Selvedge Denim vs. Regular Denim

One of the finer parts of website analytics is the ability to see how people find your site via search engines. For instance, we’ve been receiving a few hits to the site from the question “how to tell selvedge denim from normal denim.” After a brief thought, I realized we’ve been talking about “selvedge this” and “selvedge that” without even explaining what the hell selvedge was. So, without further ado, a quick quide by RCARD:

1. What is Selvedge Denim?

Here are the cliff notes, though there really should be college courses taught on the subject. There are essentially two ways to weave fabric in order to make denim, on newer, larger projectile looms or on smaller, older shuttle looms. Shuttle looms are only able to produce narrower strips of higher quality denim with finished edges that are shown when you cuff the jeans, (or when you look on the inside or outside of the coin pocket). Projectile looms weave larger runs of fabric which need to be cut to produce jeans, these cuts produce edges that are not clean and thus when the jeans are cuffed you will see an almost frayed edge.

2. Why is Selvedge So Expensive?

The simple answer is that it’s far more difficult to find shuttle looms these days. In the 80’s, Japanese culture became very fond of vintage Levi’s and Lee denim jeans, all of which were made on shuttle looms back in the WWII era. One by one, Japanese denim companies began snatching up every shuttle loom they could source from the US, and to this day the majority of these looms still exist in Japan. Thus, due to the law of trends, (which I just made up), Japanese Selvedge denim became popular in the US as a symbol of quality and vintage craftsmanship. These days you’ll see plenty of American denim companies using denim from Japanese shuttle looms that used to be housed right here in the USA. Kind of Ironic isn’t it?

3. Can you show me some pictures of selvedge vs. non selvedge jeans?

I thought you’d never ask. Jordan snapped some pictures drawn from our own collections, demonstrating not only some of our personal favorites, but also a wide array of washes and wear. These images will illustrate Selvedge and non-Selvedge cuffs.

Selvedge

1. A.P.C. New Standard

 

 

 

 

 

2. Evisu No. 3

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lucky Brand 121

 

 

 

 

 

4. Naked and Famous Weird Guy

 

 

 

 

 

5. Hot Rod

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Selvedge

1. Lucky Brand 101:

 

 

 

 

 

2. Lucky Brand 101:

 

 

 

 

 

3. A.P.C. New Cure:

 

 

 

 

 

4. Joe’s Jeans (Sample)

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4 Responses to Selvedge Denim vs. Regular Denim

  1. bobby says:

    I really don’t see what the big deal is concerning the hem edge. I really couldn’t care less about the edge. Now if it is the case that selvedge denim is better quality in terms of its weave or something, that I could appreciate. ie: maybe the old machines produce a tighter weave (or something) which arguably gives a nicer appearance to the denim compared to regular Levis or Wranglers, I don’t know I’ve never actually seen or handled $250 raw selvedge demin, I’m just surmising. (I understand that the selvedge edge will likely wear longer and therefore the jeans are than “quality” but I don’t buy that, I easily get as many years as needed out of ordinary Wrangler 936’s.

    So can you please tell me what is so special about $250+ jeans? By the way, I’m a man, and the women actually swoon already when I walk by wearing Wranglers so don’t tell me “its the cut” either which makes these jeans so expensive.

    Please enlighten me on this as I am seriously interested in the question. I wish I could see/handle expensive denim but the community I live in is so remote they have to pipe the light in here.
    Thank you
    Bobby

  2. Bobby,

    First off, thanks for asking… you’re clearly passionate which I can appreciate. To answer what I think is your overall question as simply as possible… Yes, selvedge denim is higher quality than non-selvedge denim. The older shuttle looms generally produce heavier denim with a dense weave that lasts longer and fades beautifully. Of course there are exceptions, especially considering that people’s definitions of quality vary. Some may consider very fine, soft Italian denim higher quality than rugged, 15oz American made denim because it’s more comfortable. It’s all about perspective.

    While we’re on the topic of perspective, let’s talk about the self edge of the fabric, or selvedge line, whatever you want to call it. When people purchase a pair of premium denim, most of the time they’re paying for the back pocket embroidery, brand name and whether they think it fits well and looks good. Keeping this in mind, to many people selvedge is desirable simply because they can cuff their jeans and show off their line. Denim quality is not of their concern. So, to you the selvedge line means nothing, to others it means everything. Again, it’s all about perspective.

    Now, let’s talk about your next question, “So can you please tell me what is so special about $250+ jeans?” Well, it depends on what $250+ jeans you’re talking about. Every industry has an example of something that isn’t worth the money, and the denim industry is no exception. I won’t name names but there are plenty of brands that charge a premium for jeans that aren’t created using high quality materials or construction (we’re talking the buttons, rivets, stitching, zippers, denim weight, etc). I simply won’t say that all $250+ jeans are worth it, because they’re not.

    However, there are brands that charge a premium on their product for details that people are willing to pay for and to them are considered premium (thick handmade leather patches, brass rivets, chainstitched hems, hand sewing, american made selvedge denim etc). At the end of the day, you may not be willing to pay for details like that, but some people are. Recognizing the desire, plenty of brands have made a business out of offering jeans with these options. No one is wrong here, it’s just the beauty of this industry, there are plenty of options.

    The last thing I wanted to touch on is your comment about fit, “so don’t tell me “its the cut” either which makes these jeans so expensive.” Having a very intimate knowledge of this industry, I can tell you that fit is much more important than you might think. Brands spend years honing their fits, and perfecting them in order to offer a product that is holistically better than the competition, not only in terms of materials but the way those materials sit on various body times. The “Cut” is just as important in considering price point as any other detail.

    I think I touched on everything you asked but let me know if you want my opinion about anything else, happy to help.

    Cheers

  3. Matt Stamper says:

    I just went to the Lucky Brand store, just on a whim. I liked their 121 jeans, and I let the guy order me the 121 Legend jeans instead of the Italian denim version they had in store. He told me they were Selvedge, and I’m familiar, but he couldn’t tell me anything more. I just tried chatting online with a customer service rep, and the only thing he could tell me is that the Legend line is selvedge denim, and the website says it’s made in the USA. He also said Lucky “generally uses a red-line selvedge,” but I noticed in the picture of the 121s you have above, that they are not red line. I’m really just trying to find out if this is an in-house denim from Lucky (since I thought they just made the jeans, not the denim), or if they sourced the denim from somewhere, where is that somewhere? I thought, since you have a picture there, you may know. I’ve scoured the web, and found nothing, except a vague reference on Wikipedia (which isn’t always trustworthy), that says, “In the summer of 2013 Lucky re-introduced Made in America (MIA) jeans. The denim, called Cone Denim, originates from the White Oak Mill in North Carolina. The jeans are then hand-stitched in Los Angeles. Almost every style of women’s and men’s jeans has an MIA counterpart.” That would be awesome, because I’m familiar with Cone, and know it’s a great product, and a great piece of denim history. All I’m getting is pieces of the puzzle, but not the whole picture. Thanks for any help you can offer.

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