Godzilla vs. King Kong (or Japanese Selvedge vs. American Selvage)
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
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Thanks to the folks over at Men's Journal for bringing the good news to the uninitiated that investing in a top quality, American Made, raw selvedge denim jacket doesn't have to cost a small fortune.
Brave Star Selvage
The Ironside 14oz Selvedge Denim Jacket
Fourteen ounces is a heavier weight for denim lovers who truly enjoy a lengthy break-in period. But that extra heft is worth the work out and the less polished look of the the non-gassed fabric will only get better with age. The jacket was designed with a straight fit and sleeves that move better than most, so you won’t feel tied down while you’re breaking it in.
Thanks once again to The Denim Hound for featuring and reviewing our new Cone Mills unfinished 14oz in the Regular Taper fit.
Fit: Regular Taper. A roomy top block and thighs with a strong taper down the leg.
Measurements (size 32): Waist 35″, rise 10.5″, back rise 15.2″, hip 19″, seat 19.6″, thigh 12″, knee 8.25″, hem 6.7″, inseam 37″. 1.5″ shrinkage on the waistband, 2″ on the inseam.
Fabric: 14oz 100% cotton, unfinished/un-singed sanforized selvedge denim from Cone Mills, White Oak. Right hand twill with a greycast to the indigo warp and white weft. This has to be one of the most character rich Cone denims I have ever seen. Very hairy with a good amount of nep. This denim also has very small, sporadic slub yarns in the warp and weft. It feels almost like an unsanforized denim. Cone denim usually has a tight weave using high tension yarns. This denim however, has a looser than usual weave, with medium tension yarns.
BRAVE STAR SELVAGE GOING ULTRA HEAVYWEIGHT
Thanks to The Denim Hound for the review on the 21.5oz ultra heavyweight. Greg has a keen eye for all things indigo and has probably reviewed more selvedge denim than anyone else on this planet. Check it out here www.thedenimhound.com and give him a follow on his social channels.