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Jeans stronger than steel: lightweight kit strong enough to lift a skip

Published: 07 February 2020

Updated: 07 February 2020

The latest gear from cutting-edge clothing company Saint combines a stretchy and comfortable denim with AA-rated protection, with enough strength to lift a two-tonne skip from just a single layer of fabric. How have they done it? By using some clever tech and a wonder material that’s 15 times stronger than steel.

"This idea came from our own experience of riding motorbikes, but being uncomfortable off the bike," says Saint founder Aidan Clarke. "We weren’t sure that anyone was asking for single-layer safety denim.

"We spent 18 months on R&D and product evolution before launching our first tough moto offering in late 2015."

To make their denim Saint use a material called Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) – a type of thermoplastic polyethylene known as Dyneema. It has a very low coefficient of friction (similar to non-stick PTFE coatings in frying pans) because it is self-lubricating, so doesn’t grab when you go for a slide.

Saint denim quick facts:

  • Saint’s 13oz 25% Dyneema denim has an average tear resistance of 29kg and a tensile strength of 550kg!
  • Latest Unbreakable Stretch Denim is AA rated for safety, but feels like a regular denim.
  • Saint’s Unbreakable stretch jeans will set you back £360 but what price on staying safe?
  • Dyneema is created by a patented gel-spinning process in which fibres are drawn, heated, elongated and cooled.
  • Saint have created single layer denims that can slide for 5.9 sec under the CE test regime.

It’s also highly resistant to abrasion, which is why it's used in armour, climbing equipment and rigging on space shuttles. Just how strong is it? Weaving Dyneema into denim improves the abrasion resistance of a single-layer motorcycle denim with aramid by 70%. And half the amount of Dyneema is twice as strong as denim with high-tensile nylon on burst/tensile strength.

"We cast the net wide when we were looking for tough single layer fabric solutions back in 2014," adds Clarke. "Back then the CE testing ultimately looked to replicate sliding on tarmac - the benchmark was a four-second slide time and no-one had been able to achieve a full CE rated single layer denim.

How Saint denim works

"We embarked on an extensive R&D project with our yarn and mill partners to evolve the weave and structure for a hybrid single layer denim. Two of the major challenges were actually combining cotton and Dyneema yarns without slippage of the weave, and also keeping the Dyneema below the fabric surface, so that we had a fashionable looking denim.

"Ultimately, the way we combine the yarns, and the way we vary tensions using double warp machines, enables us to do it. After many samples and failures, our perseverance enabled us to finally achieve a fabric that achieved four-second slide time and a CE rating."

And does it work? Well we’ve been using a set of their jeans for a couple of months and while we’ve yet to take a trip down the tarmac, they’re certainly top of the pile for comfort. Check back soon for our full review.

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