Pop Quiz: Denim Quality

I was going to stick this in my jeans entry on denim processing but then decided it’d get buried. So, it stands alone.

Tell me boys and girls, which of the two denim samples below is of higher quality? One is purportedly great Japanese denim circa $9 a yard and the other is -in the words of my host- “crap”.


For what it’s worth, I thought the crap denim was the better one. Although I’m properly chastised and corrected, I still like my selection better. I guess I’m doomed to wear crap jeans.  No surprise there.  By the way, I also learned that “mom jeans” have bifurcated butts. Mono-butt jeans are the “cool” ones.


  1. Kathleen says:

    Supposedly it’s the weave. I handled both pieces, the one I liked was sturdier and stronger. I’m also thinking that it’s a matter of what’s fashionable. And as we know, what’s currently popular (read: most expensive) isn’t necessarily the best from an engineering standpoint. Now I’m going to have to follow up with a textile engineer to get the skinny on this.

  2. Eric H says:

    The darker one looks like the “premium denim” crap that feels lightweight and easily torn. The lighter one looks like stock Levis denim. Therefore, I’m going to guess that the dark one is the overpriced crap, and the light one is the just-plain-crap.

    kxpdb, can you elaborate?

  3. dosfashionistas says:

    I like the darker denim because it looks as though it has come through the wash process with less wrinkling and because of the interesting pattern that the faded threads make.

    But that is just telling part of the story of course. I will be interested to see the engineering report.

  4. Lara900 says:

    I like the darker better, so am thinking it is the more expensive, higher quality stuff.
    This is partly because I like the color better, but partially because
    -the weave is denser
    -the thread is finer
    -it’s smoother
    than the light-colored fabric.

    Oh, and I’ve never liked the butt-splitting jeans, am glad that fashion is finally catching up with my personal preference…

  5. jo says:

    Recently A LOT of money for a pair of Armarni jeans whose cut is beautiful and make me feel as long legged as a supermodel! (With some imagination!!!) but the denim is soft but thin and very poorly dyed. They have been washed about 10 times now…..still turn me blue when I wear them and the dye has run in such a way for my mother to comment on how much she likes my new stripey jeans!

  6. AJ says:

    jo: lol funny….I only have one pair of expensive jeans, a pair of Diesel’s I coveted for months before purchasing ($300 is a lot to a student!) and they have never ever run. I don’t understand why these other expensive brands do.

    I’m going to guess the better pair is the dark one. The weave of the light one looks like the jeans at walmart, thicker threads, whereas the dark one looks like it is woven finer (and yes would be less sturdy) of course it’s difficult to tell from these photos. The aforementioned Diesel jeans I have are so sturdy I don’t wear them if I will be sitting a lot because they are uncomfortable under the knees from the thick stiff fabric bunching up so who really knows….thin is not always more expensive.

  7. SusanM says:

    I am with Eric and am going to guess the darker one is the crappy one made to look expensive. The lighter one looks like good ole stock denim. SusanM

  8. Siana C. says:

    Diesel jeans are pure PERFECTION.

    I just retired my old pair (after a wonderful 7 years together) and replaced with new ones for $119…
    Whenever your in NYC, make sure to visit Century 21 Dept Stores. I’ve been shopping there since 16yrs old and never walk out with less than 2 bags full of awesome finds.

    I also am partial to the darker pair displayed. The lighter blue look like “Lees”.

  9. Camille says:

    you all have very good eyes, the image is a bit blurry to me, and more so as I stare, trying to determine what is the yarn type and the actual color saturation from somewhere in the shadow and in the light. Right now it’s 6 of one 1/2 a dozen of the other.

  10. Barb Taylorr says:

    In regards to mono butt vs bifurcated butts; we should all remember fashions come and go. Ever since you first wrote about that, I have felt pretty strongly that the current popular mono butt fit is a conscious choice by whichever designer(s) influenced this trend, not a result of untalanted pattern-makers.

    In regards to fabric; I don’t know how you could make a very guess from a photo. For mem hand feel, weight, etc. is too important not to take into consideration. Also, you’d need to consider what the intended purpose is. Do you want it to build a traditional jean that can with stand years of tough work wear, or are you going to produce a high fashion item that will be worn to clubs and is more intened to skim the body without adding bulk?

