Originally, jeans were dyed with the color of the actual indigo plant. Today, indigo jeans are valued for their distinctive, deeply hued appearance. There are at least three companies making natural indigo jeans: Howies
, Nudie Jeans
and Studio D'Artisan
(japanese only). Pictured here is a pair of women's indigo jeans from Nudie Jeans
in Australia. Almost all blue jeans are chemically dyed these days. Unfortunately, chemical dyeing usually involves toxic fixing agents and heavy metals. Yet, even clothing produced with organically grown fibers using "low impact" dyes, requires the same toxic fixing agents. Here, "low impact" means the dye is absorbed better and chlorine is not used for bleaching (usually hydrogen peroxide is used).
So what did people do before these processes were even available? They
used plant-based dyes such as indigo and madder. Those natural dyes
tended to fade after repeated washings, but that was considered
appealing — each piece of clothing took on its own unique character by
the variations in color.
Natural indigo is perhaps the oldest dye known — the oldest
fragments of cloth are dyed with it. It is a dye known to all cultures
of the world. Natural indigo is also one of the "fastest" dyes known.
It was the original dye of the "Levi's" blue jeans, a trademark color