The 5 Things You Need to Know About 'SELVEDGE DENIM'

The 5 Things You Need to Know About 'SELVEDGE DENIM'

June 12, 2018

Salvage - rescue something lost at sea... Wait what? No this is selvage or selvedge spelled with an E.

This is a slang term used in the jean industry that was manifested from "self-edge" and was eventually turned into one word.

It's a type of denim that is made on a different loom. We'll go into the details on all of that in this article. 

What we'll cover:

  1. A short history of selvedge denim
  2. Difference between selvedge denim and non-selvedge denim
  3. Is selvedge denim always raw denim?
  4. Benefits of selvedge denim 
  5. Best selvedge denim brands 

First let's start with an infographic. 

If you read nothing but this infographic you'll know more about selvedge denim than 99.9999% of people in human history. 

Selvedge Denim Infographic

Alright, let's going into the details about selvedge denim.

1. A Short History of Selvedge Denim

I've written about history and evolution of denim jeans so I'll keep this specific to selvedge denim. 

Denim as we know it really started in the mid 19th century. 

Back then dudes needed a more durable and comfortable type of pants. 

Miners with denim on

That is where Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis came in. They invented the modern denim jeans by putting rivets on them to make them more durable. 

Look:

This changed the game. 

Back then denim fabric was only made on shuttle looms (we'll cover shuttle looms in the next section). 

So all denim worn back then was raw and selvedge. 

(A nice selvedge denim white edge)

Selvedge denim fabric

Denim was made on shuttle looms for decades. 

In the 1950's when the demand for denim started to increase, companies looked for ways to cut corner to decrease costs. 

This led them to start making denim in projectile looms which were able to produce denim for cheaper.

In the name of efficiency and cost, selvedge denim started to die. 

Now that we are nicely into the 21st century, people are starting to realize the big differences between selvedge denim and non-selvedge denim. 

 

2. Difference Between Selvedge Denim and Non-Selvedge Denim

Selvedge denim is made from a shuttle loom which gives it a tight weave and a very strong/clean edge.

Non-selvedge denim is made from a projectile loom and does not have a clean edge. 

Shuttle looms typically make heavier fabrics that are very tightly woven and are produced in one yard wide strips. These strips are finished on both sides with a band that makes them more durable and prevents fraying.  

 (Great example of the difference between selvedge and not selvedge inseams)

The bottom line:

Denim that comes from a projectile loom does not have an edge like you see from a shuttle loom, making them more susceptible to fraying and common wear. 

This is really what the difference is between selvedge denim and non-selvedge denim.

(Here is the best video I've seen explaining selvedge denim, 10:51)

In conclusion, selvedge denim is made on an old school loom that makes better looking more durable denim. 

3. Is Selvedge Denim Always Raw Denim?

This is a common misconception. Raw denim and selvedge denim are commonly combined to make beautiful high-end jeans. 

'Commonly combined' is the key phrase there. They don't have to be combined.

Raw denim simply means the denim hasn't been washed or distressed before being sewn into clothing. 

You can read the most thorough article on the internet about raw denim: The 10 Things To Know About [Raw Denim] Before Purchasing 

(A picture of Washington Alley Websters)

Webster raw denim jeans

Now:

Selvedge denim, as stated above, is made on a shuttle loom. If denim is made on a shuttle loom and not washed or distressed, it's 'raw selvedge denim'. 

If it's made on a shuttle loom but then washed and distressed it is now just selvedge denim. 

Or, if it's made on a projectile loom and not washed, it's still raw but not selvedge.

In conclusion:

Raw and selvedge denim are two different things and can exist on their own or in combination. 

4. Benefits of Selvedge Denim 

So why should you care if denim is selvedge or not?

There are the two main benefits of selvedge denim:

  1. Durability 
  2. The clean white inseams 

It's generally accepted that selvedge denim is more tightly woven than modern denim; tight weaves make selvedge denim more durable.

If you watch denim being made in a projectile loom, then on a shuttle loom, you'd be pretty confident that selvedge denim is more durable.

