Blue Jeans – Construction Cost Comparison of Denim Jeans

The cost difference of construction of a $5 versus a $500 pair of Jeans

This article will focus on the cost comparison where putting the pair of jeans together is concerned.

On the surface the construction might look the same for both to the untrained eye. But the difference could clearly be in the quality of stitching and the materials used. Looking a bit further would point to the quality of trims used and the construction details.

mens washed denim Equipment Needed to Construct a Pair of Denim Jeans

Here is what’s involved with making a pair of traditional jeans. The sewing process alone takes between 12 and 15 different types of machines, special equipment for attaching the trims will also be necessary. To save time and materials it’s best to have the machinery for the different operations already set up.

Some machines may require up to 4 or 5 thread spools to create one stitch. Setup and advance planning can get pretty complex especially if the designer wants to have several contrasting color threads for the stitching throughout the blue jean garment.

Each operation would be set up separately because there are different color threads required for different parts of a blue jean garment. There are also a variety of stitches required for different parts of the garment for functional reasons.

For example the hem might use a chain stitch and a seat seam may need a felled stitch for reinforcement since that part of the denim jean garment has greater stress from the wearer. One area may need a single needle stitch where another area might use a double needle stitch.

I have learned from the mass production processes that it becomes more cost efficient when an assembly line scenario is utilized and the best way to keep costs low for the consumer is to make mass quantities. The stitch complexity used in creating a pair of jeans is far greater than that of sewing together a custom suit!

As mentioned above a designer may choose to use a variety of thread colors throughout the denim jean so the more complex the thread color combinations the more expensive the construction will be. A greater inventory of threads needs to be kept and a higher skill level employee would be required to sort out the thread layout. Other cost considerations include stitches per inch.

The higher the stitch count, the more expensive it will be to construct a garment since there is greater thread consumption. It may also be interesting to note that not only is it important to be watchful of the stitch count on one machine type but to have all machines used in constructing that garment to have a similar stitch length so their is a consistency throughout the garment.

Trims

Trims would include Buttons, zippers, and Burrs or rivets, and Labels. If you look closely the trim items are usually customized to include a Logo, or name brand, and choice from a variety of metals can be selected. The cost to customize can get expensive since minimum orders are required from the trim manufacturers.

Make sure you order extra since there is always going to be a certain amount of waste and defects. But the point is to be aware of the cost comparison between cheap jeans and the more expensive ones. Cheap jeans would probably use generic trim, or non logo.

Denim Fabric Construction

denim fabric constructionFor many years blue denim for jeans was made from all cotton fibers. In the last 10 -15 years there’s been a trend towards blended fibers to create a more comfortable garment with greater ease of movement for the wearer. First and foremost the fabric called denim is a durable fabric made from a special twill weaving process where the dyed yarns run the length of the fabric called the warp and the white or undyed yarns run across the width direction called the weft.

There are also many variations of twill creating a tighter or looser fabric. For example a 1×2, 2×2, 2×3 which refers to the number of yarns over by the number under in the weaving process this refers to the relationship between the warp and fill yarns. Due to the nature of the fabrics construction, the more narrow the fabric width the better the quality, since there is less chance of flaw during the weaving process. A wider fabric would have more chance for error during the weaving process.

denim slubsThe weft threads are a thicker coarser yarn that may contain slub fibers. Slubs are desired since they will cause natural variations in the weave making the blue denim fabric more unique when it’s washed down. Slubs create greater highs and lows in the fabric which cause more abrasion during the washing process to the highs, and less abrasion to the lows allowing a greater contrast within the blue jean garment. This can add value to a denim garment since it adds a unique character.

The thickness of the yarns will also determine the weight of the fabric, the average weight of denim used for a pair of blue jeans is the 10 -13oz denim. A lighter weight may be used for novelty denim styles or summer wear. There are denim fabrics that can have a weight of up to 24oz. Some of these heavier weight denim fabrics are used in the higher priced blue jean garments. The heavier weight garments would be made in limited editions another reason for higher cost.

denim fabricsDenim fabrics are made in a variety of widths which also affect the price of the denim blue jean. The more narrow the denim fabric, the higher the cost of the blue jean garment simply because more fabric yardage is required. On some narrower width denim fabrics, along the selvage, which is the finished outer edge along the length of the fabric, you can find a contrast thread interwoven. This will add value to a denim blue jean garment made to incorporate this selvage edge.

Selvage

The pattern for this garment would need to be engineered to have the side seams cut along the selvage of the fabric. So in this situation the selvages are as important as the fabric between them.

Colors woven into the selvage edge may come in a range of colors most popular are the red, blue, and green. There are even gold lame threads interwoven into the selvage edge which would be a specialty request. Some companies use this feature of the fabric as a trademark since it is more difficult to duplicate.Needless to say this would add value to a denim blue jean garment.

selvage denim

Some companies will extend the length of the outseam so the wearer can turn up a cuff to show off this particular feature.

selvage denim

Denim Twills – Left and Right Hand

Another interesting feature within denim fabrics that’s worth mentioning is the direction of the twill in the weave which is called either a left or right hand twill. These will be recognized by the upward direction of the diagonal twill on the face of the fabric. Right hand twill goes up from lower left toward upper right. Left hand twill goes from lower right up toward the left.

left and twillLeft hand twills are more desirable due to the strength and durability of the finished goods.A left hand twill naturally has the ability to lock the weave in place allowing the yarns to have more defined weave.

Since the yarns are twisted to the right and the fabric is woven to the left the yarns will have a tighter twist to the weave, giving a flatter tighter more securely woven fabric. Needless to say the left hand twills are more expensive and desired.

Garments made with right hand twills would not get as fully reset after wash and extended wearing as a left hand twill would. When the fibers are twisted, spun into yarns, then woven into fabrics, a right hand twill continues with that right hand twist creating a fabric with a more flexible diagonal weave.

The fabric of a right hand twill is more forgiving and makes up a more comfortable garment that will more easily conform to the wearers shape but will have poorer recovery to the garments original shape. Right hand twills have the tendency to stretch out and stay baggy until washed. Washing in a sense resets the fabric if you will.

right and twill

The arrows draw your attention to the direction of the twill.

Hopefully this gives you a clearer picture of the cost differences are concerning the construction of the traditional 5 pocket jean.

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About Antonio

Antonio Centeno is President of ATailoredSuit.com and the founder of RealMenRealStyle.com. He has created over 700 articles & videos on men's style, blogs over at the Art of Manliness, and is the creator of the internet's best selling personal presentation course - A Man's Guide To Timeless Style. Antonio has studied clothing design in London, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. He is a former US Marine with an MBA from UT Austin and a BA from Cornell College. He loves to hear from old friends and make new ones.