While denims have been a clothing staple for guys since the nineteenth century, the jeans you’re probably wearing at this time 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 which had been made in the United States. But in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear for an everyday style staple, the way in which jeans were produced changed dramatically. Using the implementation of cost cutting technologies and also the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the caliber of your average pair was cut down tremendously. Changes in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape too; guys wanted to get pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for 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 top quality set of denim jeans and also to break them in naturally. They wished to pull on the sort of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.
To provide us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we talked to Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named following the protagonist inside the Outlaw Josey Wales), co-founder 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 can help to know what those terms even mean. Precisely what is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you get today have been pre-washed to soften in the fabric, reduce shrinkage, and stop indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are just jeans made 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 very first time. It requires a couple of weeks of regular wear to break-in and loosen a pair. The indigo dye inside the fabric can rub off too. We’ll talk much more about this when we go over 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 when you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and several raw and selvedge denim jeans are far too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been given that shrink-preventing chemical, then when you are doing find yourself washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
What exactly is Selvedge Denim? – To know what “selvedge” means, you need to understand some 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 finished with tightly woven bands running down either side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. Since the edges emerge from the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are known as having a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
During the 1950s, the interest in 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 at a less costly price than shuttle looms. However, the advantage from the denim which comes out of a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim susceptible to fraying and unraveling. Josey remarked that as opposed to whatever you may listen to denim-heads, denim produced on a 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 made from non-selvedge denim. The benefits of this happen to be the improved accessibility to affordable jeans; Recently i needed a set 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 have been losing out on the tradition and small quality specifics of classic selvedge denim without realizing it.
Thanks to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been building a comeback during the past a decade 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) within 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 choosing the selvedge fabric to create the jeans, because there are so few factories on earth 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 some time now.
But there are a few 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 within the United states, so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the USA.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A common misconception is that all japanese denim are raw denim jeans and vice versa. Remember, selvedge refers to the edge on the denim and raw refers to a lack of pre-washing on the fabric. While most selvedge jeans on the market can also be made out of raw denim, you can get jeans that are made of selvedge fabric but have already been pre-washed, too. There are also raw denim jeans which were made in a projectile loom, and so don’t have a selvedge edge.