The second benefit is the clean white inseams. You'll notice that the white inseam is gorgeous and that you want to show it off by cuffing your jeans. 

(Nice closeup of the Washington Alley Webster's inseam)

Websters inseam

As you can see in the picture above the inseams on a pair of selvedge denim jeans makes a statement. 

To wrap this section up:

Selvedge denim (on average) is going to be more durable than modern denim and has a clean white inseam which looks really nice. 

Those are the two main factors that separates selvedge denim from modern denim. 

5. Brands That Make Quality Selvedge Denim Jeans

This section is a section that we put into a few of our blog posts. As we find brands we can support we will continue to build it out. 

We own a jean brand, so obviously we're going to recommend Washington Alley jeans, but this isn’t just because we own them.

It’s because we truly believe they are an amazing product. We have focused on American made craftsmanship, along with being a classic style and fit.

Here are the brands that we support:

  1. Washington Alley
  2. Levi's
  3. Unbranded Brand
  4. Tobacco Motorwear Co. 
  5. Detroit Denim Co. 

Washington Alley Webster slim straight raw selvedge denim jeans, $199, shop here

  • Slim straight
  • 13 oz. 
  • Cone Mills White Oak Raw Selvedge Denim
  • Custom WA logo buttons and rivets
  • Chain-stitched hem
  • Sanforized 
  • 100% MADE IN USA

(A pair of Washington Alley Websters fake walking)

(A detailed product video about the Websters)

LEVI 511 SLIM FIT SELVEDGE JEANS

Levi’s literally invented the modern pair of jeans, so I gotta give them some respect. 

 Levi 511 Slim Fit Selvedge Jeans, shop here 

  • 100% Cotton (Non-Stretch Denim)
  • Zip fly with button closure
  • 5-pocket styling

Levi 511

 

The Unbranded Brand also has some great raw denim products. 

UB301 Straight Fit 14.5oz Indigo Selvedge Denim

  • Classic 5 pocket jeans with button fly closure
  • Hidden selvedge coin pocket detail
  • Hidden rivets
  • Blue ear selvedge
  • 100% cotton denim
  • Genuine leather patch
  • Made in Macau

Unbranded

Tobacco Motorwear Company - Indigo Selvedge Protective Riding Jeans 

This company makes kevlar lined raw selvedge denim that protects motorcycle riders, which is awesome. I'm a Marine combat veteran who also owns a raw denim jean company, so denim and kevlar are close to my heart. Shop here

  • Raw Cone Mills selvedge denim 
  • 100% Dupont™ Kevlar® fiber lining 
  • Made proudly in the USA 
  • Comfortable slightly tapered slim-straight fit 
  • Size up for a more relaxed look 
  • Size down for a skinnier profile 
  • See the sizing guide below for details

Kevlar Jean

Detroit Denim Co - Archer Cut Men's Selvedge Jeans

The Archer is our slimmest cut, affectionately referred to as the “no-butt cut.” Designed with less room and rise through the seat with a slim leg and a moderate taper, this cut is for the man with thinner-than-average legs, and a flatter-than-average rear end. Our founder, Eric, wears the Archer Cut in size 36. Shop here. 

  • $250
  • Slimmer fit through seat and thigh
  • Slim tapered leg
  • Just a skosh below mid-rise
  • Heavyweight striped pocket lining
  • Raw copper button fly
  • Hand-cut and hammered copper rivets
  • Hand-debossed, 7 oz. vegetable-tanned leather patch
  • Chainstitch hem
  • Finished with a 36” inseam
  • Complimentary lifetime repair policy

Detroit Denim Co Archers

Conclusion: 'The 5 Things You Need to Know About 'SELVEDGE DENIM' [infographic]

The main difference between selvedge denim and modern denim is that selvedge denim is produced on a shuttle loom. 

The shuttle loom gives it more durability and style. Two things that are very important to all of us. 

I hope you now feel comfortable with selvedge denim. 

If you have any questions about this article or WashingtonAlley.com please contact Eddy Beyne, eb@WashingtonAlley.com or Lucas Craig, lc@washingtonalley.com.

Thanks for reading!



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