“Selvedge” or “Selvage” (Both are grammatically correct) is a derivation of “self” and “edge”, and is the name of jeans that are cut from the edge of a roll of loomed denim. It has a tighter, denser weave then regular denim, and thus is sturdier and less likely to unravel. Selvedge denim is usually produced on older shuttle looms from one continuous cross-yarn a.k.a. the weft which travels back and forth through the vertical warp beams. It sport a more nuanced weave with inconsistencies or flaws that make each roll unique.
The story of Selvedge Denim goes back to the 1800’s, when jeans were staples of a working man’s wardrobe. Farmers, construction workers and craftsmen demanded a tough, long-lasting material that they could beat up without ruining it. But as denim grew in popularity, and demand for denim products increased, the old selvedge looms were abandoned for a new mechanized process that sped up production and cut down on the flaws of shuttle loom creations.
But now, as you clearly know, Selvedge denim is back in vogue. Here’s how you can tell what denim is Selvedge and what denim is just standard (refer to the diagram above and diagrams below):
Selvedge refers to edge. Since selvedge jeans are cut from the edge of a sheet of denim (versus being cut from the middle of sheet like standard denim), their edges are not frayed and have a tight seam finished with a contrasting warp, usually red.
When you cuff the bottom of selvedge jeans, you’ll see the two sides of the denim joined at the out seem with a tight, clean, fray-less connection vs. the loose stitching of standard denim jeans. After weaving and construction, selvedge denim are then dyed, usually in Indigo that at one time was made naturally using dye produced from the plant Indigofera tinctoria, now usually with synthetic indigo dye.
Remember, raw denim does not necessarily mean selvedge denim. Raw refers to stiff, unwashed denim and selvedge refers to the edge. Thus, all denim is raw when it’s fresh off the loom, but not all denim that comes off a loom is selvedge.
Today, Japanese mills run the show when it comes to selvedge denim. This has led to the belief that, after American mills opted to modernize their denim manufacturing process, they shipped all the older looms (the best at producing heavy selvedge) to Japan. It’s unclear how much truth there is in that rumor, though you’ll frequently see that even non-Japanese selvedge denim makers will use denim sourced from a Japanese mill. Alternatively, Cone Mills is one of the oldest jean manufacturers in the United States. You’ll frequently catch jean snobs exclaiming, “Oh, these are from Cone Mills. You simply can’t beat them when it comes to denim. Read more about Cone Mills via Rawr Denim.
Elhous’ Video Of Hand-Loomed Selvedge Denim Being Made
Your Selvedge Denim Shopping Guide
Enough reading about it, go out and get yourself a pair of selvedge denim jeans. Here’s a list of brands and stores that offer up a selection of selvedge denim. Click the links to buy.
The Big Three Brands (click the logo to visit their webstore):
But if you’re not going to go with the big three, there are a whole bunch of other brands that’ll do the trick. Jean snobs who are anti-A.P.C. usually swear by Double RL & Co.. For classic American designs, get Raleigh Denim, Mister Freedom, Noble Denim and Imogene + Willie.
For a more modern jean sensibility, go with Nudie Jeans Co., 3Sixteen, Baldwin, Natural Selection, Maiden Noir or Apolis. And rounding out our list are a collection of Japanese and Japanese-made brands who have taken the selvedge denim market by storm: Neighborhood, Samurai Jeans, Pure Blue Japan, Oni Shoai, Studio D’Artisan, Denim Demon Jeans and Skull Jeans.
Stores (click the image to visit their webstore):
Blue In Green
Brooklyn Denim Co.
SlamXHype’s Perfect Pair Of Selvedge Denim
A.P.C’s selvedge collection is basically perfect. The range of washes from classic Indigo to Noir Black, the cut of New Standard to Petite New Standard to New Cure, the 4-button fly, the 13-oz weight that you can wear in both summer and winter, it’s all on point. However, there are places for improvement.
The length-at-purchase is too short: If you buy a 30″ waist, the inseam is also 32″. We’d like to see a longer at-purchase inseam so that you can have the choice to leave the jean long and have the punch effect around the ankle or tailor to your desired length. Example: 3Sixteen.
The comfort-at-purchase is deplorable: People, especially jean snobs, say the best part of a worn-in pair of A.P.C.s is that you earned it. But there’s no reason selvedge can’t be comfortable from the jump. Example: Nudie.
The pockets are too shallow: The front pockets of A.P.C.s are too shallow and too tightly bound to be practical and end up adding another uncomfortable aspect to wearing them. Yes, the pockets are tight to keep them from becoming too loose as they wear, but it’s ridiculous. There needs to be a deeper pocket. Example: Naked & Famous.
The rivets and buttons are too branded: A.P.C. engraves their rivets and buttons with “A.P.C. rue Madame près du Luxembourg”, we’d prefer a more subtle option done with the old school copper hardware. Example: J.Crew.