While denims have been a clothing staple for males since the 1800s, the jeans you’re probably wearing today are much different from the denims that your grandpa or even your dad wore.
Prior to the 1950s, most denim jeans were crafted from raw and Wingfly Textile which had been made in the usa. However in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear for an everyday style staple, just how jeans were produced changed dramatically. Using 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. Changes in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape as well; guys wanted to grab pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for years.
But regarding a decade ago, the pendulum began to swing back again. Men started pushing back up against the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted an excellent set of denim jeans as well as break them in naturally. They wanted 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 after the protagonist within the Outlaw Josey Wales), co-founding father 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 can help to be aware what those terms even mean. What is Raw Denim? – Most denim jeans you get today happen to be pre-washed to soften in the fabric, reduce shrinkage, preventing indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are merely jeans produced from denim that hasn’t been through this pre-wash process.
Because the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, selvedge denim jeans are pretty stiff once you stick them on the first time. It will take a few weeks of regular wear to interrupt-in and loosen up a pair. The indigo dye within the fabric can rub off too. We’ll talk much more about this whenever 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 when you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and many raw and selvedge denim jeans are too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been given that shrink-preventing chemical, so when you are doing find yourself washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.
What is Selvedge Denim? – To comprehend what “selvedge” means, you must know some 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 sides on these strips of fabric come finished with tightly woven bands running down each side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. Since the edges come out of the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are known as using a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
During the 1950s, the demand 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 with a much cheaper price than shuttle looms. However, the edge from the denim that comes away from a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim prone to fraying and unraveling. Josey pointed out that contrary to everything you may listen to denim-heads, denim produced on a projectile loom doesn’t necessarily equate to a poorer quality fabric. You can get plenty of quality jean brands from denim made on projectile looms.
Most jeans on the market today are made of non-selvedge denim. The benefits of this happen to be the increased accessibility to affordable jeans; I recently needed a couple of jeans in a pinch while on a journey and managed to score a set of Wrangler’s at Walmart for just $14. But consumers happen to be at a disadvantage on the tradition and small quality information on classic selvedge denim without even realizing it.
Due to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been creating a comeback during the past ten years approximately. 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) in the jean industry have gotten returning to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of the jeans.
The problem with this particular selvedge denim revival has become finding the selvedge fabric to help make the jeans, since there are so few factories on the planet using shuttle looms. For a while, 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 some time now.
But there are some companies inside the Usa 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 his or her 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 typical misconception is that all selvedge are raw denim jeans and vice versa. Remember, selvedge refers to the edge on the denim and raw describes an absence of pre-washing on the fabric. While many selvedge jeans on the market can also be made out of raw denim, you can find jeans that are made from selvedge fabric but happen to be pre-washed, too. There are also raw denim jeans that have been made in a projectile loom, and so don’t use a selvedge edge.