Initially known as 'self-edge', the selvedge is the narrow , tightly woven band on both edges of the denim fabric. A selvedge end prevents the edge of the denim from unravelling and shows a clean, finished look.
Old shuttle looms produce denim where selvedges are closed. Alternatively, on larger modern weaving machines, the weft yarn is cut on every pick, resulting in a fringed edge.
But one may ask, why is selvedge denim so desirable? There are a few reasons for this, one being that the shuttle-loom production process creates a denser weave than non-selvedge. This makes for better quality. Another reason is that the shuttle-loom process is older technology. The same reason someone would want a hand-made wooden table or chair, the character of the traditional method can be seen and felt. The process of the shuttle loom can be slightly inconsistent which leads to variations in the look of the denim which is quite unique for an industry where mass-production and uniformity is the norm. In the world of fast fashion, it is refreshing for some to buy a piece of clothing that will be with them for years to come, gracefully wear and evolve. .
One way to identify selvedge from non-selvedge is what is called the selvedge ID. Selvedge ID color varies with the brand and producer. For instance, colored thread was used by Cone Mills to identify the particular fabric used by it's major manufacturers. Vintage Levi's jeans were originally an all white strip and later had a single red striped selvedge. Lee's had a blue or green strip along one and Wrangler's was yellow. Nowadays, many selvedge denim brands get creative with their selvedge IDs because they know that customers love to show them off.
Why Japanese Selvedge?
At one point in time, most of the world's denim was produced in the United States. As time passed, the quality suffered as mass production took priority over more time intensive traditional methods. So where does Japanese denim come in? In the 1960s, Japan entered into the denim business. Jeans became popularized by observing the denim worn by US soldiers after World War II and became fashionable across Japan. As Japanese craftsmen began producing denim, some decided to stay true to the traditional methods and dedicated themselves to produce higher quality denim than other regions. Japan is one of the only places to stay committed to the vintage shuttle-loom produced denim manufacturing process which is costlier and more time intensive. Today, Japan is considered to produce the best quality denim in the world. Their high quality standards and attention to detail has refueled an appetite across the globe for higher quality jeans.
At our source of the Japanese Mill, there is an intensive process of rope-dying and shuttle-loom weaving taking place. This meticulous process and finished result is what makes Japanese selvedge denim the most sought after in the world. Japanese Mill specializes in sanforized denim, which refers to the pre-shrinking of the fabric to less than 1%. This reduces unwanted size changes. That means if you like the fit when you try on KATO', you most likely will continue liking it as time passes.