The words selvedge denim relates to the words self-edge – or self finished edges of fabric. Selvedge denim jeans use the self-edge as a finished seam in the jean construction – specifically along the outseam.
Origins of selvedge denim
Selvedge denim uses old-fashioned weaving techniques. Most authentically woven on old looms. Selvedge looms were popular in denim weaving until the mid-to-late 1900’s.
As demand for denim grew world wide, US mills began modernizing their machinery to speed production, as a result selvedge looms became obsolete. The older selvedge looms were slower and the production was less consistent.
Today selvedge weaving has become desirable again because of the heritage of the weaving technique and the commitment to quality from the mills that choose to produce it.
What makes selvedge desirable?
The use of the older loom technology creates variations on the denim surface due to inconsistencies in the weaving process. But it’s these variations that make the denim visually unique and desirable to denim aficionados.
Denim mills that have chosen to produce selvedge know and value the history of denim. As a result, they choose to make a superior and heritage-inspired product. Yarn quality, dyeing techniques, quality control, and design, each become an artisan endeavor.
Selvedge or selvage?
According to Wikipedia, “The terms selvage and selvedge are a corruption of “self-edge”, and have been in use since the 16th century.”
Selvedge is commonly used in British English and selvage is used in US English. Both are grammatically correct. At Todd Shelton, we use selvedge because of its direct reference to the root word “edge.”
Constructing a selvedge jean
Selvedge rolls are narrow. The narrow widths reduce waste when making jeans or pants.
In a garment factory, a garment cutter can be instructed to use the self-edge of a fabric when they cut a garment. Since selvedge fabrics have finished edges, the edges will not unravel and can be used as finished seams.
The above picture shows how a jean pattern is placed onto denim before cutting. It illustrates how the self-edge is used in the jean construction. It also shows the necessity of the rolls being narrow, because if the rolls were wide, the denim in the middle would be wasted.
In the above photo, the selvedge has a finished white edge with a blue identifier. But the non-selvedge has an unfinished edge.
You can identify a pair of selvedge jeans by looking at the seams (inside the outseam). In the photo above, the selvedge is white with a red identifier. Denim mills use a variety of colored yarns to create unique designs.
If you’re not sure what type of denim you own, simply look at the outseam. Jeans that are stitched with thread (like the photo above) are not selvedge.
Is selvedge and raw the same thing?
No. All denim, selvedge or not, is raw (at some point).
Raw denim is unwashed denim. Once the denim is washed, it’s no longer raw.
Some people get confused because most jeans being sold as raw are also selvedge. The reason may be because it’s denim aficionados who most commonly seek out raw denim jeans and as result of their knowledge of denim, they prefer selvedge.
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