Simply put, selvedge denim is made on old looms, generally used in denim production up until the mid to late 1900’s. As demand for denim grew in America, mills began modernizing their machinery to speed production and the old selvedge looms became less efficient.
The word selvedge comes from “self-edge”; the edge of the denim has a clean finish, it will not unravel and is actually used in the garment (as the outseam). You can identify a selvedge jean by looking at the inside of the outseam.
Notice in the photograph above, the white edge with blue thread, this is the “self-edge” of the denim. A non-selvage jean will have a merrow stitch on these edges to keep the denim from unraveling. There is no quality difference between a self-edge or cover stitched edge – only a visual difference.
The above illustration is an example of a how a jean pattern would be laid onto selvedge denim; this will give you a understanding of how the “self-edge” is used.
What makes selvage denim desirable?
Selvedge is often characterized as being a tighter, denser weave compared to non-selvedge; the density gives the denim an authentic feel. The older looms also create variations (imperfections); more variations make the denim more unique in the eyes of advanced denim guys.
Today, the Japanese are the leaders in high-quality denim, especially selvedge denim. The story is that when American denim mills were modernizing in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s – the Japanese bought their old selvedge denim looms and shipped them back to Japan. The rest is history.
Here’s a quick Q & A that will help you understand our opinions on selvedge denim further.
1: Is selvedge denim better than non-selvedge denim? It’s not better, it’s more desirable.
2: Will selvedge denim last longer? No.
3: Is the cotton or dyeing process used in selvedge denim different? Generally, no.
4: Should I buy selvedge or non-selvedge? If possible, buy selvedge.
5: If I choose to buy non-selvedge, am I getting a product that will not last as long as selvedge? Absolutely not.
6: Are there advantages to non-selvedge vs selvedge? If comfort is your primary target, non-selvedge may have more flexibility and provide a touch more comfort.
7: Is it spelled selvedge or selvage? We see brands spell it both ways. We use selvedge because it uses the root word “edge”.
8: Is selvedge denim and raw denim the same thing? No. Some customers come to us believing that selvedge jeans are raw jeans. Raw denim is stiff, unwashed denim. All denim, selvedge or non-selvedge, is made raw. Once it is washed, the denim is no longer raw.
If you have questions about selvedge denim or if you have information to contribute to this discussion, please post a comment below or contact us.