The history of raw selvedge denim jeans is a rich one, from being strictly worn by miners as they carved to hell with pick axes, to girls wearing skinny jeans who cry when they see puppies. In their 150ish years of robust and interesting history, denim jeans have evolved into an essential piece of every person’s wardrobe. This history includes Jacob Davis and Levis Strauss creating riveted waist overalls, to jeans becoming part of pop-culture as the cowboys most badass legwear, to the 1970-1980’s when denim became washed and distressed, to now, when raw and selvedge denim has started it’s come back.
Back when men were men, which I guess was in the mid 1800’s, denim jeans were exclusively used as work wear. Every pair of jeans was made on shuttle looms giving them the selvedge seam and came to their customers totally unwashed. Jeans were popular with miners and other people who chopped things all day long. These guys needed the more durable and rugged pants they could get, but they still needed comfort so they could chop things all day. This is where Jacob Davis, who made clothing for miners, and Levi Strauss, a dry goods merchant, combined their power to make what were eventually become the jeans we know today. Davis invented rivets to strengthen the jeans, and with Strauss’s help, got a patent on his new invention. This made them the best jean brand in the world and started their evolution into pop culture.
After Davis and Strauss started making these highly improved jeans they started to make their way out into the rest of the world. Most importantly Hollywood cowboys started to wear them in western movies. In the early 1900’s if actors pretending to be bad-ass gun slinging cowboys were going to wear jeans then everybody else was going to start wearing them too; "Jeans are my huckleberry" - Fashionable Cowboy. This was also the beginning of men coming home from WWI and WWII who got back to work and started wearing jeans regularly. That is when denim jeans started their evolution into something that people wear everyday, which caused the manufacturing and fashion of them to change.
Starting in the 1970’s and becoming very popular in the 1980’s, jeans started to be pre-washed and distressed. This process game them a pre-worn look before getting to the customer. pre-washing and distressing made the jeans softer and broke them in, while also giving them a different look. This is when modern denim was really born. Unwashed jeans totally fell out of favor, men stopped being men, and the modern jean took over our closets.
In the 1990’s and into today, raw denim jeans slowly started to make their comeback. Denim manufacturers started to bring back the old way of making denim by using vintage shuttle looms, re-introducing the clean selvedge seam and of course, delivering jeans to customers completely unwashed and raw. With this resurrection the future history of denim is hopefully packed with raw and selvedge denim.
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