History of Selvedge Denim
Denim jeans have been around for a very long time. It's a staple fashion item in universally everyone's wardrobe and for a good reason. Jeans have been around as early as the 18th century, reaching their peak in popularity in the 19th century. Especially in America, jeans became a valid alternative for the working class, due to their robust composition. Today, denim jeans are worn by everyone, no matter what walk of life they're from.
Image via Cone Denim
What is Selvedge Denim
If you’re into fashion, chances are that you have heard the word “selvedge” around when it comes to jeans. Selvedge (which derives from the words "self edge") refers to a much more durable type of jean, which starts at the manufacturing process. The denim is cut from a shuttle loom-produced denim fabric which is typically more narrow. Due to the nature of this process, the fabric leaves the edges on either side of the roll finished. A selvedge finish can be identified by finding the "self edge" on the mini watch pocket which is found on the right side of the denim, as well as the selvedge band on the side seams by flipping up the hem (see image above).
Image via Art of Manliness
Raw denim simply refers to the process (or lack thereof) of treating a pair of jeans. If a pant is referred to as “raw”, this means that the material is untreated. This is why raw denim always reflects that deep indigo blue colour, because none of it has been washed out through treatment processes.
Image via Blue Owl
Sanforized Vs Unsanforized Jeans
Raw denim comes in two versions; sanforized and unsanforized. Sanforized denim will have gone through a process which steams, heats, and shrinks the denim between hot cylinder rollers. This process adds a slight sheen to the fabric, while also "pre-shrinking" the denim. This means that when you're buying a pair of sanforized raw denim, it is safe to purchase your true size. Unsanforized denim comes straight from the weaving loom, meaning that they are generally very stiff, with a rough texture and matte finish. Die-hard raw denim collectors will usually gravitate towards unsanforized denim to show their devotion. Keep in mind that unsanforized denim can shrink up to 10%, compared to just 1-3% in sanforized denim.
Selvedge & Raw Denim
Although the terms raw denim and selvedge denim are often used interchangeably, the two are completely different. Remember that raw denim simply refers to denim in its pure and untreated form. Selvedge refers to the manufacturing process, which results in a sturdier jean. Not all selvedge denim is raw, and not all raw denim has a selvedge finish.
Image via G-Star Raw
Why Invest In Selvedge Jeans
To answer this question, we must investigate the history of manufacturing processes of denim jeans. Prior to the 1950’s, the majority of fabrics were manufactured on shuttle looms. Shuttle loom manufacturing resulted in tightly woven strips of heavy fabric, with a tightly woven band running down each side to prevent fraying and curling. This process is what results in the superiority of selvedge denim over regular denim; it just lasts longer. But it isn’t just all about the quality. A crisp pair of selvedge denim simply stands out in a crowd of poorly constructed jeans. Selvedge denim will also retain its shape much better than your standard denim, thus lasting you considerably longer.
You can expect a regular pair of jeans to last you anywhere from a few months to a year before fraying, ripping, or simply losing its shape. A pair of selvedge denim can last several years, with proper care, even up to a decade.
Why Choose Raw Over Washed?
So you might be thinking to yourselves why anyone would ever want to wear raw denim. It’s stiff, it bleeds colour, and it's generally very uncomfortable to wear at first. Don't let those factors discourage you! There are a multitude of reasons as to why people choose a pair of raw denim over a pair of washed denim.
Image via Life Hacks
Benefits of Raw Denim
Wearing raw denim is the best way to bring out the inherent beauty of the fabric. Since the fabric is completely untreated, once you pick up a pair and work it into your daily life, the jean will turn into a reflection of your persona. Whether it be honeycombs behind your knees, or a sick fade from where you put your wallet, dedicating yourself to a pair of raw denim will result in a highly personal pair. Since raw denim is completely untreated, it is also a lot more robust, meaning that it will take a lot longer to burn through a pair. You can rest assured that a quality pair of raw denim can last you anywhere between a few years to even a decade.
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