While denims have been a clothing staple for males since the 1800s, the jeans you’re probably wearing today 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 Wingfly Textile that was made in america. But in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style staple, the way jeans were produced changed dramatically. Using the implementation of cost cutting technologies and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was greatly reduced. Alterations in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape too; 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 about 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 kind of denim jeans and also to break them in naturally. They desired to pull on the type of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.
To provide us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we spoke with Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named following 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 below in the United States.
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 get today have already been pre-washed to soften the fabric, reduce shrinkage, preventing 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.
As 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 couple weeks of regular wear to interrupt-in and loosen a set. The indigo dye in the fabric can rub off too. We’ll talk a little more about this once we go over the pros and cons of raw denim below.
Raw denim (all denim actually) is available in two 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 too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, 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 must know 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 sides on these strips of fabric come finished with tightly woven bands running down both sides that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. As the edges come out of the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are referred to as possessing a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.
Through the 1950s, the demand for denim jeans increased dramatically. To reduce costs, denim companies began using denim created on projectile looms. Projectile looms can make wider swaths of fabric and much more fabric overall in a less expensive price than shuttle looms. However, the edge in the denim which comes away from a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim susceptible to fraying and unraveling. Josey remarked that contrary to everything you may listen to denim-heads, denim produced over a projectile loom doesn’t necessarily mean 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 produced from non-selvedge denim. The pros with this have been the improved availability of affordable jeans; Not long ago i needed a set of jeans in a pinch while on a trip and could score a pair of Wrangler’s at Walmart for just $14. But consumers happen to be losing out on the tradition and small quality information on classic selvedge denim without even knowing it.
Thanks to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been making a comeback in the past a decade 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 returning to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of the jeans.
The problem using this selvedge denim revival has been locating the selvedge fabric to help make the jeans, as there are so few factories on earth 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 some time now.
But there are several companies within the United states 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 their denim from cotton grown in the U.S., so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the USA.
Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw – A typical misconception is the fact that all selvedge are raw denim jeans and vice versa. Remember, selvedge refers back to the edge on the denim and raw refers to a lack of pre-washing on the fabric. Some selvedge jeans on the market are also created using raw denim, you can find jeans that are produced from selvedge fabric but happen to be pre-washed, too. You can also get raw denim jeans that have been made in a projectile loom, and so don’t have a selvedge edge.