“Typically, the most common denims in the world will be a three-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – at this time – vertical slubs instead of cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing facing a wall of heavyweight selvedge denim in his SoHo store, 3×1. He had not been speaking in tongues; he was in brief the language of denim. Morrison grew up in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as a kid, went to the University of Washington to play golf on a scholarship, drafted a business plan in college to produce a golf company, then finally moved to Ny in 1997 and started in on denim.
He got to the party on the right time. “I remember going and acquiring a set of Replay Jeans and looking at the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, precisely what is Made in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ They were $125, which at the time was $25 higher priced than any other product they were making.” This is an advantageous enlightenment; from your late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim continues to be booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B and his Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For Those Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then the wave really caught on and leading approximately the current premium denim companies have started ad infinitum.
Back in 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison said that at the time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in North Carolina were. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for that tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic style of denim – “it’s the record player in the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is among the founding fathers in the fabric. Starting in 1891, these were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the entire early and mid-1900s, they made only one kind of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and also the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the newest rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, nobody was ordering the slower, higher priced raw selvedge denim. “At time, the major brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – each of the American brands were focused on this moderate price point.”What Morrison seen in Japan were mills concentrating on premium denim from the sort North America once made. He remembers it being better throughout the board, from fabrics to sewing to wash. Plus it left an impact. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I was a little obsessed, as you would expect.”
After that trip, Morrison’s travels in Japan (as well as in Italy) continued, as did his study of premium denim manufacturing. He believed he wasn’t the only person who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by a couple other premium denim companies at the time – would be to bring this quality returning to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t perform the same inside the States?” said Morrison. He did, however it didn’t catch on immediately. He says his first couple of forays into offering selvedge denim failed miserably; customers weren’t ready for $250 jeans. He remembers that things that we ignore on jeans today – oven baking, 3D-whiskering, hand sanding, bleach sponging – didn’t even exist up until the early aughts. But Morrison held his vision, and through two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s desire for premium denim.
Finally, in 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project up to now. 3×1, offers the largest collection of selvedge denim on earth. They may have, at any given time, 70 rolls of japanese denim on their own “denim wall,” and over time have introduced greater than 1000 various kinds of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the globe. “The denim luhoxj the mills would be the rockstars from the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 concentrates on specialty, plus they focus on a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer is the one guy that’ll walk in and be like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s the things i want,’” said Morrison.
To access that time takes some education. And without digging through the annals of denim geek forums, it requires a little bit of translating. So, Morrison provided to give a lay of the selvedge land – a review of what you should consider when buying premium denim.