Need Supply Co. Denim Guide

March 17 2009

Finding the right pair of jeans can be challenging, so we thought we would share what we have learned over the last 13 years to help you get started.

Fit Guide

Fits, styles, fabric and up-keep vary from brand to brand, which is why we offer so many options. Unless otherwise stated, it is fairly safe to assume that your jeans will stretch out with wear about a half size, so we recommend buying your jeans a bit tighter, and letting the jeans stretch to your body for a more comfortable fit. Certain jeans, like those made with raw selvage denim, will stretch out 1-2 inches in the waist. For these, we recommend going down one full size, if not more. All special sizing instructions should be listed with each individual pair, but feel free to still ask us for guidance.

Below are some of the fits that we offer:


  • Low– Low-rise, hipster, hip huggers; Meant to sit low on or just below the hips. 7″- 8″ rise, 3″ + below belly button
  • Mid– Mid-rise, regular rise, medium rise; Meant to sit at hips. 8″-9″ rise, 1″ +/- at belly button, depending on torso.
  • High– High rise, high-waisted; Meant to sit at belly button, higher than belly button or at the smallest point of your waist. Most universally flattering fit.


  • Cropped– Shorter inseam with ankle exposed, great for warmer weather and paired with flats or sandals.
  • Legging– Very thin, very stretchy, like leggings! The skinniest of all cuts.
  • Skinny– Thin fit, small leg opening that hits at the ankle or puddles. Great everyday fit.
  • Slim Straight Leg– Similar to Skinny, but more of a tapered Straight Leg; a bit more breathing room around the ankle and leg opening. Perfect tucked into boots.
  • Straight Leg- Slim fit through thigh and straight fit from knee/calf down. (The width at knee is generally the same opening at ankle). The all age appropriate jean!
  • Slim Boot- The Slim Straight Leg of Boot Cuts. A Boot Cut jean normally starts to flare at the knee, while a Slim Boot will flare at the calf, or just below the calf. A modern spin to the Boot Cut.
  • Flare– Exaggerated Boot Cut. Compliments a curvy figure and gives a narrow figure some shape!
  • Wide Leg– Similar to the Flare minus the slim fit through the thigh. Tuck a fitted blouse in for a classic vintage look.


  • Low– Low rise, hipster, hip huggers. Meant to sit low on or just below the hips. 9″- 10″ rise, 3″ + below belly button
  • Mid– Mid rise, medium rise, regular rise. Meant to sit at hips or just below hips. 10″-12″ rise, 1″+/- below belly button
  • High– Mid rise, high rise. Meant to sit at hips or above hips. 11″-13″ rise, rest at belly button or higher.


  • Skinny– Very slim, tight, silhouette fit. Great for a small frame and/or build
  • Slim Tapered Leg– Similar to a Skinny fit, but with a wider thigh that shrinks in opening, typically at the knee down. Perfect for that guy who likes them tight, without showing everything off!
  • Tapered Straight Leg– Straight leg with either smaller leg opening at knee down, or a more relaxed thigh. A good jean for guys who want a slim fit jean, but have a thicker build.
  • Relaxed Tapered Leg– Loose fitting jean with very relaxed thigh and/or that gets smaller at the knee down.
  • Straight Leg– Same width through the thigh, knee, and leg opening. Classic fit.
  • Slim Straight Leg– Straight leg with slim fit or slight taper. A modern look to a classic fit. Good for a smaller framed guy who wants a straight fitting jean that won’t swallow him.
  • Relaxed Straight Leg– Similar to the straight leg, but with an over all looser fit. Comfy, casual look.
  • Boot Leg– The opposite of a taper. Lower leg will be looser than at thigh. Cuts at knee or calf down to a wider leg opening.
  • Trouser– Denim with trouser pant cut and accessories (i.e. pockets).

Care guide

Washed denim
To prevent fading, wash jeans inside out in cold water with the tiniest amount of detergent possible, and hang dry. If you have to dry them in the dryer, do it on the lowest heat setting. Keep in mind that jeans will shrink in length, but most likely will not shrink in the waist. Most washed denim can be dry-cleaned, which will preserve the color best.

Raw denim
It’s best to wear your raw jeans for 6 months before washing them. This allows the jeans to form whiskers, honeycombing and wallet marks. If you just want to cut down on stinkiness, stick them in the freezer or stuff the pockets with fabric-softener sheets at night. When it does come time to clean your raw jeans, dry cleaning is your best bet. You can also follow the non-dryer instructions above. Make sure you don’t get them pressed – that will remove the whiskering and honeycombing you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Keep in mind that completely raw denim with no stretch can shrink a lot if it’s washed and dried-sometimes up to two inches in the waist and two inches in length.

