisp strip with a stripe down the middle, and this artful and functional detail (it won’t unravel!) is what sets selvedge denim apart from the rest.
A soft, thick fabric originally made of sheep’s wool and now typically made of polyester. Used to line garments, like our Trucker Jackets, for added warmth. Think of your favorite childhood stuffed animal. Wouldn't you want to feel that cozy all day long?
Not to be confused with schlub, slub refers to a thick, nubby area of a yarn that’s intentionally spun to look irregular in shape, adding texture to knit or woven garments.
Spandex, also known as 'the wonder fiber' during 1970s disco mania, is known for exceptional elasticity that lets you get away with wearing a tight pantsuit or a flashy metallic tube top on boogie nights. It’s used in a lot of our denim to give it extra stretch so you can break boundaries — at work or on the dance floor — without your jeans losing their shape.
Stretch Denim
Stretch denim is made with a blend of cotton and Elastane (a.k.a. Spandex) for increased comfort and recovery.
Silk is a soft, lustrous thread or fabric made from the fibers produced by silkworms.
A branded lyocell fiber produced by Lenzing, Tencel® is made from eucalyptus grown in sustainably managed forests. It has a similar feel to rayon.
Fibers engineered to wick moisture away from the body and provide insulation. Helps you cool off in warm conditions and stay warm in cool conditions.
A lightweight, woven fabric with a surface of diagonal parallel ridges. Denim is a durable cotton twill fabric dyed with indigo warp yarns.
Water Repellent
Water-repellent fabrics are treated with a finish designed to cause water to bead and roll off the fabric surface — great for rainy days (or accidental spills).
Water Resistant
Water-resistant fabrics are tightly woven or treated with a finish to prevent water from penetrating the fabric surface.
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Acid Wash
The acid wash process involves washing denim with bleach-soaked stones for a marbled finish. Despite their name, these jeans will not produce a bad trip.
The underlying colors or tones in indigo denim. Depending on dye or technique, denim can have red, green or yellow casts.
Distressed jeans feature fraying, slashes or rip-and-repair details to create a lived-in look and feel. That's right, we do the hard work for you.
Any treatment to jeans after they’ve been cut, sewn and washed to give them a desired surface effect. Common finishes are bleaching, stonewashing and whiskering.
Garment Dye
Placing an entire article of clothing into a dye bath for a well-worn, vintage-like appearance. A selection of our sweatshirts and tees are made with this special technique.
Hand Sanding
Hand sanding is a process used to create whiskers (the feline creases on the upper thigh) or other destruction details normally achieved through wear over time.
Indigo Dye
Indigo dye is used to give denim its rich, distinctive blues. Through regular washing and wearing, fabric dyed with indigo will artfully age, developing one-of-a-kind characteristics.
Resin Coating
Resin coating is a finishing technique that gives jeans a rigid, crinkled look and feel.
Originating in Japan, Shibori is a dyeing technique that involves binding certain sections of cloth and dipping them in indigo to achieve a tie dye-like pattern.
Talk about rock 'n' roll. Stonewashing is accomplished by washing denim with pumice stones to achieve a lived-in look and feel. This step occurs during the finishing process.
Subtle horizontal lines found along the thighs or wear points of jeans. To craft this finish, we draw lines on the jeans with sandpaper and then stonewash them — creating a perfectly well-worn look.
The measurement up the center of a pair of pants, from the inseam to the waist. Common styles are high rise, mid rise and low rise.
High Rise
A pair of jeans or pants that sits above your natural waist and creates a flattering silhouette.
Mid Rise
A pair of jeans or pants that sits just below the natural curve of your waist. A universal favorite, this rise is the most democratic out of the three.
Low Rise
A pair of jeans or pants that sits lower on your waist, closer to your hips. Sits low slung for a casual look.
Leg Opening
The width of jeans or pants at the bottom of the leg (or thigh, if they’re shorts). Many of our jeans have the same fit up top but different leg openings to create a range of styles.
Originally designed to fit over work boots, bootcut jeans are built a little wider from knee to ankle. Not just for cowboys.
A garment that’s slightly shorter in length, usually falling above or at the ankle. Perfect for highlighting your shoes.
Original Fit
Original fit jeans or pants are designed with a straight leg and rise that sits at your waist.
Regular Fit
A regular fit refers to a straight jean or pant with extra room in your seat and thigh.
Relaxed jeans give you a looser, baggier fit. Probably not the jeans you should wear for lunch with grandma.
Jeans that fit snug from waist to ankle.
Super Skinny
Super skinny jeans fit tight from waist to ankle — but not so tight that you can't slip them on and off.