Denim vs Cotton: Understand the Difference

Denim vs Cotton: Understand the Difference


Denim and cotton are two popular fabrics used in making different fashion wear globally. They are both suitable for making both adults and children wear. However, denim and cotton have differences that make them serve in various capacities. The significant difference between cotton and denim materials is the fabric used in making them. Although denim is a byproduct of cotton, the fabric used in making denim is different. 

In this article, you will understand the difference between denim and cotton, and we will consider the points under the following headings. 

  • Denim vs Cotton: An Overview
  • Denim vs Cotton: The Features
  • Denim vs Cotton: The Differences 
  • Denim vs Cotton: Pros and Cons

Denim vs Cotton: An Overview 

Overview of Denim Fabric

Denim is a byproduct of cotton fabric that is made with the use of a twill weave that creates ribbing patterns diagonally. The weft threads pass under the warp threads, and the warp yarns are more evident on the right side. 

Denim assumes this pattern because the cotton twill fabric has a warp-facing style. The diagonal ribbing achieved in denim makes it different from the cotton and canvas fabrics. 

Denim was initially called the serge de Nîmes because the fabric was first introduced in Nîmes, France. Its current name, “denim,” is an English colloquialism derived from the French term “de nim.”

Denim didn’t become popular until the Gold Rush in the United States in 1853 when Levi Strauss established his shop in San Francisco. Levi sold dry goods, buttons, threads, and canvass that the gold miners would use for their tents. Levi also made durable denim pants with deep pockets where these miners could safely store their gold. 

One of Strauss’ customers, Jacob Davis, added copper rivets to the pockets and seams to make these pants stronger, more secure, and durable. Strauss and Davis patented these pants, after which Strauss began his mass production and marketing. These denim pants became more than just miners’ outfits and evolved into iconic fashion items shortly after.

There are six varieties of denim. They include the following. 

Indigo Denim

Indigo denim is gotten by simply using indigo dye to dye the warp threads and using the white threads as the weft. Because of this, most indigo denim jeans tend to be almost light on the interior and blue on the right side. 

Stretch Denim

Denim is not a highly stretchy material, so to achieve stretch denim, the fabric is usually weaved with spandex or any other elastic fabric that will give it more flexibility. Stretch denim is mainly used to make skinny jeans. 

Crushed Denim 

Crushed denim is usually treated to appear wrinkled. 

Acid-Wash Denim 

Acid-wash denim is treated with chlorine and pumice stone to give the material a marbled look. 

Dry/Raw Denim 

Dry or raw denim has a stiffer texture compared to other denim types. This is because the denim fabric is not washed after being dyed. 

Sanforized Denim 

This type of denim material doesn’t shrink after being washed. Sanforized denim is treated to avoid shrinking and can be used on all kinds of denim except raw denim. 

Overview of Cotton Fabric

As one of the oldest plants globally, cotton can be traced as far back as 600BC in India. Cotton is a fabric made from a versatile plant that you can make into other materials like polyester, flannel, denim, khaki, and gabardine. This means that cotton is usually the base fabric for several other fabrics used industrially. 

Cotton, considered a vegetable fiber, is found in tropical and subtropical countries where it grows in abundance. Because of its importance in the fabric industry, cotton is also used as a trading item in several countries. 

Cotton can be treated with bleach and can likely be dyed into several colors, unlike denim, which mostly comes in two colors. Cotton also has widespread industrial use, as it is a suitable material for beddings, tents, and curtains. 

Compared to denim, cotton is breathable, sweat-absorbent, light, soft, and easy to sew and wash, and one of the characteristics it shares with denim is that the fabric is durable. 

Denim vs Cotton: The Features 

Denim and cotton have unique features and characteristics, and below are some of them. 

Why Do Shirts Shrink?
Why Do Shirts Shrink?

Features of Denim Fabric

  • Denim is excellent for day-to-day wear and is very comfortable. 
  • It hides stains easily. 
  • You can wear denim in any weather condition. 
  • It has high tensile strength.
  • The raw materials used in making denim have high, classic qualities 

Features of Cotton Fabric 

Moisture Control

Cotton fabric has a light texture that’s very pleasant to the skin. It is breathable and keeps moisture away from the body, keeping you comfortable while executing your daily activities or exercising. 


