Denim Weight: How Do Your Jeans Measure Up?

by Jaime on August 30, 2009

Often (though not often enough, if you ask me), the weight of a pair of jeans will be listed. And no, I don’t mean the shipping weight, kids. The weight of the denim itself. Oh, you had no idea what that meant? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. I’m here to help.

First off, the weight of denim is determined by its weight… literally. But, they don’t drop every pair of jeans on a scale and see how many pounds it is; rather, the weight refers to how much a yard of fabric weighs (ie: if you have a pair of jeans made with 12oz Denim, it means that one yard of that particular denim fabric weighs 12oz).

Most labels (say, if you go to Bluefly and that pair of Anlo jeans you’re drooling over is listed at Light Weight, but the James are at Medium) gauge by Light, Light/Medium, Medium, Medium/Thick, Thick.

Grab a couple of different pairs of jeans and let’s do this!

Light: Those Rich & Skinny jeans you grabbed? Definitely a light weight. Some of their weights hit into the light/medium, but almost every pair is Light. Feel how… well, how light it is? The weave of the denim is tight but not dense, allowing these to be perfect summer jeans. Light weight denim is, however, not for everyone, as it doesn’t hide imperfections the way that thicker denim does.

Light Weight Denim: Anlo, Genetic Denim, Cheap Monday

Light/Medium: A bit weightier and thicker than the light weight, but still good for summer. (Note: Light & Light/Medium denim is not typically your longest-lasting denim. Because the thread used is so fine, it can unravel within two years… especially if you’re wearing a pair that is too tight. Getting your right size of denim helps make it last longer, as will not washing them after every wear and NEVER put them in the dryer!

Light/Medium Weight Denim: Some AG, Degaine, Joe’s Jeans, 7 for All Mankind, J Brand, Stretch Paper Denim & Cloth, Hudson.

Medium: The standard denim weight. Levi’s are medium (at 12-16 oz, though the 16 oz is at the higher end of the spectrum than medium) and I’d imagine that other basic brands are too…. but so are the majority of your high end denims. Paige Premium is one great example; light enough so that they have a bit of flexibility, but able to hide imperfections well. This weight allows for a lot of different manipulations of the denim, so you’re usually able to find the cut/color/design you want.

Medium Weight Denim: True Religion, Rock & Republic, William Rast, Earnest Sewn, James Jeans, Kasil.

Medium/Thick: These are your coarser denims, usually only with a minimal amount of stretch. A tighter, heavier weave creates a look that usually cannot be replicated by thinner denims. They hold their shape well, and are best for colder weather (heavy denim = warm legs)… but because they have no stretch, many people choose to size up in them to get a more comfortable fit.

Medium/Thick Denim: Diesel, 1921 Denim, Acne Jeans, Replay, Notify Denim.

Thick: These are the jeans that you don’t wash for ages and while they may seem tough at first, they melt into your body after months of wear. Dark, raw selvedge denim… it has a special following, and for good reason. They are also usually the most costly, and definitely the heaviest. Some brands like Marc by Marc Jacobs and even Ralph Lauren have their own selvedge pieces… but the brands that specialize in them are the ones to go to.

Thick (Selvedge) Denim: Nudie, Evisu, Kicking Mule, Simon Miller, Denim Design Lab

Please note that even though a brand is in one section, that doesn’t mean that they ONLY make denim in that weight. J Brand has some straight light weight pieces while my pair of Denim Design Labs are in the medium weight range (yes, even though they’re selvedge). Trial and error is really what works best, but this is a loose guide to help you figure out and gauge what denim you might like to try.

Find your favorite pair, and judge it on the scale of weight. Let it be your guiding tool for choosing denim brands that are right for you… but don’t be afraid to step out of your safety zone!

If you’ve never tried selvedge denim, find a pair and try them out. I highly recommend Denim Design Lab. And summer is a great time to get out of your Nudies and into some Rich & Skinny jeans.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachelle February 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm

How wide is a yard of denim? Bolts come in different widths according to wikipedia. I hope the width is 36 inches. That would mean a square yard is the true dimension for mearsuring the denim weight.


B Lilley June 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm

You say: often, but not often enough do jeans makers list the weight of their denim. Like when DO THEY? There should be a LAW that mandates the obvious labeling of this information so manufacturers could no longer cut quality without being exposed. Too long have consumers been shielded from the truth of product cheapening. It’s time for them to arm themselves with knowledge, but manufacturers are fighting against revealing anything that may expose them as being cost-cutting cheapskates. Consumers, know this: Refuse to purchase cheapened, downsized goods, and feel proud of avoiding obvious attempts to make you pay more for less.


Margaret April 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Ah, but where does one find denim FABRIC that’s over 16oz? Especially all-cotton, ring-spun or preferably ring-ring, and preferably sanforised?

I’ve been going mad looking for it. *Someone* must sell it for those who want to make our own jeans!


Doug October 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Thanks for the info. I remember (or I think I do) that my Levis 501′s back in 1970′s & 1980′s were thicker than than 2013 version of the 501′s. Did this happen in 1994 when Levi left the US or did it happen at another time or not all. The levi label shows two horses trying to tear a pair of 501′s apart. Are you kidding me? Todays 501′s would be torn to shreds. Is that false advertising? Anyways, do you know what old Levi’s weighed in comparison to today’s Levi’s & what do you think about hemp jeans.


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