What Makes “Premium” Denim So Special?

Once little more than workman’s garb, jeans have become an American fashion staple, and ever since Calvin Klein introduced the world to designer jeans decades ago each passing year has seen prices on what the industry refers to as “premium denim” climb steadily higher. Yet many consumers don’t understand what the difference is between a pair of True Religion jeans and a pair of Levi’s, other then the label and the price tag. And while sometimes all it takes is the presence of one to raise the total of the other, there are a great deal of unseen intricacies in denim manufacturing and design.

The most well known and obvious distinction is of course the denim’s origin. While lower cost jeans and similar denim products are manufactured mostly in China, with a few operations in Mexico or Indonesia as well, brands such as Seven For All Mankind, J Brand or True Religion are produced here in the United States. A fact that attracts both the patriotic and social conscious consumer as well as contributing significantly to the cost of the denim. Unlike factories in low cost labor nations operations based out of the US (mainly located in Los Angeles) are held to far more rigorous standards with regards to both labor and the environmental protection. It may not seem that significant at first, but with the complicated processes many manufacturers employ to distress their demin (everything from dyes and sandpaper to power drills) it adds up in the end.

But perhaps the most interesting part of their uniqueness is that American made denim is so prized because America is the home of the jean. Most of the denim produced for brands like True Religion is made by operations such as Cone Denim, a textile manufacturer in Greensboro North Carolina that has been in operation for over half a century and still uses the same shuttle looms they did in the 1950s. These looms are narrower and less precise then their modern counterparts but a side effect of their age is that they impart the fabric with the slight irregularities, known as slubs, that give many high end brands their unique texture and character.

So this summer when looking for the best denim to show off your summer style remember that there is more to each price tag then just the stitching or the denim or the name on the label.

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