One of the more recent resurgences in interest towards denim falls in the direction of selvedge jeans. Also known as “selvage” or “self edge”, selvedge jeans are constructed using shuttle looms instead of the more modern projectile looms. The most obvious difference can be noticed on the outseam: selvedge jeans sport a selvedge “ticker” as opposed to the usual row of overlock stitching.
This important distinction is one of construction and results in a very different aesthetic. While most fans of selvedge jeans tend to employ them in American workwear-inspired outfits, it should be noted that there’s nothing unsavoury about using them to “dress-up” one’s attire. While we’re not saying that you should definitely considering wearing your favourite pair of jeans to a wedding (unless it’s a themed event), there are certain guidelines that you can use to ensure that you get as much use out of them as possible, without committing any sartorial sins.
Go with darker colours
If you’re thinking of wearing your jeans at the office (and they allow it), then it’s important that you strive to keep things looking as professional as denim allows. This means going with the darker shades like raw indigo, over-dyed washes and even black. As in the case with suits, lighter coloured denim tends to give off a more casual vibe.
Even with “destroyed” denim being the popular thing in fashion right now, you don’t want to be sporting any holes in your jeans when you turn up for a dinner reservation. Aside from looking unkempt, frayed jeans tend to give off the impression that you don’t really care (or know anything) about taking care of your clothes and by extension, yourself.
Maintain tonal consistency
A fair number of selvedge jeans come sporting raw denim. This means that the fabric sees zero washing coming off the loom. This results in a “pure” look (vibrant colours with a light sheen), albeit with a cost. Due to the lack of pre-washing, any loss of colour with raw denim will be inconsistent. This means that with each wash, the indigo tends to fade first around high-stress points (e.g. back of knee). Over time, this results in a very unique faded look that is loved by denim fans, but pushes the outfit more towards the casual end of the spectrum. To avoid/minimise this, you can either choose to go with pre-washed jeans or cold-wash your raws by hand.
Hem/cuff your jeans properly
Selvedge jeans typically come with longer inseam measurements (at least 34 inches and above), which usually results in thicker cuffs. While this is great for that heritage workwear look, it’s going to look pretty goofy if you try to pair it with a nice blazer. Find yourself a proper tailor (who knows enough to keep the original selvedge intact) and have it hemmed accordingly. If you insist on flashing the selvedge, keeping the cuff slim (around a finger’s width or 1 1/4 inch) goes a long way towards keeping things classy.
Keep things slim
While it’s a good thing that the baggy denim of the 90s are long gone, we mustn’t forget the mistakes of our past. A smart-looking pair of jeans should follow the silhouette of your lower body. It doesn’t need to be a skinny cut, but you want to avoid looking like you’re wearing a pair of momma jeans. Tapered, slim straight and slim cuts tend to work best. A good approach to take is to size the jeans for your thighs first before looking at the waist (much easier to take in). If you prefer a more streamlined fit, you can always get your tailor to taper the jeans from the knee down.
Durability aside, what largely attracts people to selvedge jeans is the quality of the denim. Due to projectile looming being a time and resource-intensive form of production, only denim of a higher quality tends to be reserved for selvedge jeans. Some might be vintage/dead stock, while others possess impressive depth of colour. Regardless of the “it” factor, a good pair of selvedge jeans usually represents great value and should be enjoyed as often as possible (where appropriate of course).