While denim jeans have been a clothing staple for guys since the nineteenth century, the jeans you’re probably wearing at this time are much distinct from the denims that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Ahead of the 1950s, most denim jeans were constructed from raw and heavyweight selvedge denim that was made in the usa. However in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style staple, just how jeans were produced changed dramatically. With all the implementation of cost cutting technologies and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the standard of your average pair was reduced. Changes in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape too; guys wanted to grab pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, as well as pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for many years.
But regarding a decade ago, the pendulum started to swing back again. Men started pushing back up against the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted an excellent kind of denim jeans as well as break them in naturally. They wanted to pull on the type of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.
To give us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we spoke with Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named right after the protagonist within the Outlaw Josey Wales), co-founding father of Dyer and Jenkins, an L.A.-based company that’s producing raw and selvedge denim on this site in the usa.
To first understand raw and selvedge denim jeans, it will help to understand what those terms even mean. Precisely what is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you purchase today have been pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, and prevent indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are simply jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through this pre-wash process.
As the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, selvedge denim jeans are pretty stiff when you place them on the very first time. It requires a couple of weeks of regular wear to get rid of-in and loosen up a set. The indigo dye in the fabric can rub off as well. We’ll talk a little more about this whenever we review the advantages and disadvantages of raw denim below.
Raw denim (all denim actually) comes in two types: sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage after you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and lots of raw and selvedge denim jeans are extremely. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, then when one does end up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
Precisely what is Selvedge Denim? – To understand what “selvedge” means, you must know some history on fabric production. Before the 1950s, most fabrics – including denim – were made on shuttle looms. Shuttle looms produce tightly woven strips (typically one yard wide) of heavy fabric. The sides on these strips of fabric come finished with tightly woven bands running down each side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. As the edges emerge from the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are called using a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
During the 1950s, the demand for denim jeans increased dramatically. To minimize costs, denim companies began using denim created on projectile looms. Projectile looms can create wider swaths of fabric plus much more fabric overall with a less costly price than shuttle looms. However, the edge from the denim which comes from a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim vunerable to fraying and unraveling. Josey remarked that contrary to everything you may hear from denim-heads, denim produced on the projectile loom doesn’t necessarily equate to a poorer quality fabric. You will find lots of quality jean brands from denim made on projectile looms.
Most jeans on the market today are produced from non-selvedge denim. The advantages of this have already been the increased accessibility to affordable jeans; Recently i needed a pair of jeans in a pinch while on a trip and managed to score a set of Wrangler’s at Walmart for just $14. But consumers happen to be losing out on the tradition and small quality details of classic selvedge denim without even knowing it.
Thanks to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been creating a comeback during the past 10 years roughly. Several small, independent jeans companies have sprouted up (like Dyer and Jenkins) selling selvedge denim jeans. Even some of the Big Boys (Levis, Lee’s) within the jean industry have gotten to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions with their jeans.
The situation using this selvedge denim revival has been finding the selvedge fabric to help make the jeans, since there are so few factories in the world using shuttle looms. For a while, Japan held a near monopoly on the production xgfjbh selvedge denim because that’s where most of the remaining shuttle looms are; the Japanese love everything post-WWII Americana, and they’ve been sporting 1950s-inspired selvedge denim jeans for a long period now.
But there are some companies inside the United states producing denim on old shuttle looms too. The most prominent selvedge denim mill is Cone Cotton Mill’s White Oak factory in North Carolina. White Oak sources the cotton for denim from cotton grown in the United states, so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the us.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A typical misconception is the fact all japanese denim are raw denim jeans and the other way round. Remember, selvedge refers back to the edge on the denim and raw refers to an absence of pre-washing on the fabric. While many selvedge jeans on the market can also be made with raw denim, you will find jeans that are made from selvedge fabric but have been pre-washed, too. There are also raw denim jeans that were made in a projectile loom, and therefore don’t use a selvedge edge.