Selvedge or selvage, either way you care to spell the word is acceptable. The terms come from “self-edge” which refers to the edge on a roll of fabric. Those colored threads you see on the selvedge outseams are actually used to help mills differentiate between fabrics. Selvedge denim is woven on traditional shuttle-looms, which can only produce fabric rolls that were 30 inches wide. Using the fabric rolls end to end, the selvedge lining ends up on the outseams of the jeans, leaving it visible when the denim is cuffed. When the demand for denim increased, a lot of companies abandoned the shuttle mills due to the limits on the amount of fabric it could yield – and moved to projectile looms. These projectile looms could make more denim, and make it faster – but the quality wasn’t as high as the old school methods. Cone Mills is one of the few remaining mills in the United States that is still making denim on vintage shuttle looms; and they’ve been doing it since 1905. They’re responsible for the denim used by brands like Tellason and Rogue Territory. Beyond just the traditional way of weaving the fabric, selvedge denim is of much higher quality, heavier weight, and typically dyed with natural indigo, rather than synthetic dyeing techniques. All in all, a better pair of denim that will stick around for a long time, and look better after each time you wear them.
**I know this has been covered by a lot of blogs/shops – but I wanted to share it here for my readers. The knowledge on selvedge denim is pretty universal, but if you feel I’ve copied you – feel free to shoot me an e-mail: ryan [at] simplethreads [dot] com
If you’re reading this, you more than likely appreciate well-made products; and you understand that you get what you pay for. Back in the good ol’ days, the hard-working men & women who built our cities from the ground up, made our railroads go on for thousands of miles, and made America what it is today understood that concept as well. They were willing to pay for a boot or shoe that would last more than a single season, and understood that you do indeed get what you pay for. Workers used to count on their boots to last them for awhile, and thanks to the Goodyear welt – this was the case. Putting welts on shoes was around long before the Goodyear welt, but it was an extremely long process that was done with hand-stitching and abandoned due to the time it took. Fast forward to 1869 – machinery was invented to speed up the process of welting a shoe by Charles Goodyear, Jr – the son of Charles Goodyear (you know, the guy who revolutionzed the process to vulcanize rubber and what not.) This dramatically shortened the time it took to apply a welt to a shoe, and earned it the title: Goodyear welt.
“A welt is a strip of leather, rubber, or plastic that is stitched to the upper and insole of a shoe, as an attach-point for the sole. The space enclosed by the welt is then filled with cork or some other filler material (usually either porous or perforated, for breathability), and the outsole is both cemented and stitched to the welt.” Wikipedia
With the use of a welt, the shoe becomes resoleable – since the outsole can be removed from the welt and replaced with a new one. As long as the uppers of a shoe or boot are intact, it can be resoled over & over again. A welt also protects water from getting in through the outsole – so you’re getting another layer of protection from the elements. It’s just another reason why it is worth paying good money up front for a nice pair of boots that can be resoled for the years to come.
I guess maybe I’m just a super nerd about garment construction, but I think that it’s important to understand old-world techniques, and why those techniques are still sought after today. The little details that made a pair of jeans last 3 years instead of 3 months, or kept a work shirt together wash after wash. This is all about the way things used to be.
The original standard for hemming a pair of denim was the chainstitch, which is a looped stitch resembling the links of a chain. The forms a very sturdy and heavyweight stitch that not only allows for a more sturdy cuff on your denim, but it’s also visually appealing and noticeable if you’re wearing a single-cuff. The Union Special 43200G was the first machine that was able to do this type of stitching, and the majority of your denim shops (Self Edge, Super Denim, Rogue Territory) still use this exact machine to hem denim. A chainstitched hem will also cause a “roping” effect on the jeans, causing the denim to warp around the hem due to the stitch; this really becomes visible after a few washes and some heavy wear.