While denim jeans have been a clothing staple for men since the 19th century, the jeans you’re probably wearing right now are a lot different from the denim jeans that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Prior to the 1950s, most denim jeans were constructed from raw and selvedge denim that was made in the United States. However in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style staple, the way in which jeans were produced changed dramatically. With all the implementation of cost cutting technologies and also the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the standard of your average pair was cut down tremendously. Alterations in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape as well; guys wanted to pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for many years.
But regarding a decade ago, the pendulum begun to swing back again. Men started pushing back up against the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted an excellent pair of denim jeans and to break them in naturally. They desired 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 after the protagonist within 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 buy today happen to be pre-washed to soften 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 been through this pre-wash process.
Since the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, selvedge denim jeans are pretty stiff whenever you stick them on the first-time. It will take a couple weeks of regular wear to get rid of-in and loosen a pair. The indigo dye within the fabric can rub off also. We’ll talk much more about this when 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 several raw and selvedge denim jeans are too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, then when you are doing find yourself washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
Precisely what is Selvedge Denim? – To understand what “selvedge” means, you must understand a little bit of history on fabric production. Before 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. As 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 need for denim jeans increased dramatically. To lessen costs, denim companies began using denim created on projectile looms. Projectile looms can produce wider swaths of fabric and a lot more fabric overall at a much cheaper price than shuttle looms. However, the edge in the denim that comes out of a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim prone to fraying and unraveling. Josey pointed out that as opposed to whatever you may hear from denim-heads, denim produced on the projectile loom doesn’t necessarily equate to a poorer quality fabric. You can find plenty 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 increased accessibility to affordable jeans; Recently i needed a pair 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 have already been missing out on the tradition and small quality details of classic selvedge denim without knowing it.
Because of the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been creating a comeback during the past 10 years roughly. 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) inside the jean industry have gotten to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of the jeans.
The issue with this selvedge denim revival has become locating the selvedge fabric to make 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 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 some time now.
But there are a few companies within the U.S. producing denim on old shuttle looms as well. 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 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 that all selvedge are raw denim jeans and the other way around. Remember, selvedge means the edge on the denim and raw refers to a lack of pre-washing on the fabric. While most selvedge jeans on the market are also created using raw denim, you can find jeans that are made of selvedge fabric but have already been pre-washed, too. You can also find raw denim jeans which were made in a projectile loom, and thus don’t possess a selvedge edge.