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History of Selvedge Denim

Selvedge Denim: History

We often get asked a whole host of questions about selvedge denim, and if you’re looking for answers, this is where you’ll find them. So, whether you are looking for information about the history of selvedge denim or the brands that you should be wearing – our experts are on hand to tell you exactly what you need to know. For more general queries about the fit and shape of selvedge denim - you should consult the selvedge denim: fit and tailoring guide available.

For other queries about how to care for your selvedge denim, including hacks and tips and tricks for how to stretch, wash and care for your new purchase in our selvedge denim: care guide.

Selvedge Denim History

What is selvedge denim?

It is often referred to as selvedge denim or selvage denim, but what actually is it? Selvedge is the name used for a type of denim that is harder to produce, of a higher quality and is usually worn unwashed.

There is a whole range of brands that cater to the selvedge denim demand, but how do you filter selvedge denim from mass-produced denim? It can usually be spotted by looking at the cuff of the jeans. The selvedge within the denim is usually white and has a coloured yarn in the middle. 

The construction method is what sets it apart, and one of the key distinctions is that selvedge denim is woven on a shuttle loom using one continuous thread. This is where it gets its strong and rigid properties from.

Why is selvedge denim better?

In short, selvedge denim is better due to the complex construction process that each pair of jeans is created with. 

Selvedge denim is designed to be robust and rigid due to its extensive construction. You can be sure that the denim won’t unravel. The clean edges of selvedge jeans are durable due to their ends being woven together, ensuring that they won’t fray. 

Another reason that selvedge denim is regarded as more superior than mass-produced denim is due to the tightly woven fabric and durability that is produced. There is often heightened attention to detail and care process that comes with selvedge denim as opposed to the cheaper and more mainstream denim counterparts.

Selvedge Denim Creation
Selvedge Denim Origin

Where does selvedge denim come from?

In the 1950s, all denim was selvedge but due to the rise in popularity of jeans because of film stars and celebrities such as James Dean – manufacturers needed to ditch the lengthy process of selvedge denim and create jeans faster to meet the demand of the public. This meant that there was a switch from the traditional shuttle loom production process to a projectile loom. 

In the late 70s and early 80s, there was a boom in denim for Japanese culture. As a result, Japanese denim brands bought the old shuttle looms and started to produce and improve the world of selvedge jeans. This is the reason why there are so many Japanese selvedge denim brands that are producing high quality, stylish selvedge denim today.

How is selvedge denim made?

Selvedge denim has a rigid construction process and involves using a shuttle loom. Also known as shuttle weaving machines, the denim is created with a neat, finished edge.

How to create selvedge denim

The process of creating selvedge denim

The shuttle of the shuttle loom moves across the loom carrying a bobbin of weft yarn along the warp yarns (these are the vertical threads) and ultimately weave the fabric together. 

The weft yarn is not cut after each insertion; it is woven tightly towards an “endless” edge that is compact and won’t unravel like more mass-produced denim.

Why is selvedge denim more expensive?

The process of creating selvedge denim is slower, more robust and complex than the average creation process of mass-produced denim. The fabric width of selvedge denim is narrow. This means that a higher yield of fabric is needed per pair of jeans. 

As the productivity of creating selvedge denim is lower, it can be expected that the price tag is more expensive than mass-produced jeans. It is also becoming rarer due to the older equipment used to create the fabric.

Is selvedge denim durable?

Selvedge denim is very durable. The lifespan of a pair of selvedge denim jeans can be anything from a few years to decades, depending on the construction, brand, use and care of the product. Even if selvedge denim is worn daily for years, you can still expect them to hold up. Even if you do experience minor wear or rips, they can be patched up fairly quickly and easily.

Who invented selvedge denim?

The very first pair of denim jeans were created for workwear by Jacob W Davis in 1873, at the request of a customer. Davis had purchased fabric from the one and only Levi Strauss & Co., which we now know as Levi's.

The idea eventually caught on, and Davis partnered up with Strauss to create the workwear pants we now know as jeans. As their main purpose was for miners and ranchers, the fabric needed to be durable and thus were created using the selvedge denim process.

Which brands do selvedge denim?

Here at Stuarts London, we have a range of brands that do selvedge denim for you to explore. They include: