Godzilla vs. King Kong (or Japanese Selvedge vs. American Selvage)

January 18, 2015 4 Comments

Hello Rivet Heads!

The debate over which is superior is one that will rage on as long as people continue to purchase & wear selvage. However this post is not so much about which is better but rather to clear up a few common misperceptions and myths about Japanese selvage and establish some facts about American selvage.

Let's start with the most common myth of them all, namely the "Japanese mills bought up all the American looms and that's why there aren't any looms left in America". This is simply not true. At all. I have traveled to Japan many times (8+ trips starting in 2002) and have visited all of the respected denim mills that produce selvage denim - Nihon Menpu, Kaihara, Kurabo, Nisshinbo et al and don't recall having ever seen a working American loom in any of the mills. Never. Not one. The Japanese never lacked for mechanical ingenuity and were/are very good at figuring out how to manufacture goods by building/engineering their own machinery including their own looms. In fact, what I did see were a whole lot of Toyoda looms. Named for founder Sakichi Toyoda who established Toyoda Loom Works in 1926. Toyoda eventually became Toyota, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world. To think that the Japanese would import old, used American looms when they had their own is economically senseless and logistically unjustifiable.

So what did happen to all the old American Hopedale Draper looms? Well, they ended up in scrapyards, fields and sold off for parts. Yep, its quite sad.

Now to clear up another myth. 'Japan has a denim heritage as old as the US.'

Not quite. America was the only country to produce denim up until the 1970's. Shocker! Yep, no one was weaving denim outside of the United States before the early 70's including the Japanese.

Ah, but Kurabo and Nisshinbo are both over 100 years old you say, so what about that!? Correct, but they didn't start weaving denim until the 70's with Kurabo being the first. So where did the early Japanese brands (such as Big John) get their denim before the 70's? Umm, Cone Mills actually. This is not to take anything away from Japanese selvedge at all - it most certainly is fine cloth.       

However, before anyone did anything Cone Mills did it all. Cone invented most of the attributes that make selvage denim so desirable to collectors and denim heads today from patented processes such as continuous warp dyeing (a technique still used today by the majority of denim mills) to the colored iD thread in the self edge of the denim. Couple that with the low technology of the old Draper looms and you get pure, unadulterated American selvage. Cone also developed the denim which brought Levi’s ® jeans their greatest fame and most iconic moments during the decades of the 1920's thru the 1980's.  When you invest in a pair of Brave Star Selvage you are purchasing denim woven in the same factory using more or less identical methods that have been in use for over a hundred years. Nothing beats authenticity - not technology, not reputation, not PR. Cone Mills was and always will be the real thing. So is it even a valid question then - which selvage is superior? Perhaps it's better to use that old maxim to answer this hotly debated topic -'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.'

Stay Raw, Mik

4 Responses

gregory tucker
gregory tucker

March 08, 2016

This the first time I’m buying your brave star jeans I’ve been looking for a nice pair of hard like jeans that are sturdy and tuff but look good and comfortable to wear

Roy Buckley
Roy Buckley

December 18, 2015

Hi Mik , Great Article ?! Iam very pleased to say my 16.5 True Straights arrived today in Padfield Derbyshire UK. and these really are the Dog’s Bollocks ( Testicles ) I have not had a pair this good since the 60s . As you’d ran out of 38s I ordered 36s with the intention of slimming down which I needed to do anyway for health reasons and it’s worked !! Ican just fasten them , a bit tight ,but they are on . So Iam wrapping them up again til xmas day when I know they will fit like a Glove . Even with UK tax and re-postage charge of approx $30 making them around £92 they are a True Bargain and I can’t see any other makes at double or treble the price matching the quality .Many thanks for making a getting old man Healthier and Happier . Merry Xmas to you your family friends and most of all your workers . Roy. p.s Iost 6 kilos since ordering approx 15 lb since !!! . Have a GREAT new year too .


February 22, 2015

This was enlightening. North Carolina sourced it from the beginning. Wow.


January 21, 2015

I have been looking for a decent affordably priced pair of jeans for the last 2 YEARS! Today i got my slim straiigt 14 oz in the mail. i tried them on and almost started to cry. These jeans are absolutely what i have been looking for. Fit, color, craftsmanship all superior to anything else I have seen on the market.

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