Due to its nature and texture, cotton fabric is soft, easy to wear, and stretches easily, making it one of the best fabrics in terms of comfort. 


Cotton is durable because it has excellent tensile strength, making it difficult to wear and tear. 


The cotton fabric is resistant to many things, including but not limited to honeycombs, faded line streaks noticed in the knee region, visible pale streaks around the crotch area, whiskers, and fading marks and patterns. 

Denim vs Cotton: The Differences 

There are several differences between denim and cotton, even though denim is a byproduct of cotton. 


Denim is mostly dyed in either indigo or blue, while cotton is dyed in various colors. 


Denim is harder to wash because it is dense and provides insulation, while cotton is lighter, more breathable, and easy to clean. 


Denim is manufactured commercially because of the intricacy of its design, while cotton can either be manufactured at home or produced commercially. 


Unlike cotton fabric which is mainly bleached and dyed to give it a fresh look, denim can be sand-washed or sandblasted to provide it with a trendy, worn style. 


Denim is popular in several countries because you can use it to make jeans, skirts, bags, jackets, and sofa covers. But cotton has a wider industrial use than denim and can be used to make beddings, curtains, bookbinding, rugs, and clothes. 


People’s perception of denim is quite different from how they see cotton. Denim is perceived as the material primarily used to make casual clothing like jeans. On the other hand, cotton is perceived as a fabric used to make clothing for different functions. 

Denim vs Cotton: Pros and Cons

Pros of Denim


Although you can not style denim, you can pair it with different textiles to get a suitable style. 

Wrinkle and Shrink Resistant

Denim, unlike cotton, is wrinkle-resistant and does not shrink because of the texture of the fabric and the twill weave pattern. The wrinkle-resistant factor is a benefit that cotton does not offer to people, and for that, denim always appears neat and presentable. 


Denim materials are durable and long-lasting because of the weave pattern and the texture of the fabric. Denim can be worn for a long time and only needs to be replaced every few years if properly cared for. 

Low Maintenance 

Denim requires low maintenance because the twill weave hides a lot of stains. You can wear denim several times without being washed, and rather than washing the whole cloth, spot cleaning can fix a visible stain. 

Cons of Denim

Warm and Insulating

Denim is warm and insulating, and while that can be an advantage in cold climates, it is uncomfortable to wear denim for long periods in a hot climate. 

Stretches Out Over Time

Although denim is not the number one stretchy material in the market, it stretches out over time and loses shape due to frequent use. 


Denim is more challenging to adorn and decorate because it mostly looks plain. However, sandblasting and sand-washing have been known to help denim appear stylish in most cases. 

Pros of Cotton

  • Tender on skin 
  • Easy to wear and wash 
  • Does not return odor 
  • It does not attract dirt due to its non-static nature.
  • It is durable and can withstand wear. 
  • It is stylish
  • It provides insulation 
  • Does not cling to the skin 

Cons of Cotton

Shrinks Easily

Cotton shrinks easily, even if the label says it has been pre-shrunk by the manufacturer. Once it gets into water, the fibers in the cotton shorten, making the fabric shrink. 

Apart from water, using high heat to dry cotton also shrinks it. To avoid that, use low heat to dry all your cotton materials. However, you should know that cotton shrinks inevitably. 

Wrinkles Easily 

Cotton wrinkles easily, which means that it needs to be constantly ironed. This can be a significant disadvantage, primarily if you use cotton for official or travel purposes. 

Retains Water

As much as cotton materials keep sweat away from your body when you carry out your tasks, it also retains water, which is a disadvantage. 

Immediately you work up a sweat; the cotton fabric will soak it all up, making you uncomfortable and making your cloth sag. 

Similarly, it takes longer for cotton fabrics to dry when you wash them because they retain much water.

Highly Flammable 

Cotton burns quickly because it is highly flammable. 

Vulnerable to Mildew

It can be damaged by mildew if left in a damp place for too long. 


Denim and cotton are durable textile materials that have been in the fashion industry for a long time. These materials are fashionable and can be designed to serve several personal and industrial purposes. 

This article discusses the differences between denim and cotton and the pros and cons unique to each fabric.

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Denim vs Cotton: Understand the Difference The difference between denim and cotton has sparked a lot of interest in the fabric industry. You can read this article to find out how different denim and cotton are from each other.
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