  11. Sandra B says:

    I will go against popular opinion and say I think the paler denim is the expensive one. The weave looks more traditional (There’s something not quite right about the pale vertical stripes in the darker one, it doesn’t have the same loft as the other, for want of a better explanation) and the colour more like washed out indigo than washed out black synthetic dye. I think for a true indigo dyed denim to end up that pale, it’s been processed a lot, and probably has a much softer handle because of it.

  12. Ioanna says:

    The black one is the expensive Japanese one. I’m guessing because black denim is in fashion right now and pale denim is not (yet. Isn’t it a cycle?) It also looks like the black has some stretchy fibers to it, lycra or whatnot whereas the blue looks old-school sturdy denim, from when Levi’s were 30 bucks a pair. I’d be curious to know what these fabrics were made of. And what the engineer says!

  13. Mikest says:

    …as man who wears a lot of expensive designer jeans, i thought i’d throw in my two cents. the darker one is probably the japanese denim. it has a softer and lighter weight feel. it will wear out faster, and is not as colorfast.

    this of course, is entirely the point.

    designer jeans are designed to wear out in an attractive and stylish fashion. they’re like a pair of levi’s you’ve owned for 10 years, only without the wait. or the work. oh, and you’re not supposed to wash that denim, ever. okay, maybe once every six months inside out in cold water with a mild soap, and dried flat.

  14. Hmm….I’m going with the dark denim as the better goods.

    OTOH…it looks suspiciously like the smooth denim that recently after I washed it twice… turned into crappy ‘textured’ denim when the lighter colored threads swelled into “slubs”, LOL

    But…I’m still picking the dark one, because I like dark denim better ;)

  15. Sparkles says:

    I wanted to go with the darker pair as expensive with light in them but they will not last long and is not as good as the strong lighter denim shown.

    I will stay with the darker are the crappy denim and the good denim is the lighter.

  16. Dorothy Klein says:

    Re monobutt jeans: This is not the first time in my life that monobut jeans are in: remember the Twiggy look of the ’60s when small boyish butts (as well as most body parts) were the rage? Personally I like the monobutt because I have a flat, almost non-existen butt. In the past, if I found jeans that fit my butt, I couldn’t even begin to zip them; if I found jeans that fit my waist, the butt and legs would have fit two of me. With med rise and monobutt jeans, I no longer have this problem. I’ve also found that “tall” jeans have slimmer legs than “average” ones, even if they are too long for me.
    Re the quiz: I also am guessing the dark denim is the more expensive. It looks sturdier and has a crisper hand. The fibers of the lighter denim look like they’re already breaking down. But it sure does look soft and comfy!

  17. lorraine says:

    Although I can’t really make a judgement from the picture, I would say that the darker denim is the more desireable. However, really good denim is woven on traditional shuttle looms and is identified by the selvedge edges that are formed as a result of the weft being a continuous thread instead of a new thread with each pass. You will see this denim in very high end jeans and it is fashionable to wear them deeply cuffed so that the selvedge shows at the outseam.
    Most Diesel and ACNE jeans are made of selvedge denim. It is very durable and matures with wonderful character.
    I would not even pretend to be able to play in the denim world. A designer who really “knows” denim can command a very handsome salary these days. There are so many different washes and jean fits that it has become an exclusive field that a designer can take as a specialty. If you are curious you could check out the associated blogs. http://denimnews.blogspot.com/ is a good starting point. Scroll down and check out the jobs listings at the lower right.

  18. Jimmy says:

    Different strokes for different folks. At this present stage, I would like to wear darker, softer denim more than stiff long lasting denim of any color.

    High end premium denim is an entire different market than the traditional Levi’s … so with that as a basis, whatever is the current hot trend is considered the higher “quality” regardless of which outlasting which. This is just my humble opinion.

  19. Saurabh says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    Let me explain some interesting points regarding this. Because i deal with both higher & lower end prices & brands.

    There is called Silk segment & commodity segment. In silk segment every thing from Fabric to Finish MUST be of high quality as customer pays for it.Using Japanese denim fabric will produce high end finish look with minimum efforts in finishing, due its shine, drape, quality etc.

    Where as cheaper fabrics has to go thru many different wet & dry finishing activities like tint & cast adjustments to achieve closer look to high end quality fabric, that too after wearing it you will able to understand the difference.

