how to care for selvage denim
May 6, 2007 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Selvage denim: care and feeding

I bought a pair of Gap jeans and they had a little metal tag that said they were "Selvage" and the inner waistband says that they're Japanese denim. Do they require special care and feeding? I Googled the jean name (Gough) and found a bunch of advice from forums for jean nerds but there's so much lexicon there that I'm totally lost.

In short: are there best practices for these pants? If so, what are they?
posted by heeeraldo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They are probably raw denim and if so just don't wash. If you must, then do so inside out and in cold water. Also, avoid sitting on white suede couches

Selvage just refers to the edge of the fabric and the way the pant legs are cut on the ends of the fabric so that the white edges run up the inside of the outseam (roll up your cuff and look at the outseam)
posted by 5bux at 10:44 PM on May 6, 2007

The term "selvage denim" is more or less marketing hype. When Japan was in need of manufacturing equipment post-WWII, American producers were more than happy to send Japan their old machinery. If you believe the tags, the denim is created at a slower place, with the assumption being that the slower manufacturing process will lead to higher quality denim. This is not the case, but usually they will use a higher quality cotton product to start out with -- which is why salvage denim usually feels softer/more expensive.

So no, there's nothing you should be doing to protect your jeans. The only tips I have to give is to wash them inside out (to preserve any wash or distress in the jeans) and do so on a setting that will prevent shrinkage. I found that higher quality jeans are usually not pre-shrunk.
posted by geoff. at 10:46 PM on May 6, 2007

"Selvage" generally refers to denim that has been woven on shuttle looms rather than projectile looms, producing a fabric that is generally higher quality with regards to durability. Japanese denim in particular is considered to be higher quality than Italian or other denim.

The Superfuture board has everything you need to know. (Go to the "Superdenim" section, and search around.)

In the you care for them depends on how you want to care for them. Are they dry, one wash, or predistressed? If they're dry (or one wash), standard practice is to wash them as infrequently as possible (conventional "dry denim" wisdom is to wait six months before washing them for the first time). This is to maximize the contrast acheived in the distressing process. Other people wash them once a month. Different ways of washing (temperature, type of detergent, no detergent at all, inside out, drying techniques...) will produce different effects. There are basically two schools of thought in denim care, and one says not to wash to acheive cool fades and one says wash frequently in order to avoid sweat and oils weakening the denim fabric. Detergent and agitation from the washing machine remove indigo and will fade your jeans--if you wash them before distressing them, they'll fade pretty evenly. If you remove indigo through wearing them, washing them will highlight the contrast in hue.

They're really just jeans, though. They're meant to be workwear. Treat them how you would normally treat jeans.
posted by cosmic osmo at 10:55 PM on May 6, 2007

Here is a superfuture thread dealing with the Gough jeans in particular. It sounds like they are dry (so wear them as long as you can without washing them to distress them yourself!) and also not sanforized, which means that they will shrink the first time they touch water.
posted by cosmic osmo at 11:46 PM on May 6, 2007

I only ever buy and wear pre-shrunk selvage denim. Far from being just marketing hype...

"The immense care put into the detailing of this unique denim fabric, from the raw material to the weaving, dying and stitching, creates a jean of exceptional quality. Denim produced on shuttle looms is naturally irregular and these irregularities are enhanced as the jeans age, causing every pair to develop a unique and beautiful pattern as it fades. The deep blue color and the way the jeans fade can only be achieved by using the loop dying system. These details give the jeans authenticity and give you the knowledge that you own an article of the highest quality. Like fine wood, jeans made of selvage denim will only become more beautiful with age and wear, acquiring a patina unique to the wearer that is impossible to reproduce artificially. Each pair transforms in to a one of a kind piece. Owning and wearing jeans made of selvage denim is a very personal experience that no other item of clothing can give you."

I have no idea what the denim quality is on Gap jeans however. As for care then if they the Gough's are raw, indigo and stiff as a board then you'll need to break them in....

1. fill a bathtub with lukewarm water, turn your jeans inside out and soak them in the tub for ten minutes. dunk them, move them around a little etc every few minutes. then remove, roll them up and gently squeeze the excess water out and drip dry outside or if inside with a heavy towel or newspapers underneath. they will drip a lot of blue dyed water.

2. wear as long as you can without washing!

3. when you need to wash them again, turn them inside out and machine wash without powder at no more than 40 degrees. drip dry.

4. go to step 2 and repeat.

This should reward you with a pair of jeans that will last for years, wear beautifully and truly be part of you and your character.
posted by brautigan at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2007

Brautigan, the text you quoted *is* marketing hype.

Wash your jeans on gentle cycle, inside out. Hang dry.
posted by fake at 5:10 AM on May 7, 2007

Whatever you do, don't wear them. Ever.
posted by mkultra at 7:40 AM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

they're not $ 40,000 antique Levi's, relax, wash them inside out when you need to and enjoy
posted by matteo at 12:03 PM on May 7, 2007

The only special care when wearing them is to be wary of light colored surfaces. The indigo dye from the denim may transfer to other surfaces and turn them blue.

As for washing, everyone above gave pretty good advice. You don't really need to wash your jeans that often, but don't be afraid of washing it when they get stinky and disgusting. If they fit fine now and you don't want shrinkage, just soak them inside out in a tub with some cold water and Dr. Bronners. After an hour, drain the water, refill the tub with clean cold water, soak for another half hour or so.

To dry them, I usually roll them up in a towel to absorb any dripping moisture, and then hang-dry them still inside-out.
posted by nakedsushi at 3:40 PM on May 7, 2007

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