While denims have been a clothing staple for males since the nineteenth century, the jeans you’re probably wearing at this time are much different from the denims that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Ahead of the 1950s, most denim jeans were crafted from raw and selvedge denim factory which was made in the usa. Nevertheless in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style staple, just how jeans were produced changed dramatically. With the implementation of cost cutting technologies and also the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was reduced. Alterations in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape as well; guys wanted to get pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and also pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for many years.
But about a decade ago, the pendulum begun to swing back again. Men started pushing back from the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted a top quality pair of denim jeans as well as break them in naturally. They wished to pull on the kind of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.
To provide us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we spoke with Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named right after the protagonist in The Outlaw Josey Wales), co-founder of Dyer and Jenkins, an L.A.-based company that’s producing raw and selvedge denim below in the usa.
To first understand raw and selvedge denim jeans, it helps to understand what those terms even mean. What is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you get today happen to be pre-washed to soften in the fabric, reduce shrinkage, preventing indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are simply jeans produced from denim that hasn’t experienced this pre-wash process.
As the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, selvedge denim manufacturer are pretty stiff when you put them on the first-time. It takes a couple weeks of regular wear to interrupt-in and loosen up a set. The indigo dye within the fabric can rub off as well. We’ll talk much more about this when we go over the pros and cons of raw denim below.
Raw denim (all denim actually) is available 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, when one does end up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
Precisely what is Selvedge Denim? – To know what “selvedge” means, you must understand some history on fabric production. Ahead of 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 edges on these strips of fabric come completed tightly woven bands running down either side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. Because the edges emerge from the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are referred to as using a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
Throughout the 1950s, the demand for denim jeans increased dramatically. To lessen 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 expensive price than shuttle looms. However, the advantage of the denim which comes out of a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim susceptible to fraying and unraveling. Josey pointed out that as opposed to whatever you may hear from denim-heads, denim produced over a projectile loom doesn’t necessarily mean a poorer quality fabric. You can find a lot 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 the have already been the improved availability of affordable jeans; I recently needed a pair of jeans in a pinch while on a journey and managed to score a couple of Wrangler’s at Walmart for only $14. But consumers happen to be losing out on the tradition and small quality specifics of classic selvedge denim without even knowing it.
Thanks to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been building a comeback during the past ten years roughly. Several small, independent jeans companies have sprouted up (like Dyer and Jenkins) selling selvedge denim jeans. Even a few of the Big Boys (Levis, Lee’s) in the jean industry have gotten to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of the jeans.
The problem with this particular selvedge denim revival has been choosing the selvedge fabric to create the jeans, as there are so few factories on the planet 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 a few companies in the Usa producing denim on old shuttle looms as well. Probably the most prominent selvedge denim mill is Cone Cotton Mill’s White Oak factory in North Carolina. White Oak sources the cotton for his or her denim from cotton grown within the Usa, so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the USA.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A standard misconception is that all selvedge are raw denim jeans and the other way around. Remember, selvedge means the edge on the denim and raw refers to an absence of pre-washing on the fabric. While many selvedge jeans on the market will also be created using raw denim, you will find jeans that are made from selvedge fabric but happen to be pre-washed, too. You can also get raw denim jeans that were made in a projectile loom, and therefore don’t use a selvedge edge.