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Denim: From Cowboys to Couture

1/5/2016

Denim: From Cowboys to Couture

Denim. Everyone loves a nice pair of denim jeans, right?

Here at Frieschskys, we have thousands of pairs of denim jeans. But hidden among those numerous pairs of jeans, are a select bunch. The rare, the treasured… the Selvedge. What makes Selvedge denim so special? Well, we will get to that. But first a little history.

Denim jeans have been popular for almost 150 years, and owe their origins to France and Italy. Even the word “jeans” comes from the French name for Genoa, Italy. Denim jeans were deeply popular in America in the late 1800’s with cowboys and miners, and have never really faded out of style.

In fact, they’re such an incredible staple of Americana, that they’re in everything. One might think that the American west was forged on the strength of Colt Peacemakers and Levi Strauss alone!

Denim’s popularity ramped up in the 1950s among teenagers, and so too did mass production. Nowadays denim jeans are a $15 Billion industry, and when you’re moving that much product, the quality is almost certain to go down.

As demand for denim jeans rose, clever industrialists were on the lookout for ways to produce denim at a faster rate. Enter the Sulzer loom. Without getting overly technical, The Sulzer loom nearly doubled the width of the traditional shuttle looms while having a simpler weave, thus more than doubling production. Additionally, because of how the Sulzer loom functions, the edges of the fabric that are produced have a different look and feel than old-school shuttle looms.

Sulzer looms produce far more fabric at a much higher rate. They’re also of a lesser quality than the old shuttle looms, because as you might expect, small compromises are made to insure that the maximum amount of material is produced in the shortest amount of time.

Smartly, as mass production rose, many of the old shuttle looms were purchased by European and Japanese companies, and were mostly hidden away in warehouses, or sold to bespoke tailors who specialized in high end fabrics and quality clothing. And for many years, Selvedge denim was more or less lost to the general consumer.

Slowly, the demand for higher end clothing rose, and with that demand, so too returned the Shuttle loom and Selvedge denim. People began to clamor for Vintage Levis, and so-called “Red-Line” Levis began to sell for thousands of dollars.

See that picture on the left? That’s denim from a Sulzer loom. And the picture on the right? That’s denim from a shuttle loom. Now, the distinction may seem small to you, but to a discerning eye, that seam in the right picture is a mark of quality. Oh, and it’s worth noting that not all Selvedge denim has that red stripe. Some are green, or white, or any other variety of color. But red is the most common.

Which brings me to an interesting modern phenomenon. It’s a very common style now for jeans wearers to roll up the bottom of their jeans, thus exposing the inside seams to scrutiny. This began as Selvedge denim owners wanted to show off their higher quality jeans. Which, of course, spread to the mainstream, and now it’s a very common style, regardless of if the jeans are Selvedge or not! In fact, there are even fake Selvedge sew-ins that make jeans appear to be made from a Shuttle loom, when they are in fact not.

Everyone loves a good pair of denim jeans. They’re durable, look great, and they’re damn comfortable. But for the truly discerning, Selvedge is the only way to go. You’ll stand a cut above all of your friends, and you’ll know that what you’re wearing is of the highest, hand-made quality; something that you can always trust Frieschskys to deliver.

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