While denims have been a clothing staple for guys since the 19th century, the jeans you’re probably wearing at this time are a lot distinct from the denims that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Before the 1950s, most denim jeans were crafted from raw and heavyweight selvedge denim that was made in the usa. Nevertheless in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear with an everyday style staple, the way jeans were produced changed dramatically. With the implementation of cost cutting technologies and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was greatly reduced. Alterations in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape too; guys wanted to pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and also pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for many years.
But in regards to a decade ago, the pendulum started to swing back again. Men started pushing back from the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted a 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 offer us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we talked to Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named 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 United States.
To first understand raw and selvedge denim jeans, it will help to understand what those terms even mean. What exactly is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you purchase today happen to be pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, preventing indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are just jeans produced from denim that hasn’t experienced this pre-wash process.
Because the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, selvedge denim manufacturer are pretty stiff when you put them on the first time. It will take a few weeks of regular wear to interrupt-in and loosen a set. The indigo dye inside the fabric can rub off also. We’ll talk a little more about this whenever we look at the advantages and disadvantages of raw denim below.
Raw denim (all denim actually) will come in 2 types: sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage when you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and many raw and selvedge denim jeans are extremely. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been given that shrink-preventing chemical, when one does wind up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
What exactly is Selvedge Denim? – To comprehend what “selvedge” means, you must know a bit of history on fabric production. Prior to 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 either side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. As the edges come out of the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are called possessing a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
Through the 1950s, the interest in denim jeans increased dramatically. To lessen costs, denim companies began using denim created on projectile looms. Projectile looms can make wider swaths of fabric and a lot more fabric overall at a less expensive price than shuttle looms. However, the edge in the denim which comes out of a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim vunerable to fraying and unraveling. Josey remarked that in contrast to whatever you may listen to denim-heads, denim produced on a projectile loom doesn’t necessarily equate to 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 made of non-selvedge denim. The benefits of this have already been the increased availability of affordable jeans; I recently needed a set of jeans in a pinch while on a trip and was able to score a pair of Wrangler’s at Walmart for just $14. But consumers happen to be at a disadvantage on the tradition and small quality information on classic selvedge denim without realizing it.
Thanks to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been making a comeback in the past ten years or so. 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) inside the jean industry have gotten to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of their jeans.
The situation with this particular selvedge denim revival has become locating the selvedge fabric to help make the jeans, as there are so few factories in the world using shuttle looms. For quite 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 several companies in the U.S. producing denim on old shuttle looms as well. 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 in the Usa, so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the USA.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A standard misconception is the fact all selvedge denim wholesale are raw denim jeans and the other way around. Remember, selvedge refers back to the edge on the denim and raw describes an absence of pre-washing on the fabric. Some selvedge jeans on the market will also be made out of raw denim, you can get jeans that are made from selvedge fabric but have been pre-washed, too. You can also get raw denim jeans that have been made in a projectile loom, and thus don’t possess a selvedge edge.