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The Difference Between Raw Denim and Selvedge Jeans

Edwin jeans' coveted rainbow selvage seam.

Edwin Jeans' ED-47 'Rainbow Selvage" seam. Available at FUSShop.

We are asked what is the difference between “raw” denim and selvedge quite frequently, because, quite frankly, denim terminology can be confusing.  In an effort to not get too technical, here are some basic definitions.

Denim is denim in its original state: unwashed, untreated, unfaded and unprocessed.  It is sometimes called “Dry Denim.”  It is indigo denim straight off the looms.  Jeans can be made from this raw denim straight from the roll.  Raw denim can be hard to distinguish with the naked eye or even with hand feel, because there are many resin and super-saturated wash styles which mimic the desirable features of raw denim.

Selvedge (or selvage) denim
is woven on traditional, 100-year-old wooden shuttle looms.  Selvedge is referred to the type of weaving process, and not to denim, specifically.  Denim woven from traditional wooden shuttle looms use a continuous thread that goes back and forth in the weaving process, ultimately creating a closed-off, non-fraying self-edge (also known as selvage edges).  The slow shuttle looms produce a tight weave and uses more thread. As a result, it is more costly.  To maximize usage, companies would use the denim all the way to the self-edge, hiding the edges in the sewing process. Today, selvedge aficionados often reveal show off their selvedge seams (found on the outseam) by folding up the hems, revealing the identity of the superior textile.


An example of a selvedge edge (self-edge) on a fabric.

The selvedge seams are sewn together by fabric mills using different thread colors, depending on the factory’s color coding system.

For more technical definitions, check out the Denim wiki.

Are you a Denim Head? Contribute your knowledge!

— Kathy Ng Hassan

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Posted Oct 07 2010 in Ask the Denim Therapist » Denim News » Denim Therapy

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