INVESTING IN DENIM
What makes a pair of jeans worthy of an investment? We know all jeans were not created equal. While some designers play with cut, tapering of the leg, adding stretch, playing with stone-wash, dark wash, light wash, which wash, switch wash, bleaching, painting, ripping, tearing, shrinking, fraying, the true jean-lover sticks with where it started, raw selvedge indigo denim.
Before we explain what that means let’s jump into how the jean trend started…
JEANS: A SHORT HISTORY
Blue-Jeans came about during the western expansion of the U.S. when Levi Strauss (yes an actual man) and Jacob Davis collaborated on an idea to add rivets to dungarees, making the pockets stronger for field workers and miners alike. This strengthening made jeans more durable than anything else available, launching them into the mainstream for decades.
To this day Levi’s has kept their iconic status, even though it has fallen behind in quality after WWII. Today, the world’s best denim is made in Japan. Why Japan? Directly following WWII the Japanese fell in love with American culture and the clothes the G.I.s wore while stationed there, namely, their blue denim jeans. This led to the Japanese buying the majority of the original U.S. denim-making shuttle looms between 1946 and 1970, while the major American brands began to switch to a more modern, larger-format manufacturing process, and outsourced their manufacturing to China and India.
The Japanese are OBSESSED with denim, they are continuously perfecting their weaving and assembly practice to better mimic the way jeans used to be made and adapt them to modern trends. Specifically, the Okayama Five: the five heavy-hitter denim houses in Japan consisting of Full Count, Evisu, Studio D’Artisan, Denime, and Warehouse & Co. are leading the way in denim manufacturing. The five have been working for over three decades to perfect their ideal version of what denim should be and are the modern kings of raw, selvedge denim.
RAW? LIKE SUSHI?
So what is the big deal with Raw? When jeans come "raw" it means there has been no washing, preshrinking, bleaching, or artificial aging of any kind. Denim-heads love this because the pants, much like a fine Italian shoe, truly become yours after vigorous wear. They fade where you naturally cause them to fade, they loosen in the tight spots and shrink in the loose ones. No two jeans are exactly alike and when you buy raw you give yourself the opportunity to make that pair truly yours.
Did he just spell salvaged wrong? Nope. When it comes to jeans, selvedge is the big keyword. But what is it? And why does it matter so much? Selvedge is essentially short for “self-edge” which means the loom used in making the cotton twill created a closed edge at the end of the fabric to reduce the chance of fraying and loosening. It’s also the telltale sign that the denim was woven on an older-style shuttle loom, the way it was originally made. This kind of denim typically has a nicer texture and a more durable weave, hence why it is so sought-after. Best way to tell if a pair of jeans is "selvedge” is if the inside seam on the leg has a clean white edge without a closing stitch along the end of the fabric, its selvedge.
A NOTE ON CARE
If you are getting your first pair of raw (or Rigid, thank you Levi’s for making it more complicated) denim jeans, there are some care notes we need to cover as these aren’t like your childhood jeans. With Raw denim, the goal is to make them personal to you. In order to do that, it is highly encouraged that you wear them for 6-8 months without washing them. When it comes time to wash them for the first time, treat it like a child’s first bath, take it slow, put them on and sit with them in a tub with warm water and a mild detergent and give your legs a rub-down. Afterward, take them off, wring them out and hang them up while you run yourself through a shower.
DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DRYER.
To avoid shrinkage in all the wrong areas, raw denim must be hang dried.
A NOTE ON WEAR
DO NOT SIT ON LIGHTLY-COLORED FURNITURE or wear them with light-colored fabric-based shoes within the first 6-8 months. The newer they are, the more likely you are to accidentally transfer the indigo dye to other fabrics.
Now go forth and explore the wonderful world of top-tier denim. They will last for decades and be truly yours until they die.