Alterations guide

Premium denim is made long so you can hem them to the proper length. If you do need to get your new jeans hemmed, there are two options you can choose: You can get a regular hem, or you can get the original hem reattached. If the jeans have a slightly distressed hem, it’s best that you get the original hem reattached. Be sure to go to a tailor who is familiar with hemming premium denim for the best results.

If you will be washing and drying your jeans, you should wash them and dry them at least once or twice before hemming them- they will definitely shrink up in length. You can also have them hemmed a little long to account for shrinkage.

Inseam measurements vary from brand to brand. Some men’s brands and most women’s brands have graduated inseams. That means that the smaller sizes have shorter inseams and the larger sizes have longer inseams. Most inseams will be around 34”, even in graduated inseams, unless otherwise noted.

Denim Facts

Durable cotton twill weave fabric with an indigo dyed yarn in the warp and a natural, undyed yarn in the weft. The origin of denim has been attributed to serge de Nimes, a cloth produced in the French textile manufacturing town of Nimes during the 17th Century.

Dark blue dye used for denim originally taken from the indigofera plant. It is now manufactured synthetically and used for dyeing denim due to its ability to fade.

Fabric weaving machine.

Prewashed Denim
These jeans are washed and treated in different ways to give them a worn and used look from day one. To get the authentic second hand feeling and washed look, the distressed denim is achieved through bleaching and several mechanical treatments like stonewashes, sandblasting and scraping locally. All these processes are time consuming, handmade and expensive, which is reflected in the higher prices compared to dry denim. The effect of the treatments that are made to get a second hand feeling are permanent and can not be removed. The are comparable to jeans already worn for years and years. This means that they will not last as long as if you them dry and break in your own denim. Prewashed jeans don’t have to be treated as dry jeans, there is no point in waiting a long time to wash them.

Unwashed Denim (also called dry or raw)
This is the strongest and most durable type of denim because it is not washed or treated before being sold. This type of denim will give the most personal results if worn for several months without washing. As long as they are dark and stiff, they have a surface almost as if they are water resistant. The longer you can keep them unwashed, the more beautiful they will get. We recommend at least six months of wear before the first wash.

Selvage (Selvedge) Denim
It comes from the phrase “self-edge” which refers to the edge being finished by the loom instead of sewn together after weaving. Selvage is the term commonly used to refer to denim that has been produced on a shuttle loom. Since the amount of fabric produced from a shuttle loom is significantly narrower than a projectile (wide) loom, the cotton consumption is higher and the time required is greater. In selvage jeans, you will see the actual edge of the fabric where the weaving stops and is finished by the loom, as opposed to denim woven on a projectile loom, where the fabric has been cut off at the ends. The “redline” selvage is Levi’s signature, and was used in all their jeans up to 1982, before Cone Mills nixed them for the more modern projectile looms, which are faster and much more efficient. Most of these looms were sold to Japanese investors in the 1980’s.

Open End Denim
This is the most common type of denim. The cotton fibres are shorter and a simpler process is used to form the yarn. It is, therefore, cheaper to produce. For a denim purist, it is considered too refined and does not posses the unique character or strength of ring spun denim.

Warp thread
The indigo-dyed thread. Also commonly called “surface threads,” as they account for a majority of the thread you see on the surface. It is the opposite on the underside of the jeans, where the weft (filler) threads are more visible, and the warp threads are in the minority. They are woven in and out of the weft thread vertically to create the denim twill.

Weft (Filler) Thread
Weft, or filler, threads are traditionally ecru-colored, however many companies now bleach or dye their weft threads. The weft is visible mostly on the underside of the denim, but resemble diagonal stripes on the surface. They are woven in and out of the warp threads horizontally to create the denim twill.

All jeans contain starch. It is the reason new, unwashed jeans are so stiff and rigid. In pre-washed jeans, most of the starch is washed out. However, starch is an essential part of breaking in raw jeans, because the stiffness of the jeans allows for them to crease sharply and mould according to your body.

Sanforizing denim is a method of stretching and manipulating the cloth in the factory prior to any washing so that any shrinking during future washes will be minimalized. It is important to note if your raw jeans are sanforized or not before determining what size to buy, non-sanforized jeans will shrink 7-10%, while sanforized jeans will shrink 1-5%. It is often advised to give non-sanforized jeans a warm soak before wearing them to get the shrinking done before you create wear marks on the jeans.