What makes denim "premium"? Why is it worth paying for high-end denim? What does it really mean for denim to be "premium," anyway?
At Horseshoe, we love, love, LOVE jeans, and we know lots of you have questions about them. We thought we'd tackle some of our customer's most frequently asked questions about high-end denim, how to care for premium denim, and share some of our tips for finding a great fitting pair of jeans!
So what is "premium" denim, anyway?
There isn't one hard-and-fast rule about what constitutes premium denim. Typically, a pair of premium denim jeans will cost upwards of $100.00. However, the criteria get a little looser from there. Most American-based, high-end denim lines also manufacture their pieces in the U.S., which is a big factor when it comes to the cost and quality of the jeans. The quality of the material is also a determining factor in whether or not denim can be considered premium. For example, jeans made from selvedge denim "are made out of denim woven on an old-style shuttle loom with a continuous weft and a narrow width (usually around thirty inches)" ("Selvedge Denim (also Self-Edge of Selvage)", Heddels). This denim is highly sought after, especially if it is made in Japan, which is where many feel the very best jeans are constructed due to the style of looms and dying techniques employed ("What Makes Japaense Denim So Special?", Heddels, June 18, 2013).
Some companies use newly developed technologies that make their jeans super soft and supple to the point that they almost don't feel like jeans! As Mother Denim designer Tim Kaeding said in a 2010 interview with Vogue, '"It takes a lot to get a girl out of leggings and back into jeans!'" Some premium denim companies are very focused on sustainability, particularly when it comes to how much water is used to create each pair of jeans. For example, it takes 3,781 liters of water to produce a pair of Levis 501s - this includes everything from growing the cotton the jeans are made to the disposal of the jeans when they are worn out. Cutting the amount of water used to produce jeans is a focus of many denim companies, including Levis. (Learn more about what Levis is doing to limit their environmental impact at http://www.levistrauss.com/sustainability/planet/waterwhat fabrics.)
Washes and details like the lines that are frequently on the front top part of jeans (called "whiskering") also add to jeans' costs. If these details are applied by hand or are otherwise labor intensive to apply they will contribute to the jeans being labeled as premium.
Pieces of Point Sur Denim being treated. Point Sur Denim will sometimes wash their denim with pumice stones to give their jeans a stonewashed finish. Photo Credit: "Behind the Design: Point Sur Denim" for J. Crew Blog, photograph by Bryan Derballa, https://hello.jcrew.com/2014-11-nov/behind-the-design-point-sur-denim
Why do jeans cost so much?
The same criteria that make denim premium are going to contribute to the price of the jeans. For example, if a pair of jeans is made in the U.S. (where wages are higher than in many parts of the developing world) that will impact the cost of the denim. Additionally, if high-end fabrics are used to create the jeans they will also affect the jeans’ cost. The factors that add to the cost of denim will vary from company to company based on what techniques and manufacturing processes they employ.
An employee distress a pair of Point Sur Denim's jeans by hand. Photo Credit: "Behind the Design: Point Sur Denim" for J. Crew Blog, photograph by Bryan Derballa, https://hello.jcrew.com/2014-11-nov/behind-the-design-point-sur-denim
How should I care for premium denim?
Premium denim requires special care because it is not made of 100% percent cotton. Instead, these jeans frequently have stretchy fibers like Elastane in them. This helps the jeans to fit better and makes them super comfy, but it also means they're a little more delicate. You should NEVER put your jeans in the dryer - always hang them or lay them flat to dry. Drying your jeans in a dryer will cause your jeans to stretch out and/or develop weird puckering because heat damages elastic. Always wash your jeans inside out to prevent them from fading, and try to limit how often you wash them, as this causes them to fade and adds to wear-and-tear. Also try to limit how frequently you wear each pair; because they are made from more delicate materials, they won't last as long if they're worn multiple times per week.
What are your tips for finding a great fitting pair of jeans?
It's most important that jeans fit through the hips and butt. Jeans should feel snug when you first put them on, but they shouldn't be uncomfortable or digging into your hips. You don't want to buy a pair of jeans and then discover after your first time wearing them that they have totally stretched out. Conversely, you don't want to buy a super tight, uncomfortable pair because they won't ever stretch out enough to truly fit correctly. When trying on a pair of jeans, make sure that they are not baggy in the knees or butt and they're not gaping at the waist. We also suggest trying on a couple of different sizes - if you can size down (without it being uncomfortable) in a pair of jeans we suggest doing so as they'll be less likely to stretch out.
We hope this post was helpful! Let us know if you'd like to see more blog posts like this one. We had so much fun researching and writing it, and we learned so much about denim manufacturing in the process!
(See something on our blog that's not on our website? Feel free to give us a call at 206-547-9639.)