At Noskin, our goal is always to provide our customers with the highest quality garments created from the highest quality fabrics. Our commitment to sustainability has led us all over the world in pursuit of premium, animal-free materials. We get seriously excited when we discover a new fabric that stays true to our brand while providing our eco-conscious customers with an awesome new piece for their wardrobes!
What is Selvedge Denim?
This isn’t your daddy’s denim. (Or maybe it is, if your dad is really into quality denim.) ‘Selvedge’ is the name of a type of denim that is usually sold and worn unwashed. It’s a higher-grade material, but that also makes it a little tougher to produce. The name itself is a contraction of ‘self’ and ‘edge’; this refers to the self-finished edges of the fabric, which you can spot by looking at the cuffs of the jeans. These edges are created to remain unfrayed and unravelled.
The people who have mastered the art of denim are the Japanese. Their craftsmanship is unrivalled; this is reflected in the fact that many of the top denim brands hail from Japan. They’ve absolutely nailed the selvedge denim method, and most of the country’s premium brands utilise this practice.
A Brief History of Japanese Denim
After WWII, the majority of denim found in Japan was imported from America. But as the Japanese economy rapidly recovered and then exploded, the country began manufacturing its own Japanese selvedge denim in the early 1970s. One of the first brands to do this was Kurabo Mills, founded in the small town of Kojima, which is now a verifiable denim hub for enthusiasts and craftspeople alike.
Kurabo Mills differed from international denim in two distinct ways: it contained natural dye, and it was created on old looms to produce the selvedge fabric. Native brand Big Jonn was so taken with this artisan approach that they incorporated it into their popular ‘M’ series – and so the legend of selvedge denim was born!
Although the denim industry has adapted and changed with the times, the methods, materials and craftsmanship that provide the foundations of selvedge denim remain unchanged.
The Selvedge Process
Basically, there are two ways to weave denim: with a shuttle or without one. The traditional (read ‘old school’) way is to use a shuttle, but this takes more time. A lot more time. If you’re a factory looking to fire out a hundred pairs of jeans a day, the shuttle probably isn’t going to cut it.
But the shuttle is essential to the selvedge method. The reason why it takes longer is also the reason why it’s so damn good. As it passes the weft (the yarn that runs crosswise) through the warp shed (the yarn that runs lengthwise), the edges of the fabric become self-finished. This tightly hemmed, durable edge doesn’t require any further finishing or processing.
But as we said already, the process is pretty time-consuming and creates a bottleneck for production. So most companies opt to use a projectile loom – a shuttleless loom that carries the weft across the shed. It’s faster, but it creates frayed edges on the hems that have to be snipped off before the fabric can be sewn into a pair of jeans. Our company ethos means that we will always opt for whatever materials and methods (in this case selvedge) produces the best, most sustainable and durable results. We do this by limiting production to an amount that allows us to focus on quality over quantity. You can see this in our selvedge denim collection that features a sustainable recycled cotton blend.
Is Selvedge Denim Better?
So what is special about selvedge denim? And is selvedge denim better than regular denim? We reckon the answer is a resounding ‘LOADS’ and ‘YES’! Selvedge denim is perfect for a slow fashion wardrobe. It’s incredibly durable and long-lasting, making for a sustainable piece you can keep in rotation for decades.
Essentially, it’s a question of craftsmanship. We want our products to look awesome as well as being sustainable, and selvedge denim fits that brief to a tee. Selvedge denim ‘fades’ better than regular denim; this is due to the slower pace of the shuttle looms applying less tension to the yarn. On top of that, shuttle-loomed denim is also softer thanks to the crafting process. Oh, and selvedge denim isn’t washed in a factory, which means it’s both more natural and more durable.
Finally, selvedge denim has that heritage appeal. It’s not possible to fake selvedge jeans – they have to be made in a shuttle loom. Modern denim technology can do a lot of things with dye, weaving and fading, but it can’t recreate that authentic selvedge process.
What’s the Difference Between Selvedge and Raw Denim?
A final important point is the difference between selvedge denim and raw denim. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not one and the same. Raw denim simply refers to denim that hasn’t undergone a prewash process, while selvedge refers specifically to the edges of the denim, and by extension, the process used to create it.
Selvedge jeans are usually made with unwashed base fabric, although you can apply the selvedge method to prewashed fabric. Remember those projectile looms used for mass denim production? Raw denim can be used on those too. But don’t get confused – raw denim does not mean selvedge denim, and selvedge denim does not automatically mean raw denim!
As you can tell, here at Noskin we’re pretty into selvedge denim and all the possibilities it offers. Our range of denim jeans is produced using this classic method, in order to provide our clients with effortlessly stylish, comfortable and sustainable pieces of clothing that they’ll want to pull on again and again and again.