The science of denim - What on earth is Selvedge?

The science of denim - What on earth is Selvedge?

Jeans have come a long way - from a workers uniform symbol to symbol of youth rebellion fashion statement, they definitely mark the culture of the last 140 years. We can thank it to Jacob David and Levi Strauss who created the first pair of jeans after being asked to produce a pair of sturdy pants that could resist hard work. Jeans are actually made out of denim - a highly durable material made from cotton, and that is why they were used by people that needed clothes that would last long.

However, jeans have evolved in the last years specially due to mass production and its quality has decreased significantly which means the most of them are no longer fulfilling their primal purpose. So, what changed in the process of making jeans? The key to this answer is in the type of the loom used. Depending on it’s type, we can have selvedge or non selvedge jeans - so, the question is : WTF is selvedge?

Although denim has been a constant for men since the 19th century, the jeans we mostly wear are very different from the jeans that our grandfathers wore.

Old-Skool Shuttle Looms

Before the 50’s, most denim jeans were crafted on shuttle looms. Tightly woven strips of heavy fabric were produced, with the edges finished with tightly woven bands running from each side to prevent fraying. ravelling and curling. With this method, denim produced on shuttle looms have a self edge, therefore, it has been named selvedge. A pair of selvedge jeans are usually identifiable by the colour it’s finished with - usually orange or red as opposed to the overlocking finish.

The nuance of the denim is also different - the use of the older selvedge loom technology creates variations on the denim surface (due to inconsistencies in the weaving process). Such makes the denim visually unique and, consequently, highly desirable. Furthermore, while mass produced jeans (non-selvedge jeans) come with faux fading and distressing which are the same for very pair. With selvedge jeans the faded and stressing are created based on your body type and how you actually wear them. Each pair is uniquely yours.

A quality pair of selvedge jeans, properly taken care of, can last a few years or even a decade. Besides, if they are ripped, they can always be patched up and repaired.

Faster Projectile Looms

Nowadays and since the 50’s, with the demand increase for denim and the desire for different styles and designs - we have mostly non selvedge jeans: manufacturers have altered the way denim is produced, using projectile looms which are much cheaper. Through this method, the edge that comes out of the loom is not finished which leads to fraying and unravelling of the denim.

Thanks to this method the availability of affordable jeans being mass produced has increased significantly. However, their quality is very far from the quality of selvedge jeans. Due to their denser and tighter weave, selvedge jeans are much more durable even if worn daily.

So, why to invest in a low quality pair of jeans, when your selvedge jeans are likely to last a decade?

Nowadays, a few brands which believe in quality are investing on selvedge jeans again. Comoditi is one of them - buy less, choose well. We don’t need to buy a lot when we buy by necessity.


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