There is currently a ton of information on the internet about raw denim. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation in articles like this one on Buzzfeed. It's important for us to provide valuable and truthful information on the subject so that people can make informed buying decisions. So, lets start at the top:
What Is Raw Denim?
Rather, when is denim classified as "raw"? The answer to this question is amazingly simple. It all has to do with washing. Raw Denim is any denim that is untreated or unwashed and is therefore left in an unadulterated form. The opposite of this is pre-washed, pre-distressed, or treated denim. Below is an example to illustrate the difference.
The History of Raw Denim
Image via Shorpy
Way back when, before jeans were worn as a fashion item, they were used as workwear. The guys that donned denim overalls and "waist overalls" did so because the material was durable and could handle the impact of their daily routines. The main reason denim was dyed with indigo was because it's dark blue color helped to conceal dirt. The most famous denim brand of all time has its roots in workwear; Levi's founded in 1853.
We will spare you the full history of denim but you can read more about it in Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks.
You can also read a little bit about how denim moved into the mainstream in Raw Denim and Counter-culture.
The simple fact is that originally, all denim was raw selvedge denim, but not anymore. Now, it comes in several varieties:
- raw non-selvedge denim
- raw selvedge denim
- washed selvedge denim
- non-selvedge denim
- washed non-selvedge denim
Speaking of selvedge...
What Is Selvedge Denim?
The term selvedge or "self edge" refers to an element of the construction of denim. Selvedge Denim is produced a little bit differently than modern denim is. This is because it is woven on "shuttle looms", which produce the denim in long narrow strips. The process is one of antiquity and is much slower than the majority of present day "projectile looms". Typically, selvedge denim is associated with high-quality goods, because for a long time after the newer projectile looms were introduced, the only brands that made selvedge denim were high-end and niche. Selvedge denim is known to have a tighter weave and more rigid feel than non-selvedge denim.
Via Todd Shelton
Is Raw Selvedge Denim Better?
No, not necessarily. There are multiple factors that can determine the quality of your jeans. Just because a pair of jeans is raw selvedge does not mean that the jeans are superior. Hell, even The Gap makes raw selvedge denim and we know they aren't known for superiority. The quality of cotton used to make the denim and the mill that makes it are often indicative of the quality of denim. In most cases, reputable denim brands will have no problem telling you where their denim is sourced from.
Some reputable mills are:
- Cone Mills, USA
- Nihon Menpu Mills, Japan
- Kurabo Mills, Japan
- Nisshinbo Mills, Japan
- Kaihara Mills, Japan
- Kuroki Mills, Japan
In modern times, Japanese denim rules the market, but Cone Mills still holds its own.
Why Buy Selvedge Denim?
As we said earlier, selvedge denim in particular is woven on vintage shuttle looms. This is notable for a few reasons:
- The denim coming from these looms has a tighter, denser weave
- The denim has a more authentic look and feel due to inconsistencies in the weaving process
- Most importantly of all it is The Opposite of Fast Fashion.
- Premium Denim WILL last longer than cheaply-made, mass-produced denim.
Why Buy Raw Denim?
Raw denim is the most personal clothing item you can own. Most denim heads will wear the same pair of jeans day in and day out. The result of this daily wear is an evolution in the fade patterns of denim that will break in perfectly to the wearer. Instead of buying pre-distressed jeans, you can break them in yourself over a period of time. Most people amplify this effect by not washing their jeans for as long as possible - some going a year or more without ever washing them. This sounds ridiculous and even disgusting to people new to raw denim, but science shows that its not really that gross. You can't argue with science, but you should still wash your jeans when they stink or are incredibly dirty. Here's how we recommend doing it:
How Raw Denim Fades
Oh and here is a shot to show how denim evolves over time.
Premium Raw Denim is The Best Choice
If you want the most personalized pair of jeans you can get - Buy raw denim.
If you want to support the Made in America Movement - Buy American-Made denim .
If you want quality denim that lasts - Buy premium denim From trusted mills.
If you want to buy clothing from brands that treat their workers fairly, is more sustainable, and isn't built to fall apart and end up in a landfill - Buy premium denim.
If you want more wears per pair - Buy premium raw denim.
How To Measure Raw Denim
Moral Of The Story
Buy Less - Choose Better!