The Integrity of Denim

A few weeks ago my husband gifted me a pink vintage bicycle. He was aware of my admiration for women who choose to cycle as opposed to getting around by car for some time.

The enthrallment of being feminine and actively operating something as labour intensive as a bicycle has been a widely photographed trend during fashion weeks the world over. I suppose it’s the juxtaposition of the opposite worlds seemingly coming together beautifully that makes it so candid – fashionable people are hardly ever outfitted appropriately for such an activity.

In addition to that, the rich fashionable ones who usually attend the glitzy and glamourous events don’t use bicycles period, but rather expensive cars to match their outfits. Despite the picturesque sight and falling madly in love with the optics of it all, physically conditioning yourself to ride a bike whilst being fashionable is difficult in itself, especially if you plan on using it as a primary means of transportation. Withstanding piercing wind chill along your legs or trying to keep road dust from damaging your clothing are things to keep in mind.

In recent weeks, since I have had my bike, I realized that I actually don’t own a pair of true original denim jeans, in addition to appreciating their functional more. What I owned prior to the one seen in the photograph was fashionable, easy to wear denim that in most cases tends to be mixed with polyester and cotton. Even though it is getting warmer in France, especially where I am, for some reason my legs were freezing. I suppose it’s because of speed I ride at – the bike has a six-speed allowance.

According to Josh Le of the University of Alberta who wore a pair of raw denim jeans for 15 months without washing and tested it for bacterial content against two-week wear and washing, the denim jeans proved to have the same amount of bacterial content. In addition to this fact, original denim withstands just about any harsh environment. I suppose this is why it isn’t absurd that the staple for most was actually inspired by the denim culture which grew itself from being workwear for labourers on farms and mines in western American states during the 19th century.

Raw denim which was derived from the French “serge de Nimes” meaning “a sturdy fabric” isn’t as popular today as its cheap and inexpensive rivals. Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor who later went on to collaborating with the brand Levi Strauss discovered the potential that the denim jean concept could have after he designed a pair for a woodcutter. Raw denim was made for tough work and in its purest form is strong.  One would think that given all the above, most people (myself included) would “band their bellies” and invest in a pair of good Levis. But the average price for a pair is around €100. Since I could buy about two or three pairs of trendy jeans from Zara for the same price it isn’t alarming that most people forgot about the durability of denim. Most people tend to shy away from investment pieces these days as fashion allows us to treat clothing as disposables.

I haven’t purchased a pair of Levi jeans as yet, instead I bought a pair of pure denim ones from ASOS, as I have always been accustomed to softer denim which was mixed with cotton. I didn’t want to make the investment without testing something similar. My main fear was that original denim would feel harsh and rough on the skin.

The verdict is that true raw denim fits to your body over a period of time, the indigo also doesn’t penetrate the cotton yarn like other dyes but sits on the exterior of each thread. The molecules then begin to crumb off over a period of time, this then results in the fabric having a more personal appeal as it fades.

Never have I been truly appreciative of the true form of denim jeans as I just saw it as another utilitarian staple towards building a functional everyday wardrobe.  Perhaps we should always aim to investigate our choices as there is good science and reasoning behind what made certain things successful.

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