In a world where denim has grown into a multi-million pound industry, the choices can sometimes be mind boggling for the consumer. Browsing a catalogue or taking a walk around a menswear store can be a daunting task on the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans, when you don't necessarily know what jeans are going to fit well or why one pair is so much more expensive than others. You see words such as 'selvage', 'raw denim', 'pre washed' hanging from the swing tags and the tendency can be to walk away bemused rather than to ask a member of staff about the difference. All this before you then throw whether you want a slim fit, boot cut, regular fit or loose fit into the mix.
After a quick scout around the Internet there doesn't seem to be one particular site that has tackled this issue head on leading me to write this article in an attempt to take away the stigma that designer denim has surrounding it.
Dry / raw / unwashed denim are some of the terms that you might see associated with this particular style. As you might have gathered from the last sentence it is denim that is unwashed after being dyed in the production phase. The result is a very strong colouration which through time will naturally wear away in certain areas of stress and general wear and tear. Although stiffer when first worn, raw denim is a must for some denim connoisseurs who love the breaking in process and the results that it brings with it. Areas such as the knees and thighs as the months go on will begin to fade and wear away, giving it a very personal 'lived in' effect.
It is said that you shouldn't wash raw denim for at least 6 months. Through this time your unwashed jeans will have time to develop their own stress areas and the dye will naturally fade. Washing them before this time will result in the dye pouring out of the jeans and the jeans shrinking slightly. It's a personal choice as to when to wash raw denim. Some people will go to lengths of putting their jeans in the freezer to kill off bacteria and give them another few weeks' worth of wear.
Selvage or selvedge denim is usually at the top end of the price range of a certain brand of jeans. Although they might not initially look like they are worth the extra expense, they harbour a fantastic piece of craftsmanship which is the selvage edge. Through the passage of time, denim of inferior quality will naturally fray and has to be stitched on the edge to prevent this happening. A selvage edge prevents this from happening and is created from one continual cross thread which is passed all the way down the edge of the fabric.
A selvage edge is identifiable by the two colour stitch which is still applied decades on. A popular way to wear selvage jeans is to upturn the hem of the trousers so the stitched panel is visible. Longevity and durability are the key features of selvage denim.
Just as raw denim is popular amongst some denim connoisseurs, washed denim also has a large following for reasons exactly the opposite to that of raw. Pre-washed denim has already gone through a washing process to give it an aged look. This saves the consumer the hassle of having to 'break in' the jeans. The washing process gives it a much softer feel and the jeans won't bleed as much dye when washed again once purchased. Artificial abrasions and faded areas are sometimes added to enhance the worn in effect that washed denim offers. Denim enthusiasts are in general against wearing washed denim as it goes against their love of creating their own individual jeans
Usually you will find that Japanese denim will be at the top end of the price point on jeans for men. This is usually down to Japanese denim being seen as the best. Large brands such as Stone Island and Evisu use Japanese denim for this reason. Old style Japanese looms produce softer, darker, richer and higher quality denim.