The Selvedge Line
By: Eddie Vasquez
I have a silly habit of saying “[insert subject here] changed my life.” For example about five or so years ago I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. I mean really saw it. I was finally able to pay close attention throughout the duration of the film after giving it countless goes. I know, I know, shame on me. Needless to say, I was blown away.
Blown away by the dawn of man opening, the scientific accuracy of depicted space travel in the ’60s, and of course the indescribably discomforting fate of the main protagonist. So yeah, I really enjoyed Kubrick’s existential Sci-Fi epic, but saying “2001: A Space Odyssey changed my life,” which I have indeed uttered, is a stretch.
A few days ago I was talking to some friends and I used my trusty old “ [insert subject here] changed my life” line again. This time we were talking about denim: selvedge denim to be exact. But, and this is a massive but, this statement was and is anything but a stretch…no pun intended.
I’ve been hooked on selvedge ever since I was gifted a pair of Nudie Jeans about eight years ago. I’ve literally, in the literal sense of the word, worn strictly selvedge denim since. I wear my jeans every day and wash them only about twice a year, unless they get really funky or need to be sent out for repair.
“Raw selvedge” is essentially rinse-free, indigo-dyed denim that’s been produced on a vintage machine shuttle loom. Production on a shuttle loom results in a self-finished edge that prevents the fabric from fraying and unraveling and gives us that distinguishing red selvedge line I’ve come to favor.
Unfortunately machine shuttle looms fell by the wayside around the mid-twentieth century in favor of projectile looms, which are capable of producing much more yardage of denim in a shorter period of time. Sounds an awful lot like an Econ class concept of supply and demand, right? Fortunately though, there’s been a resurgence of selvedge denim in relatively recent years, which in turn, has breathed life back into all those old amazing shuttle looms.
~ AMERICAN CULTURE REPORTER ~ (Cont.):
What’s the deal with the bi-annual washing? Well here’s where wearing raw selvedge takes commitment. This process separates the true diehard from the fair-weather Denim Heads. Your goal with raw selvedge denim is to lose indigo gradually, over the jean’s lifespan. Washing too often will result in an impersonal pair of jeans and minimize the distinguishing fades of your jeans. On second thought, commitment might be too dissuading of a word for some folks. Instead, think of your raw selvedge as an ongoing project, a pair of jeans that will have been broken in by your daily wear and tear. Not pre-faded with a sandblaster in a factory or acid-washed on an assembly line with many hundreds of other pairs.
Think of your raw selvedge as the pair of jeans that will have been with you through thick and thin. The pair of jeans you were in when you proposed to your significant other, or when you finally got that promotion you’d been pining for. You get the picture. Think of your jeans in this way and they’re sure to become by far your favorite piece of cotton.
The washing process is actually quite simple. The only problem is it takes at least 24 hours to let the jeans air dry. Here’s my method: Fill up the bathtub; a bucket will suffice, with cold water. Submerge the jeans, and agitate just a bit as to not lose an excessive amount of indigo. Let ‘em soak for about 30 minutes. Rinse for another 30 minutes in clean cold water. Hang dry. Couldn’t be simpler. If they’re particularly well loved, the smallest bit of detergent can be used.
Did I say repair? You’re damn right I did. When the time comes to progress from your first pair of “entry-level” selvedge into the higher quality, heavier weight selvedge brands, you’re going to know exactly where your money is going. That money is going straight toward the lengthy, labor-intensive production of your new jeans. We’re talking hand-stitched here in the USA, people! How rare is that these days?
When you advance to these higher priced brands, you’re going to want to hold onto them for as long as possible, preferably until they’re disintegrating. This extended wear means you’re going to run into the occasional rip or the ever-dreaded crotch-blowout. Have no fear though for there are companies that provide in-house denim darning; darning being the process of creating new denim in the place of old denim. I’ve had several pairs of denim repaired a few times. Recently I sent my Rogue Territory “Stanton” jeans out to a shop in California called Railcar Fine Goods, where I received great service from their communications staff and exceptional mending from the lucky person who got to darn my darn jeans.
Now that you understand the basics of selvedge denim from a self-proclaimed Denim Head you can go out into the world and try on a pair for yourself. Go ahead and see why “selvedge denim changed my life,” isn’t a big stretch. Invoke your inner James Dean.
~Editor’s note: American Culture Reporter is a new brand by Han Vance (Editor-in-Chief) featuring Vance + other writers and artists.
I bought jeans with my name on them. It didn’t change my life.