Denim recently celebrated its 141st birthday, proving that some well-placed nips, tucks and makeovers can preserve one’s freshness. But over the last few years, one change has been less well received by denim wearers: the substitution of cotton for synthetic fibers. And some are saying it’s not enough to look the part; denim’s authenticity has to come from the inside, too.
The fiber swapping began after cotton prices surged in late 2010. Although prices stabilized a year later, the apparel industry continues to substitute manmade fibers for cotton. Adding a bit of stretch for comfort evolved into some denim jeans being made with blends of less than 50 percent cotton.
On an average, shoppers expect a pair of jeans to last about five years. However, research reveals consumer expectations aren’t being met. Seven out of 10 US consumers say apparel prices have increased, but they’ve also noticed clothes typically made with cotton are now made with other fibers, fabrics are thinner and don’t last as long. Overall, 66 per cent of US consumers are dissatisfied with fiber substitution in their denim jeans. And yet 60 per cent of consumers would pay more to keep the cotton in their denim jeans.
Some brands, recognizing consumer preference, remain steadfast in keeping cotton in their collections. At Robin’s Jean, a super premium brand that also has five retail locations, the denim fabric for both men’s and women’s styles have always been traditional all-cotton denim, or cotton with a single-digit percentage of stretch.
Blue jeans were born in San Francisco during the gold mining era, when tailor Jacob Davis teamed with Levi Strauss to create riveted workwear made of denim. The pair received an official US patent for their invention on May 20, 1873. Denim remained a conventional item until Hollywood gave it a cool factor in the 1950s. From there, it was only a matter of time before average Americans wanted to wear it. Of course, designer jeans took the category to new heights beginning in the late ’70s.
But throughout its various iterations, the fabric itself remained authentic to its heritage through its cotton construction – and remained a wardrobe favorite as a result. When compared to jeans with manmade fibers like polyester and rayon, the majority of women say 100 percent cotton or cotton/spandex jeans are the most breathable, durable, comfortable, fashionable and versatile.