Before jeans came in a dizzying array of fits, colors and styles, there was selvage denim—the hardy fabric of cowboys and motorcycle rebels who wore their jeans not until they went out of fashion but until they wore out. (“Selvage,” or “self edge,” refers to the finished, woven seam that is the hallmark of high-quality denim.)
Today denim for jeans is rarely made the way it was in the early 20th century: on shuttle looms that produce a thicker fabric that holds indigo better and lasts longer. While fashion followers have prized selvage denim for the past decade or so, in recent years more companies (we love Raleigh Denim, Nudie Jeans and Levi’s Made & Crafted) have been selling selvage. The $200 price tag on some styles may seem steep, but keep in mind they can last for up to six years. The best way to buy them is raw, which means they weren’t washed after being dyed. “When you put on a pair of raw selvage denim, you can feel the difference,” says Eric Goldstein, owner of Jean Shop, the New York temple of denim. “It molds around you and becomes your own.”
HOW DENIM OBSESSIVES CLEAN THEIR JEANS
1. GO DRY
Machine washing fades jeans fast. Raw denim can stand up to the dry cleaner; the indigo color will stay dark.
2. GO COLD
Putting off the first wash for six months allows detail to develop—but odors too. De-stink jeans by freezing them.
3. GO DARK
When your jeans have developed character, wash them inside out by hand in cold water with Woolite Darks.
4. GO SWIMMING
Hard-core denim-heads do as denim pioneer APC suggests: They swim in the ocean while wearing their jeans.