While denims have been a clothing staple for males since the 19th century, the jeans you’re probably wearing right now are a lot different from the denims that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Prior to the 1950s, most denim jeans were crafted from raw and selvedge denim factory which had been made in the usa. However in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear with an everyday style staple, just how jeans were produced changed dramatically. With all 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 pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, as well as pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for many years.
But in regards to a decade ago, the pendulum began to swing back again. Men started pushing back from the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted a top quality set of denim jeans as well as break them in naturally. They wished to pull on the type 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 right after the protagonist inside the Outlaw Josey Wales), co-founding father of Dyer and Jenkins, an L.A.-based company that’s producing raw and selvedge denim below in america.
To first understand raw and selvedge denim jeans, it helps to know what those terms even mean. What exactly is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you buy today have already been pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, preventing indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are merely jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through 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 pair. The indigo dye in the fabric can rub off as well. We’ll talk a little more about this once we look at the advantages and disadvantages of raw denim below.
Raw denim (all denim actually) comes in 2 types: sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage once you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and many raw and selvedge denim jeans are too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, so when you are doing wind up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
What exactly is Selvedge Denim? – To understand what “selvedge” means, you must understand a little 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 edges on these strips of fabric come completed tightly woven bands running down both sides that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. Since the edges emerge from the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are called having a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
Through the 1950s, the need 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 and a lot more fabric overall at a less costly price than shuttle looms. However, the advantage of the denim which comes away from a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim prone to fraying and unraveling. Josey pointed out that contrary 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 produced from non-selvedge denim. The pros of this have been the increased accessibility of affordable jeans; Not long ago i needed a set of jeans in a pinch while on a trip and was able to score a couple of Wrangler’s at Walmart for only $14. But consumers happen to be at a disadvantage on the tradition and small quality specifics of classic selvedge denim without realizing it.
Because of the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been making a comeback during the past ten years or so. Several small, independent jeans companies have sprouted up (like Dyer and Jenkins) selling selvedge denim jeans. Even a number of the Big Boys (Levis, Lee’s) within the jean industry have gotten back to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of the jeans.
The situation using this selvedge denim revival has been finding the selvedge fabric to create the jeans, since there are so few factories in the world using shuttle looms. For some time, Japan held a near monopoly on the production xgfjbh selvedge denim because that’s where a lot 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 U.S. producing denim on old shuttle looms too. By far the most prominent selvedge denim mill is Cone Cotton Mill’s White Oak factory in N . C .. White Oak sources the cotton for their denim from cotton grown within the United states, so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the united states.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A standard misconception is the fact that all japanese denim are raw denim jeans and the other way round. Remember, selvedge refers to the edge on the denim and raw describes too little pre-washing on the fabric. While many selvedge jeans on the market are also made out of raw denim, you will find jeans that are made of selvedge fabric but have already been pre-washed, too. You can also find raw denim jeans that have been made in a projectile loom, and therefore don’t possess a selvedge edge.