    In nut shell we are talking here about very different consumer group & their choice. If brand wants to sustain its integrity & value they must not play with quality parameters in high end consumer group. Hence brand launches lower end products to cater commodity market.

  20. Thomas Cunningham says:

    i think the blue denim is better. the yarn looks tighter-spun i.e. ring spun. The top sample looks to be what I think is called ‘open-end’ where the cotton fibers are not spun as carefully. That used to be used on a LOT of cheaper jeans, but now it seems almost everything is ring-spun. The O-E denim doesn’t have the crisp definition between the indigo twill and the white fill yarns which is really important to the serious denim person.

    I think that O-E cotton is sort of similar to ‘carded’ wool yarn and ring-spun is more similar to combed wool.

  21. Trish says:

    I cannot wait to hear the answer to the quiz.

    Then about the monobutt – I think the (to me very ugly) monobutt came into existence because of the low rise jean craze. Jeans, by definition, have a very short crotch extension. As the jeans dropped lower and lower toward the hip, it may have been impossible to use the typical short crotch extension because the shortened crotch extension may have pulled the jeans down in the CB. Thus, the patternmakers were forced to give the jean a trouser type crotch extension and…. adios, jeans!

    Every time I see those monobutt jeans (way too often), I remind myself that “this too shall pass away”, LOL. Monobutts and muffin tops… and yet they still laugh at mom jeans!!

  22. Dorothy Klein says:

    Dear Trish, I think monobut vs. mom jeans really depends on body types. Because I have lost over 100 lbs in the last several years, I have a “bicycle tire” of excess skin that hangs just over my hip bones, but still excess skin in the entire abdominal region. I have always had a flat undefined butt no matter how wide it was. So for me, mid-rise monobutt jeans fit well in the butt and also control the bicycle tire without leaving a muffin top. Mom jeans on the other hand swallow my butt and thighs if fitted at the waist and still give me a muffin top without controlling the tire. I hope both styles become available for different figure types.

  23. Sandy Doppler says:

    Oh boy! There are alot of smart people on this forum. I can tell I am going to be learing alot of good things here.
    I am a jeans lover. I love to wear them with a nice jacket, shoes, bag, necklace, watch, and I feel set, for my lifestyle. I really don’t need much else so I am very interested in denim and how jeans are made.
    As for the test. The light colored denim looks more evenly weaved which I am guessing would be a very good thing. I see alot of the look of the darker one and it looks cheap to me, but I do see it in some jeans that are not cheap. In fact the light one does look like and old pair of Levis denim, and what could be better than that. I like that look. Can’t wait to hear the answer.
    This is fun to just give an opinion with out having to come across as if I know what I’m talking about!!!!

  24. I am going to put my head on the guillotine when I make this claim, but my suggestion is that they are both the same denim (Just that that one is after a stage of wash techniques)…

    Please do tell if my head lands in the basket. :)

  25. Penny says:

    James Jeans probably are some of the better fitting jeans on the market. Their cut and fabrication combine to somehow sculpt your body in all the right places. They are pricey but well worth the investment.

  26. Sandy Doppler says:

    Oh I’ll have to hunt down some James Jeans. Thankou for giving a good recomendation for a good fitting pair of jeans Penny. I’d pay alot for a good fit.
    I started to make a pair myself with a class of 6 other students last year. My denim purchased at JoAnn’s was terrible. I bought the only denim with stretch that they had there. I am spoiled to having stretch jeans now. I would love to find an outlet for good quality denim.

  27. Dorothy Klein says:

    Penny, I went online to look at James Jeans. They look great and it seems they have a style for most body types. I’m sure they’re also very well engineered and well constructed. Victoria’s secret also markets what looks like very flattering jeans, offering different waist rises, leg styles and lengths, and finishes in both stretch and non-stretch denim. Having never inspected them in person, I can’t vouch for the manufacturing quality nor do I know who actually makes them. However, both of these selections cost well over $100.00, many of them almost reaching $200.00. As someone who became disabled and unable to work since Oct., 2000, I have come to love not “living large”. I think I’ll continue buying jeans at thrift stores and occasionally splurging for new ones when they’re on sale at WalMart or Sam’s. The only item of clothing I MAY spend that much money on is shoes, which are critical to my ability to walk. I bet I look as good in my thrift store remakes, self-made clothes and cheap vintage hats as anyone out there.

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