Turning back to our Grandpa’s outfit with Selvedge Denim

by Manuel Taboada Nogueira

If we look in the wardrobe of any person there are certain garment that we will always find. These, surely, are socks and denim jeans. However these clothes that you are probably wearing right now are vey different from the outfit that your grandpa or even your dad wore. Differences in the production way, the quality and even the design and innovation of the product. This happens because nowadays it is difficult to find companies committed with the quality and the tradition. 

With regard to socks this problem is solved thanks to Thunders Love, but what is about the Denim? Fortunately there is a type of jeans, the Selvedge denim, that still keeps faithful to the craft of well made things.

 Selvedge Denim: an old-fashioned denim-weaving technique 

The word ‘selvedge’ relates to the ‘self-edge’ of fabric. Thus, by definition selvedge denim means “an edge produced on woven fabric during manufacture that prevents it from unravelling”. Therefore, looking at the inside of the outseam, is an easy way to identify a pair of jeans made from selvedge denim.

Selvedge Denim and Bohemian socks from Thunders Love

To further understand its distinction between other types of denim, we need to go back in time. Before the 1950’s, the jeans companies have used shuttle looms to create most of the fabrics, including denim. They produced tightly woven strips of heavy fabric. The edges finished with tightly woven bands running down each side to prevent fraying, raveling and curling. As a result they obtained a desirable and durable product that paid special attention to every detail. 

Denim Revolution: a new symbol of youth culture 

From the 1950’s denim jeans became popular among teenagers, especially members of the greaser subculture. Thus, this garment originally designed for cowboys, miners and others workers was became in a symbol of young people's lifestyle. 

As soon as denim went from workwear to an daily style staple, the denim production changed dramatically. In the next few decades, the jeans quality was decreasing. Firstly because the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries and the implementation of cost cutting technologies. In fact, denim companies replaced the shuttle looms for projectile looms which are much cheaper and faster. These news machines are not able to produce a finished denim edge, leaving it susceptible to fraying and unraveling. 

The second one is because of changes in consumer expectations that wanted to pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-“ripped”. However, the “heritage movement” has been resurfaced by lovers of well made things. People who refuses missing the tradition and small quality details.

Selvedge Denim and Red Forest socks from Thunders Love

Selvedge Denim revival thanks to committed denim companies

In the recent decades some exclusive denim companies have proliferated to the production of selvedge denim, understanding and valuing the nuance and history of this traditional garment.

As well these companies have a self-imposed responsibility to focus on yarn quality, dyeing techniques, quality control, design and innovation. The problem with the selvedge is because there are just a few factories in the world using shuttle looms. That is the reason why Japan held a near monopoly with on the production of selvedge. However there are some American and British companies, like Ironheart which produce superb quality denim inherited from Japan.