Why is Selvedge Denim So Expensive? [Explained]


When searching for that perfect pair of jeans, you may have been advised to stick with selvedge denim. However, the price tag on that ideal pair of pants might deflate your positive attitude. Why is selvedge denim so expensive?

Selvedge denim is a higher quality denim produced on vintage shuttle looms. These shuttle looms are older and slower, but are used by manufacturers who want to prioritize quality over quantity. Selvedge denim is expensive because the weave is tighter and denser – and the production process itself is more labor intensive, on more delicate equipment.

The main takeaway is when you buy selvedge denim, you are getting premium denim that is denser and less likely to fray. But is the added cost worth it?

Before you smash your piggy bank, you would be wise to find out whether you will be getting all the bang for your buck. Let’s take a closer look at selvedge denim.

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Selvedge Denim vs Regular Denim

Selvedge denim differs from regular denim in the way that it is produced and, consequently, the amount it costs to produce. Put simply, selvedge denim is a premium form of denim, produced on vintage equipment by skilled labor.

Selvedge denim is made on a piece of equipment known as a “shuttle loom”. A shuttle loom is slower than a standard projectile loom (which is the type of loom used to create most regular jeans).

Standard projectile looms can create denim faster than a vintage shuttle loom, but the quality is usually worse. It should be noted that projectile looms are capable of creating high quality denim, but most manufacturers use these types of standard looms for speed instead of quality, and the overall process is rushed, which creates a lesser product.

Selvedge denim is manufactured with a different goal in mind. This process emphasizes quality over quantity, even if that means a slower, more methodical production process. The result is higher-quality denim, but it also costs more to create.

What does selvedge mean?

Selvedge means “self-edge”, and refers the self-finished edges on this type of denim. This causes a clean, non-frayed edge on the denim, that can be seen on the inside seams of the jean.

Here’s a look at those clean, non-frayed outseams on the inside of my selvedge jeans:

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selvedge-denim-cuff

This strong and sturdy “self-edge” is a symbol of the dense, tightly-woven, high-quality denim that is tough enough not to need reinforcement to prevent unraveling. This striped inside seam is a hallmark of selvedge denim, and an easy way to identify these types of jeans.


Pros of Selvedge Denim

Quality

Picture a shoemaker of old, hammering out a fine pair of leather boots. Now, envision an enormous factory churning out hundreds of boots at breakneck speed. Quantity and quality usually have an inverse relationship – when one goes up, the other goes down. 

Today, quantity has the upper hand, usually at the expense of quality. The reverse is true regarding selvedge denim. They are produced slower, with more care, and with superior dye and yarn.  

Durability

When you’re hard at work, the last thing you want to dwell on is whether your jeans will give out. When you wear a pair of selvedge jeans or a selvedge denim work jacket, you can feel confident that they will stick with you through thick and thin. 

Of course no pair of pants is completely indestructible, but selvedge denim is denser, with a reinforced edge, and manufactured in a way that deters fraying. This makes them sturdier and less prone to wear and tear – the ideal work attire.

Uniqueness

Since selvedge denim involves a more tedious production process, each pair of selvedge denim jeans is unique. When going the traditional route, unique is hardly an apt descriptor for your pair of jeans. 

Conversely, one of the most attractive features of selvedge denim jeans, is its exclusivity. If you’re seeking a pair of jeans that is both distinctive and classy, selvedge denim is a great choice.

Clean Style

The hallmark of selvedge denim is its sleek edge that is neatly hemmed. Selvedge denim doesn’t have the tattered edge that regular denim has. 

It emits a polished style that looks good both in an office, and out on the town.

Form-Fitting

Premium leather boots are popular because leather is known to shape to your foot over time, creating something that is both stylish and comfortable.

Selvedge denim is very similar. Over time it will mold to your figure. Human bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and it is often frustrating to squeeze your form into something that doesn’t accommodate your proportions. 

Regular jeans, made with less premium denim, has a stock fit that will adjust very little to your figure. Selvedge denim jeans stretch to suit your contour and will accentuate your figure. 


Cons of Selvedge Denim

Expense

Well, nothing is perfect. And yes, you’re here because of cost. Selvedge denim is not cheap compared to regular denim. For all its glory, selvedge denim jeans have some drawbacks:

On average, a pair of selvedge denim jeans costs about three times more than an average denim jean – maybe more, depending on the brand. 

While there are affordable alternatives, they may have some caveats that come along with their reduced-price. If you can live with those caveats – go for it. 

Stiffness

Looking for a comfy pair of jeans to lounge around in? Not going to happen with selvedge jeans – at least not right away.

Selvedge jeans are thicker and more rigid than the average pair of jeans. They’ll take some time to break into and might be inflexible the first few times you wear them.

In other words, you will feel these jeans. This isn’t lightweight, flimsy material. This is a dense type of denim, and will break in over time.

Care

Selvedge denim jeans are not washed prior to purchase, so it’s possible to see dye smudge here and there as you go.  

After ample wear and washes, this issue – along with that distinctive indigo splotch – will fade. But caring for premium selvedge denim isn’t as simply as “toss it in the washing machine.” You will need to read up on proper care. To read more, visit our article: Can you iron raw denim?

Narrow Fit

Most selvedge denim jeans are narrower than regular denim jeans, and might not be the exact type of fit you are looking for.

Now, remember, selvedge denim jeans will stretch over time. So that tight fit will turn into a more regular fit as the jeans form to your body over time.

But be sure you are expecting a more tailored fit. If you prefer baggy jeans, these might not be your best option.

Imposters

Yes, beware of fraudulent selvedge denim. Examine the stitching on the edge of the pants to discern whether it is the real deal or not.

Also, if you’re willing to pay up for premium denim, stick to brands you trust. I wouldn’t advise buying your selvedge jeans off a re-sell marketplace.


The Cost of Selvedge Jeans

As with most things, you get what you pay. If you want premium selvedge denim, it will cost you. But some brands do offer cheaper selvedge options.

Now, you will want to do your research. Some of these brands may be using techniques that create a less premium denim that they can still market as “selvedge”.

Again, my advice would be to stick with brands that you trust. Yes, it is possible to find selvedge jeans for under $100, but if you want the real deal, you will be paying multiple hundreds of dollar.

But it is important to remember that premium jeans like this can almost be viewed as an investment. These types of jeans won’t wear out on you after a few months.

Over the long run, selvedge denim jeans may actually save you money if you are able to wear them for years instead of going through 5-10 pairs of cheap jeans.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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