Three States of Denim

Introduction :

Japanese selvedge jeans have become more popular over the years with the increase of awareness around quality & sustainability and a general focus on "buy less, buy better" wardrobes which are all at the core of our ethics and values at URAHARA.

For most people getting into their first pair of Japanese denim the the whole process can be a little daunting. With terms such as 'selvedge' 'sanforized' or 'raw denim' being specific to the textiles industry, it get's more complicated when you dig a little deeper and discover there are different ways in which "raw denim" can be woven and sewn together. In this post we will look into three different state's of denim used in Japanese selvedge jeans production.

When you step into our physical store you are greeted with a long wall of denim highlighting brands such as Tanuki, The Strike Gold, Fullcount and TCB Jeans. Each pair of jeans is different from the silhouette, to the weight and characteristics of the fabric down to hardware and the finer details. It's a bunch to take in!

For those that can't visit the store we try to replicate the same experience online as best as possible. You can always get in touch for further advice and guidance into getting into the perfect pair of jeans for you.



Sanforized Jeans :

Sanforization - a pivotal process in the textile industry, was introduced in the late 1920s by Sanford L. Cluett, an American businessman and inventor. It represents a mechanical compaction technique primarily applied to woven fabrics. As you will read below this process is quite technical but well worth knowing!

The core of the sanforization process involves the passage of fabric between two heated roll bars, positioned atop a resilient rubber belt. Before entering this setup, the fabric undergoes a preliminary step: it is exposed to moisture, typically in the form of steam. This moisture serves two essential functions: it lubricates the individual fibres within the fabric and prepares them for shrinkage.

As the denim traverses the system, the rubber belt naturally reverts to its original dimensions. This action induces shrinkage in the warp yarns while simultaneously compressing the weft yarns, thereby increasing their density. After exiting the rubber belt, the denim proceeds through a drying phase, effectively securing the fibres in their shrunken state.

Sanforization has played a pivotal role in the global textile industry, particularly in the production of denim. Without this process, consumers would be required to manually shrink their jeans, rendering the garment less accessible and convenient.

Furthermore, it's worth noting that sanforization is not limited to denim; it extends to virtually all woven fabrics in modern textile production. This pre-shrinking technique significantly simplifies the shopping experience for consumers and ensures that the final garment retains its size and fit even after washing.

Although the sanforization process excels in minimising fabric shrinkage, it can inadvertently impact the denim's texture and ruggedness. In certain instances, this technique can lead to the flattening of the denim and a reduction in its distinctive, coarse qualities. Some mills take additional steps, such as singeing the denim fibers to remove excess hairs and subjecting it to mercerisation, aiming to attain a more consistent and polished appearance.

The consequence of these refinements is often a denim fabric that appears smoother and is essentially "ready to wear" from the get-go. While such denim can still develop distinctive fading patterns with extended use, it's essential to acknowledge that these treatments can alter the fabric's intrinsic character to some extent.

The benefits of buying sanforized jeans is the fit will be much the same throughout the life of the jeans. After a wash you can expect minimal shrinkage of around 3% depending on the fabric resulting in little to no "Leg twist" (where the out-seam twists to the front on the left leg) The other benefit is these jeans can be worn from purchase without the need to wash or soak them before wearing.

Some of the brands that we stock that feature Sanforized fabric in their jeans are Rats and Iron Heart.





Unsanforized Jeans :

Unsanforized denim is referring to denim that has not undergone any shrinkage methods before the jeans are cut and sewn. This is the original way fabrics were produced and sold and, specifically, how jeans were made by brands such as Levis before Sanforization methods were invented. Unsanforized jeans keep the original texture and feel of the denim straight from the loom which gave it the term Loom State. This texture and "hairyness" translates to how the jeans will fade and gain more character, than sanforized denim, over time.

Unsanforized jeans come with the added hurdle of needing to soak or wash your jeans before you wear them as they can shrink anywhere from 1 to 2 inches in the waist and length depending on the fabric and will come in a bit though the fit also. This is where our recommendation on how to wash your unsanforized jeans may help.

The benefit of unsanforized jeans is the texture and detail maintained in the fabric resulting in a unique depth in the colour as they age and fade. They will soften quite fast after a soak and become more comfortable compared to raw sanforized denims.

Brands that utilise unsanforized denim in their jeans are Fullcount (WW2 model), Belafonte and Trophy Clothing.




Unsanforized One Wash :

The fabric is milled, cut and sewn the same as the Unsanforized jean - however, they are washed in big industrial washing machines to take the shrinkage out of the fabric in a similar way you would at home in your own washing machine. This stage in the process also softens the fabric quite a lot while maintaining the texture and natural characteristics of the fabric.

Benefits of buying Unsanforized one wash jeans is you get the benefits of a jean that is pre shrunk for you in a very natural way that keeps all of the original and intended characteristics of the denim such as slub, nep and texture. The jeans will be comfortable from day one and you can be confident when trying on your size that you are getting the desired fit. They will fade overtime and become unique to your lifestyle just as Raw jeans do without the "breaking in" period.

At Urahara most of the jeans we have on offer are Unsanforized one wash due to the ease and comfort from day one. For first time Japanese Selvedge jean buyers this is a great option.

Brands that feature unsanforized, once washed fabric in their jeans are Fullcount (core collection), TCB Jeans, Tanuki, The Strike Gold, Radiall and Big John



All of the above is a lot of information to take in. If you would like to know more or have any questions at all get in touch with us to continue the conversation!


Featured Selvedge Denim Jeans :

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