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Denim Glossary


"Aizome" is the Japanese word for indigo dye. The first part of the word, "Ai" (藍) represents the color indigo, and "Zome" (染め) is the common term for dye.


Chainstitching is a type of interlooping stitch which resembles the pattern of a chain and it is a technique developed by the ancient Chinese. Chainstitching is embraced by premium denim manufacturers in their craft. Notable for the desired roping effect it yields over time. It is used on the hem of the leg opening of premium jeans for the durability factor as well as to avoid fraying.

3. CHAINSTITCH RUNOFF Chainstitch runoff is a trail of chainstitched threads which can often be found hanging from the side seams of shirts. This is a detail that many brands retain in order to give garments a more vintage aesthetic.

4. FADES Fades are lighter areas present in denim, which appear and turn brighter when the dye of the deep blue color of your jeans slowly wears off or is washed off. There are differents types of fading, such as Honeycomb, Whiskers and Train Tracks or Stacks. Atari (当たり) is a Japanese term describing to the most common fading located along side seams, front and back of knees, upper thighs, along the hem, belt loops and pocket seams.

5. NATURAL INDIGO DYE Natural indigo dye is derived from the leaves of an indigo plant, which is then dried and left for composting in the initial stage, taking approximately one hundred days. This yields the dense dye compost the Japanese call sukumo. The sukumo is then added to a vat of warm water which already contains a mix of several ingredients including lime, and in some cases even sake. Once the contents of the vat have fermented, the remaining foam may be used as a natural indigo dye. Natural indigo dye has been a part of Japanese textile culture for centuries. It came into particular prevalence during the Edo period because it was the best type of dye for use on cotton fiber at the time. It is sometimes referred to as "Blue Gold" amongst enthusiasts.


Slub refers to denim fabric made with indigo warp yarn which differs in thickness throughout. When the denim is woven and made into garments, the result will be a denim without a uniform texture which will have a much different hand than a denim woven with traditional yarns.

When a garment is neppy, or has nep, it usually just means that the fabric of the garment has been woven in a way that some of the cotton fibers extend and protrude from the main surface. Usually these fabrics tend to posses a “snowy” look, as if fresh fallen snow is sitting on the surface of the denim.

7. OKAYAMA DENIM Many Japanese manufacturers of denim agree that the water in Okayama has a high mineral content coupled with favorable pH levels. This combination helps to produce high quality denim fabric, which also assists in the depth of color and resilience of the indigo dye. Another factor would be the prevalence of factories using vintage shuttle looms to produce their denim fabric. Although the production of denim on shuttle looms yield much less fabric (about 40m a day) than the mass production of projectile looms, the quality of the selvedge fabric which the shuttle looms output is far superior than the modern projectile looms. Japanese attention to detail during the production process is unrivaled. The brands we carry at Okayama Denim have very small scales of production, ensuring that each product is developed with tedious attention to detail. The use of indigo dye is not new to textile production in Japan. Traditionally, Kimono fabric was also sometimes indigo dyed, and thus the technique of rope dyeing has been a part of textile production in Japan for centuries.

8.RAW DENIM Raw or Dry denim refers to denim fabric which has not undergone any treatment or coloring after the dyeing stage of production. As opposed to washed denim which features styled fading at the time of purchase. Raw denim is typically a dark indigo blue as a new product. The areas that a pair of jeans will show the most wear and fading include the ankles, behind the kneed, and upper thighs. Often considered the most desirable aspect of Raw denim is the fact that the fade patterns and patina which develop over time, and will be unique to the body of the user and his/her daily activities. Raw denim will shrink approximately 1-2 inches around the waist after washing. While this will not affect the actual intensity of fade contrast. In order to perfect the natural whiskers and honeycombs, the best way is to wear the same pair of jeans everyday for at least three to six months before washing.

9. ROPE DYEING The rope dyeing technique which is common in Okayama, creates a beautiful yarn. It is the physically enduring process of dyeing the cotton threads in indigo and then twisting the yarns together to mimic a rope. Leaving the core of the yarns undyed, it is the understood guarantee that the finished denim garment will fade perfectly with age and time.

10. SANFORIZED / UNSANFORIZED DENIM Sanforized denim is treated post-production and is mechanically pre-shrunk to ensure less shrinkage of the fabric after washing. This will eliminate the calculating and guessing process that often comes with buying Unsanforized denim. On the other hand, unsanforized denim does not receive any treatment post-production and is sent directly for cutting and sewing into jeans, as loom state fabric. These jeans are prone to shrink 7- 10% with the first soak (variance can be greater even, and depends on fabric and soak process) and are preferred by hardcore enthusiasts due to the character and weave which tends to be much hairer and slubbier in nature.


Selvedge (or selvage) denim is produced on vintage shuttle looms, the way that denim was originally made for work-wear before it became a global fashion statement.

The fabric which is derived from a shuttle loom will have a clean, self- finished edge which will not fray or unravel.

It is more durable and of superior quality when compared to the output of any modern day projectile loom. This is because more time and effort is put into each meter of denim produced on a shuttle loom, the way garments used to be made before mass production biinded manufacturers. The lateral weave used to complete the Selvedge line comes in a variety of colors.

Selvedge denim has become the fabric of choice for premium jean producers around the world. A turned-up cuff reveals the clean, finished edges as two colored stripes running up the seam of the jeans.

These stripes were most commonly red in color but today can be found in a range of colors and variations. In the early days of Japanese jeans, the stripe was used as an ID tag that distinguished the different denim fabric manufacturers in Okayama.


Serge is a type of cotton twill created by a two stitch upward and downward pattern, resulting in a rough and rugged textile. Serge, known for it's durability and longevity as a fabric, has been used in many countries for industrial workwear and military uniforms. Denim is a derivation of this fabric.

13. SHUTTLE LOOM Vintage shuttle looms produce a denim fabric, which among purists is considered to be of the best quality. The technique of fabric construction on a shuttle loom is very different, and on a much smaller scale, compared to the industrial projectile looms. Selvedge denim fabric produced on shuttle looms is of superior quality and will last a lifetime.

14. TWILL A Twill weave can be identified by its ribbing. The combination of a weft yarn running through the warp yarn creates a Twill. Denim most commonly comes in right hand twill, although left hand twill is also available in smaller amounts as only a number of seweing machines create left hand twill fabric. Even less common is broken twill denim which features a zig zag pattern weave, similar to Herringbone.

15. WARP The set of yarns held in tension which run lenghtwise on a loom, are called warps. When looking at finished denim fabric, the warp end is the thread which runs along the fabric (parallel to the selvege line). The warp thread is normally tougher than the weft thread as it is held in high tension.

16. WEFT Weft is the thread/yarn which runs widthwise (from edge to edge) to hold the warp thread together. The weft yarn moves across the selvege denim from edge to edge through the warp yarn loops. The reason selvege does not fray is because the weft threads are looped over and under the warp.

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