top of page

Is Blue Denim the New White Shirt?

Updated: Mar 8

“I dress myself in words, not in clothes”




Serge Gainsbourd


If, unless dear Serge, we all tend to need a little more than words to express a certain attitude in life, A.W. Bauer wishes to share a suggestion. Not many garments will reflect so well the flair of a man as a denim shirt can. This pièce de resistance holds an incomparable aura, attests its important place on countless Icons' shoulders of the Art industries. Denim won't just reveal how beautifully things can age — it lives and fades, elegantly showing signs of the times like no other fabrics will, losing its saturation at wear points as the surface dye rubs aways; but it is its easy going versatility that really makes it a classic among the classics of any menswear wardrobe.

"Fit is king" they say. Yet, casual RTW shirts, including denim, are cut shorter and wider to allow them to be worn tucked in or out. Such a compromise simply can't fit well, and the shirt will inevitably billow out at the waist making a Bespoke Denim Shirt the necessary step towards something really special. This isn't just a shirt anymore, this is an investment over time. An investment in beauty.

No other cloth than the ones we propose at A.W. Bauer, to create a Denim Shirt from lightest to darkest dye tint, can become more refined, increasing in charm and sentimental value as its typical lived-in look starts to appear.

Origins of Denim: The French did it again?

"Serge" Factory in Nîmes, XIXth century

It's a general belief that denim originated from Nîmes, France, from where it was exported to California. Levi Strauss (1829-1902), a Bavarian who immigrated to the United States in 1847, settled in San Francisco in 1853 as a fabric merchant. There, he is said to have used the fabric from Nîmes to make his first jeans.

Indeed, there is a famous fabric made of wool and silk twill called "sergé (or "serge") de Nîmes," manufactured in the region of Nîmes and more generally in Languedoc in the 18th century. However, the difference in material between "sergé de Nîmes" and denim suggests a relationship based only on a similarity in name.

In reality, the history of jeans and denim is part of the larger cotton industry in Europe. In the Middle Ages, cotton was mixed with linen or wool in fabrics called "fustians." Northern Italy produced large quantities of these fabrics, which were exported through the port of Genoa to England. They were called "jean" or "jeane" in the records of the port of London, named after their port of shipment.

By the end of the 16th century, England organized its own production of "fustian" in Lancashire, around the city of Manchester. In the 18th century, denim was one of the most produced fabrics in this region; samples of denim dating back to 1786 exist, indicating that it was one of the cotton fabrics that appeared in the second half of the century as Manchester's "fustian" manufacturers diversified their production. Originally twilled in the same color for warp and weft, denim likely acquired its blue and white appearance in the mid-19th century in the United States.

Since the establishment of the cotton industry in the northeastern United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, denim has been among the fabrics commonly produced. Both denim and jean were distinct textiles whose production increased throughout the 19th century. Both were intended for work clothes, with denim being reserved for the most durable garments. Levi Strauss purchased the denim for his work pants from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in New England in 1860.

Fustian goes blue: The Indigo Dye

The real indigo: Indigofera Tinctoria

Indigo dye produces a vibrant blue color but has a low affinity for cotton, making it prone to washing out during processing. Ring-dyed or white core cotton refers to yarn that is dyed with indigo in such a way as to keep the core of the yarn white. The white core is clearly visible. Without this ring-dyed effect, many of the most popular denim garment looks would actually not be possible. This indigo dye plays a crucial role in defining denim's appearance, especially its unique ability to fade. Originally derived from the Indigofera Tinctoria plant in India and Africa thousands of years ago, indigo dye has a rich history. Evidence of its use dates back to around 2500 B.C. in Egypt. In Americas, different species of the indigo plant were used by indigenous cultures like the Mayans, who used it for various purposes including dyeing clothing and paintings.

In cooler regions like Europe, indigo was produced from plants like woad and dyer’s knotweed.

The advent of synthetic indigo dye in 1878, developed by German chemist Adolf von Baeyer, marked a significant shift in the denim industry. By 1914, natural indigo had largely been replaced by synthetic alternatives, which now dominate the market.

Iconic: The Undefeated Fabric

During the 1950s, America's youth discovered blue jeans and the industry exploded in the United States. Initially intended for work and utility, denim quickly gained popularity among fashion oriented people.

This trend transcended borders, becoming more than just a fabric and evolving into a symbol of social identity. Companies like Levi Strauss and H.D. Lee could quickly respond when American and European teenagers started to desire wearing denim jeans to embody the “Elvis” or “James Dean” look.

The 1980s saw a surge in designer jeans, followed by a revival of traditional denim in the 1990s with Levi Strauss & Company's "Back to Basics" campaign. However, the designer jean trend quickly resurged, leading to a market characterized by high-tech denim connoisseurs finishes and garment processes. Nowadays, because of its numerous properties (durability, low maintenance care, wrinkle-resistant property, 4 seasons adaptation, eco-friendly materials...) and for its long legendary history, denim remains a versatile classic of any menswear wardrobe. But more than a simple necessity, it's about the feeling it brings to wearing it that makes it so popular. You might put on a white shirt without thinking about it, but you won't wear denim without an idea in the back of your mind about how your day will be. This, ladies and and gentlemen, is what we can call a "feeling". And not all fabrics can deliver that right off the bat.

From the rugged western garment to a casual twist on tailoring, here comes a shirt a man in a modern office can wear everyday.

An update on the classic blue dress shirt that fits well with a blazer but equally good with a tweed jacket or a suede aviator blouson. A.W. Bauer has curated over years the most exceptional denim fabrics available to create, for you, what simply resonates in the connoisseurs' books as The Finest Bespoke Denim Shirts you can wear.


192 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

bottom of page