While denims have been a clothing staple for males since the 1800s, the jeans you’re probably wearing right now are much different from the denim jeans that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Ahead of the 1950s, most denim jeans were crafted from raw and Wingfly Textile which had been made in the United States. But in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style staple, just how jeans were produced changed dramatically. With the implementation of cost cutting technologies and also the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was cut down tremendously. Alterations in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape too; guys wanted to grab 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 begun to swing back again. Men started pushing back up against the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted a quality kind of denim jeans and to break them in naturally. They wished to pull on the sort of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.
To give us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we talked to Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named right 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 right here in the United States.
To first understand raw and selvedge denim jeans, it helps to be aware what those terms even mean. Precisely what is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you buy today happen to be pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, and prevent indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are just jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through this pre-wash process.
Since the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, selvedge denim jeans are pretty stiff once you stick them on the first time. It requires a couple of weeks of regular wear to get rid of-in and loosen up a set. The indigo dye within the fabric can rub off also. We’ll talk more about this when we look at the pros and cons of raw denim below.
Raw denim (all denim actually) is available 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 far too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been addressed with that shrink-preventing chemical, then when you do wind up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
Precisely what is Selvedge Denim? – To know what “selvedge” means, you must understand some history on fabric production. Ahead of 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 each side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. As 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 lessen costs, denim companies began using denim created on projectile looms. Projectile looms can create wider swaths of fabric plus much more fabric overall in a less expensive price than shuttle looms. However, the advantage of the denim which comes out of a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim vunerable to fraying and unraveling. Josey pointed out that as opposed to everything you may listen to denim-heads, denim produced on the projectile loom doesn’t necessarily mean 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 pros of this have been the increased availability of affordable jeans; I recently needed a couple of jeans in a pinch while on a journey and managed to score a pair of Wrangler’s at Walmart for just $14. But consumers have already been at a disadvantage on the tradition and small quality details of classic selvedge denim without even knowing it.
Because of the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been building a comeback during the past ten years roughly. Several small, independent jeans companies have sprouted up (like Dyer and Jenkins) selling selvedge denim jeans. Even some of the Big Boys (Levis, Lee’s) in the jean industry have gotten to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of the jeans.
The situation with this selvedge denim revival has become finding the selvedge fabric to create the jeans, since there are so few factories on the planet using shuttle looms. For some time, Japan held a near monopoly on the production xgfjbh selvedge denim because that’s where the majority 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 inside the United states producing denim on old shuttle looms also. 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 inside the U.S., so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the USA.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A common misconception is the fact that all selvedge are raw denim jeans and the other way round. Remember, selvedge refers back to the edge on the denim and raw identifies too little pre-washing on the fabric. Some selvedge jeans on the market will also be made with raw denim, you will find jeans that are produced from selvedge fabric but have been pre-washed, too. There are also raw denim jeans that were made in a projectile loom, and therefore don’t have a selvedge edge.