Not all denim is the same. Aesthetically and spiritually there's a world of difference between fabrics created in large-scale modern factories, and those crafted on a traditional shuttle loom. Making a quiet resurgence are the fabrics that borrow from the old school methods to weave a little bit of hand-made craftsmanship into today's premium clothing pieces.
One such fabric hailing from Japan is premium raw selvedge denim. This is a different quality of denim. This is denim for the purist.
Selvedge stitching difference
Lifting the quality of denim is all in the weave. With a modern loom, during the weaving process the cross-threads are individual for each cross weave. On the traditional shuttle loom the cross-thread is carried back and forth in one continuous thread.
This leaves a piece of selvedge denim with its telltale clean edge, traditionally finished with a defining coloured thread. Pick up a pair of vintage jeans and you'll see this thread – red, green, yellow and white were common colours – running down the fabric's edge. Practically, it helped mills distinguish between fabrics. Stylistically, it gives a characteristic colour accent to a turned-up cuff.
Understanding that today's fashion-conscious male is on the lookout for ways to distinguish himself, a small number of Japanese companies saw a need for denim that had a little more care sewn into it. They sought out the old American shuttle looms. And they revived the old traditions from the early days of denim to craft true, raw denim for boutique and local clothing companies. Aquila's Aki denim jeans are a perfect example, milled and constructed in Japan to create a raw denim jean of true individual character.
To dye for
For its rich colouring, Selvedge denim is indigo dyed using loop dying machines as old and rare as the looms. Cotton yarn is fed through vats of indigo dye then looped up through the mill roof to allow the colour to oxidise ahead of its dip into the next vat – sometimes repeating for up to 30 dips to create a rich and deep indigo blue colouring.
Both this complex dying process and the loom weave give selvedge denim natural irregularities which become more enhanced with wear – adding a unique pattern to each pair as they fade. These touches are what define a man with a taste for something different to ubiquitous factory-made brands.
Caring for your Raw Denim
As the name suggests, when you take home your Selvedge denim jeans they are very much raw – untreated, unwashed and utterly pure. Here's how you take care of them:
- Turn the jeans inside out and place in warm water.
- Hold the jeans underwater for 10 minutes to make sure the cotton is thoroughly soaked through and any trapped air is released. If the jeans continue to rise to the surface after 10 minutes, don't worry – soaking for 1-2 hours is adequate. Don't soak for more than 24 hours.
- Indigo dye will be released from the denim and change the colour of the water. Machine washing will emphasize this colour loss. Hand-washing is also fine. Detergent is not necessary for the first wash, however if you do use it, make sure it's bleach-free. To soften, we recommend turning the jeans inside out and using a washing machine.
- Rinse the jeans thoroughly.
- If a washing machine was used, it's best to use the spin-cycle while the jeans remain inside-out.
- When the spin-cycle is finished, turn the jeans right-side-out, smooth out any wrinkles and hang-dry in the shade – we do not recommend using a dryer as the jeans may shrink beyond normal or the denim may soften too much.