Simply put, selvedge denim is made on old looms, generally used in denim production up until the mid to late 1900’s. As demand for denim grew in America, mills began modernizing their machinery to speed production and the old selvedge looms became obsolete.
The word selvedge comes from “self-edge”; the edge of the denim has a clean finish, it will not unravel and is actually used in the garment (outseam). You can identify a selvedge jean by looking at the inside of the outseam.
The above illustration is an example of a how a jean pattern would be laid onto selvedge denim; this will give you a understanding of how the “self-edge” is used.
What makes selvage denim desirable?
Selvedge is often characterized as being a tighter, denser weave compared to non-selvedge; the density gives the denim an authentic feel. The older looms also create variations (imperfections); more variations make the denim more unique in the eyes of advanced denim guys.
Today, the Japanese are the leaders in high-quality denim, especially selvedge denim. The story is that when American denim mills were modernizing in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s – the Japanese bought their old selvedge denim looms and shipped them back to Japan. The rest is history.
Notice in the photograph above, the white edge with red thread, this is the “self-edge” of the denim. A non-selvage jean will have a cover stitch on these edges to keep the denim from unraveling.
The width of selvedge denim is generally 31” to 34” inches. Non-Selvedge denim is 60” to 64” inches.