Blue Jeans

How a pair of jeans are really made

Background

Jeans are pants made from denim, known for its strength and comfort. Historically, jeans were worn by sailors and Californian gold miners. They were invented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873.


An Ecological Wake

Jeans are a prime example of a modern consumer product. Jeans are a wardrobe essential, and we see them in every clothing store. It might seem like a simple pair of jeans, where we can now easily purchase from stores, the amount of resources and work that goes into making a single pair of jeans is staggering, leading to excessive consummation and waste produced. North America now accounts for 39% of global purchases for jeans, followed by Western Europe at 20%, Japan and Korea at 10% and the rest of the world at 31%.


Blue jeans started becoming popular among young people in the 1950s. In the year 1957, 150 million pairs were sold worldwide. This growing trend continued until 1981 and jeans manufacturers were virtually guaranteed annual sales increases. In the United States, 200 million pairs of jeans were sold in 1967, 500 million in 1977, with a peak of 520 million in 1981.



What goes into making jeans?

Denim

Denim is a woven fabric made with a blue cotton warp yarn and a white cotton filling yarn. Denim was originally made from wool. Now, denim are made solely from cotton. Cotton is staple fiber that are found around the seeds of a cotton plant, Gossypium. Cottonseeds are harvested and stored in modules, than traded worldwide. It is estimated that the world production for cotton are about 25 million tones annually, accounting for 2.5% of the world's arable land. China is the top cotton producing country, followed by India, and the largest exporters of raw cotton are the U.S.


The fiber of the cotton is then spun into yarn or thread to make soft textiles used for fabric for jeans.

Dye

The dye that makes the jeans blue is obtained with a blue dye from the indigo plant. 20 thousand tons of indigo are produced annually for the purpose of jeans, although for every pair of jeans, only a few grams of dye is needed. The indigo plant is found in tropical and subtropic areas of the Earth, and was slowly exported to the U.S. Now, blue jean manufactures developed synthetic indigo to replace the natural dye.


Carding and Spinning

The steps is to prepare the cotton yarn, than dyeing the yarn followed by weaving the yarn. The cotton is put into a machine with bent wire brushes, that cleans, disentangle, straighten, and gather the cotton threads, turning it into sliver. They are then put into a spinning machines that twist and stretches the cotton, forming yarn. Most jeans are then pre-shrunk.



Raw Materials

Blue jeans also includes zipper, buttons, rivets, and label. The rivets are commonly made from copper, but the rest are steel.


Byproducts and Waste

The process of the fabric making are treated by a number of chemicals for the jean to have such desirable characteristics like durability, colorfastness and comfort. Every step of producing cotton fabric leaves byproducts, most of which are biodegradable. Byproducts include organic pollutants, like starch and dye that can be treated by biological methods. However, these organic wastes are then dumped into streams or lakes due to their high biochemical oxygen demand. For decomposition, these waste materials utilize so much oxygen that the organisms living the water would be denied the oxygen necessary for their survival.


Import to Stores All Over The World

After manufacturing the jeans in mass production. It gets packaged and shipped off to stores all over the world for consumers.


In Conclusion

From natural to chemicals, everything comes from the Earth, and with the mass production now, running out of materials can be a problem if this continues. As you can see, jeans are now mass produced, and tons of energy are put into making one pair of jean. This entire process proves that humans now use excessive amounts of energy for a consumer product, that we take for granted on the energy put in it.