RALEIGH, N.C. - The next time you walk into your local Bass Pro Shop to pick up a pair of work jeans, check out the Riggs Workwear by Wrangler line. If the jeans have “durashield” on it, you can be assured of two things: The raw cotton in the line came from the United States. It was spun into fabric at Mount Vernon Mills in South Carolina and assembled into jeans by VF Corp., based in North Carolina.

Secondly, the jeans have a new abrasion-resist treatment (durashield) that was developed by Cotton Incorporated through cotton producer checkoff dollars. The treatment gives the jeans more durability compared to competing workwear products.

So buy a pair, or two even.

Cotton Incorporated textile researcher John Turner developed the abrasion-resist finish, after three years of research and development. Turner retired shortly after his work was finished and now works as a consultant for Cotton Incorporated.

According to Ken Greeson, manager, Textile Chemistry Research, Cotton Incorporated, who now heads up the project, “we wanted something that could be applied at the mill using conventional processes. The finish consists of a softener normally used in textiles.”

Cotton Incorporated pitched the idea for the new and improved workwear jeans to VF Corp., the parent of Wrangler, after another company declined the opportunity.

In a wear test, VF Corp., “was excited when they saw that the control pair with no treatment tended to have holes along the back of the jeans near the pockets. The treated ones had no holes and less pocket abrasion,” said Greeson. “They knew that the jeans had some properties that were very desirable.”

VF asked Cotton Incorporated to work with a mill partner, Mount Vernon Mills, North America’s largest denim manufacturer, to apply the abrasion-resist finish. Testing began in early 2003 and, by the end of the year, the finish was available in Riggs Workwear by Wrangler jeans.

“The timing of the deal with VF Corp. was perfect,” said Mark Kametches, manager, Global Product Marketing, Cotton Incorporated. “They had approached us looking for a functional finish that would help differentiate their product. It just so happened that we had the perfect match for an opportunity that they saw.

“We have to give credit to VF Corp. for being willing to run with it. We had a lot of other companies turn away from it.”

The finish is marketed as durashield, and the Riggs Workwear by Wrangler jeans are available through J.C. Penny, Bass Pro Shops, through catalogs and online.

The softeners used in the process not only make the jeans tougher, they make them more comfortable as well, noted Greeson. “We’ve seen after 50 launderings you can feel the difference between the abrasion-resist jeans and other jeans.

There is also some degree of enhanced color retention with the new process, according to Greeson. “When you abrade jeans, you get that white look because the indigo dyes run on the outside of the fiber. We do see a little longer lasting color with abrasion-resist jeans because we don’t see as much color abrading off.”

Greeson noted that abrasion resist technology isn’t necessarily a process to extend the life of a pair of jeans, rather, it’s a way to keep jeans looking better, longer.

Greeson and his fellow co-workers like the idea that the cotton in the jeans is grown and processed in the United States. Mount Vernon Mills uses 100 percent U.S. cotton in its denim plants. The denim is assembled into jeans at VF Corp, although some of the line may be assembled at the company’s offshore plants.

“Whenever we enter into development agreements with manufacturers or retailers, we always try to supply to them a list of sources here in the United States,” Kametches said.

Cotton Incorporated is still working on applying the abrasion-resist technology to dress casual wear such as khaki pants. “That should be the next generation of anti-abrasion finish - the wrinkle-free, wrinkle-resistant market,” Greeson said. Turner has been retained as a consultant to assist in the development.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com