Regardless of your love or hate for the fashion trend, denim-on-denim looks are back from the ’90s. However, Britney Spears’s and Justin Timberlake’s 2001 American Music Awards denim-dripped looks aren’t the only things to return. The debate between denim vs. jeans has also made a reappearance. Let’s take a look at the differences between denim vs. jeans to know and finally put this fashion confusion to rest.

Fabrics vs. Garments

The biggest distinction between denim vs. jeans is that one is a specific fabric while the other is a type of garment. Denim refers to a particular woven twill—a sturdy type of cotton. Jeans are specific types of pants or trousers. Many people often mistake jeans for material since they mostly use only one type of fabric in their designs, unlike shirts, which come in many material variations.

Design vs. Application

Jeans are always denim, but not all forms of denim are jeans. Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented jeans as casual-wear pants made of denim featuring a button clasp, rivets, and front and back pockets. Companies often replace those features with substitutes today due to advancements in technology and for comfort. If those attributes are present in any form, though, those pairs of pants are jeans. Denim, on the other hand, comes in many different forms, from jackets to skirts. That’s why the trend is called denim-on-denim and not jean-on-jean. You wear more than just a pair of pants.

Versatility vs. Diversity

As a fabric, denim offers a lot of versatility. Denim pants, skirts, and dresses give endless styling options and diverse looks across seasons. There are many items that go best with a denim skirt during summer, giving you plenty of warm-weather outfits to rock under the sunshine. Denim dresses give you an iconic AMA red carpet look. A denim jacket makes the perfect winter and fall outer layer as well.

By definition, jeans provide less versatility in application. You wear them as bottoms, and on most occasions, you wear them casually. However, they do offer some diversity. Jeans come in different cuts and fittings, varying in length and leg shape. Skinny jeans differ from flare jeans, providing two distinct looks and style aesthetics.

Side Note: Sometimes you’ll see jean shorts or skirts, but those refer to skirts or shorts made of repurposed jeans.

With the return of denim-on-denim, it’s time to get things straight and understand the differences between denim vs. jeans. Enjoy the return of denim.

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