Yes, does anybody remember cotton – that organic fabric which has been clothing the civilized world for nearly 3000 years? Lest we forget, cotton is the fundamental component of denim from which jeans, the most popular style of outer apparel in the history of the world is made. Of course, how could we possibly forget. But did you know, the amount of cotton in denim is increasingly being displaced by other fabrics such as lyocell, polyester, elastomer, rayon, elastane, lycra, polyurethane, tencel, and others? Is this a bad thing and will cotton’s role continue to diminish over time? No and not necessarily!
Where are we?
When trying to gauge what is going on in jeans, I often look to Levi’s. Why Levi’s? Yeah, I know they aren’t always the first to latch onto something BUT Levi’s breath is such that it covers low end to high end, has a global presence, and is far and away the largest jeans brand out there. By digging into the Levi’s US website, you can get a reasonable handle on where things are today. When analyzing the combinations of styles and washes, you find that an overwhelming proportion are stretch jeans.
Further more, Levi’s largest amount of offerings are skinny jeans.
And nearly all of the skinny jeans use a stretchy fabric.
How did we get here?
I believe it is pretty obvious. The denim technology that was required to make skinny jeans today’s pervasive jean style has also been applied to other styles. Skinny jeans required a soft comfortable, light, stretchy denim. The stretch was provided by the use of elastomer, elastene, lycra, and polyurethane among other materials. To provide a light soft fit, the weight of the denim was reduced resulting in thinner materials. To maintain strength, synthetic fibers such as polyester, lyocell, and rayon were adopted. In doing so, some skinny jeans on the market (not necessarily Levi’s) have a cotton content that is less than 25%.
What have we done?
It is clear that stretch is being introduced into styles other than skinny cleans. It is not clear, that what worked for skinny jeans will also work for the other styles as each style creates its own expectations on look and feel for that cut. For those of you who can remember, the use of stretch on early skinny jeans had a lot of challenges – holding their shape, size consistency, and material weight. Similar success with stretch for other styles is not guaranteed as developing trends for Vintage Jeans (as previously covered by Lorna) and Rigid Denim at Shopbop are starting to take hold. Both trends rely on high cotton content with minimal stretch denim. And as the days go by, you may find yourself trying high cotton content styles. If so, you may find the following styles all available at Revolve as worthwhile starting points.
So, with that in mind and how cotton has diminished over the years in denim, but is now starting to make a comeback again, what’s your opinion on it? Do you prefer a high cotton content and a rigid denim or are you in favor of the super stretch, lightweight fabrics? Let us know!
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