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Is selvedge denim worth it? A look at what selvedge denim is, how to spot it and how to break it in

Week 236.0 — 2nd May '22

When I ran a loosely fashion based forum back in the mid-late 2000s, one of the most popular topics covered the member's wash and wear process for their jeans. Some started with more expensive jeans while others, like myself, were out seeking the same jeans from GAP and other retailers. Towards the end of the life of that forum, I began spending more serious (but not crazy) money on jeans by a brand called TwelveBar. Then Uniqlo started selling very reasonably priced denim and that's been my go-to for most of the last decade.

I've tried brands like GAP, Timberland (photo below) and TwelveBar, but Uniqlo have just become my go-to for a good pair of selvedge denim jeans.

I've recently taken ownership of a new pair of Uniqlo selvedge denim and am thinking about how I'll be breaking them in...

Why I prefer selvedge denim

I've preferred selvedge over regular denim for well over a decade, I find they last longer and just by wearing them they take on a personality of their own.

As someone who wears jeans daily, at least pre-pandemic, I found myself getting through pairs of jeans pretty quickly. In comparison, selvedge denim is typically tighter and stiffer if unwashed (or untreated if you prefer) meaning they last longer for me. The economics were pretty tight on that decision a decade ago but much saner now.

What is selvedge denim?

Business Insider have a great video on this topic, although they're looking at the very high end of the market.

What to look for

For me, the best feature of selvedge denim is the button fly. Unfortunately, Uniqlo do not offer a button fly for their jeans as they all come with zips. The easy way to tell if an item is selvedge or not is by turning the cuffs up and seeing if the join has a white edge with a red stitch. Some brands use other colours, but it's so obviously tidier than modern jeans that you will know straight away.

The jeans I covet most are by a brand called Edwin who offer a range of jeans that have 'rainbow' selvedge. The colours aren't as vibrant as they were but it's a nice touch.

One of the disappointing things about more recent selvedge denim are the back pockets. They used to be very deep, anywhere up to 50% in volume. Uniqlo have always had regular sized pockets, but even brands like Edwin and Levis no longer have deep pockets.

How to break-in selvedge denim

Confession time: I've sat in a bath with my jeans on to get them to fit better. It's not an experience I enjoyed but it made the jeans fit better for a few days which helped to break them in. Not something I'd do again to be honest, but I will wear them for at least a week before washing them.

One of the strangest bits of advice I remember seeing was to go in the sea with your jeans on. I've never had the opportunity but I reckon that would be a fun experiment to do!

When it comes to selvedge denim, the most common advice you'll find is to wash them as little as possible. I'm more open to washing as it stops the jeans from just being loose all the time and of course keeps them clean, but I'd be lying if I hadn't gone months without washing them in the past. They definitely fade better and there's more contrast but I'm not that precious about it.

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Quick links and commentary on interesting articles, videos and more throughout the week.

  1. 236.2 – Tuesday
    1. 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known kk.org
  2. 236.4 – Thursday
    1. Every Tool in a Traditional Sushi Restaurant Bon Appétit on youtube.com
    2. "The G Word with Adam Conover" trailer Netflix on youtube.com
    3. How a mechanical watch works ciechanow.ski

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