Japanese denim is highly esteemed and often considered to be the gold standard in the world of jeans. Here are some ways in which Japanese denim differs from “regular” denim, which typically refers to mass-produced denim often made in countries like China, Bangladesh, or Mexico:
- Raw Denim: Japanese denim is usually “raw” or “dry” denim, which means the fabric hasn’t been washed after the dyeing process. This results in a stiff feel and a deep indigo color that fades uniquely over time according to the wearer’s habits.
- Selvedge Denim: Many Japanese denim producers use vintage shuttle looms to create “selvedge” (self-edge) denim, which is more time-consuming and expensive to produce but results in a tighter, denser weave and a finished edge that won’t unravel.
- Artisanal Dyeing Process: Japanese denim often uses a traditional dyeing process known as “rope dyeing,” where the cotton yarn is repeatedly dipped into indigo baths. The center of the yarn remains white, allowing the indigo to chip away and fade over time, creating what denim enthusiasts refer to as “high contrast fades.”
- Craftsmanship and Attention to Detail: Japanese denim manufacturers are known for their meticulous attention to detail, from the selection of high-quality cotton to the use of vintage machinery and manual processes for weaving and dyeing, all the way to the construction of the final product.
- Quality of Cotton: Japanese denim often uses high-quality cotton, sometimes even hand-picked, which contributes to the durability and comfort of the fabric.
- Limited Production: Japanese denim is typically produced in smaller batches compared to mass-market denim. This can add to its desirability and price.
“Regular” denim, on the other hand, is often mass-produced using modern, faster looms that create a uniform, less-dense fabric. It’s usually washed and treated (sometimes referred to as ‘distressed’) to soften it and add artificial wear patterns. This type of denim is typically less expensive and more readily available than Japanese denim.
It’s worth noting that whether Japanese or “regular” denim is “better” largely depends on personal preference. Some people prefer the unique look and feel (and the associated fading journey) of Japanese denim, while others prefer the softness and immediate comfort of pre-washed, mass-produced denim.