Blue jeans are about as American as an eagle’s feathers, the Liberty Bell, and the Erie Canal. However, those relaxed-fit, boot cut, low-rise, and modern-fit tapered jeans of the 21st century are anything but what was originally imagined in Northern California by Jacob W. Davis in collaboration with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1871 and later patented in 1873.
Selvedge Jeans are a throwback to an early method used in denim production. The word, in fact, is simply a mash-up of self-edge, referring to when the fabric’s edge is used in garment production. Selvedge Denim is characterized by a vintage denim-weaving technique performed on old fashioned shuttle looms. The process delivers a narrow fabric with a tight, fully-finished edge that resists fraying or unraveling. Selvedge looms were utilized through the mid-20th century until they were largely abandoned to speed production to both meet demand and to scratch that efficiency itch that Henry Ford’s assembly line had created in U.S. manufacturing decades earlier.
Luckily, artisan denim mills are committed to bringing this technique back. And it’s not just nostalgia that has driven the movement. Selvedge denim is growing in popularity among even the most casual of apparel enthusiasts attracted to the process and the quality craftsmanship originating from tradition-loyal mills. And while it is commonly accepted that Japanese denim mills had led the resurgence, a growing number of American outfits have met that challenge and are producing fabrics worthy of their American heritage.
Selvedge denim is characterized by a tight, dense weave in the cotton giving the denim a sturdier hand, or wear. Selvedge looms also create variations on the denim surface, producing a visually unique, and highly desirable, distinctiveness.
Not only does the process showcase a commitment to tradition, but selvedge garment design can be highly nuanced, accompanied by a desire to maximize pattern efficiency and minimize waste through fabric-loss.
Once initiated, making the choice for selvedge denim becomes easy for many. That being said, one should not resign themselves to the superiority of selvedge over non-selvedge. The key is to find what works best and feels right for you. In fact, a proper wardrobe should be filled with many types of denim for every mood and occasion.