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Custom. Tailored. Raw.
Introducing Selvedge & Raw. Custom denim from Tailor Cooperative.

A Brief History of Denim

Originating in Nimes, France (and hence the name), denim has technically been around for quite a long time.

After centuries of relatively under-the-radar existence, this twill, indigo-dyed, sturdy fabric started to gain it’s now significant popularity in 1873 when Nevada tailor Jacob Davis added copper rivets for durability, later partnering with Levi Straus to manufacture the ubiquitous jean-style trousers we all know so well.

In the decades that followed, denim jeans enjoyed a reputation as bullet-proof workwear, sought after more for their utility than for their style.  

But fashion history often involves elements of emulation, and of identity. Like the peacoat, it was working-class respect for labor, and a pride in modest living, that soon gave denim jeans their standing as a cornerstone of hip casualwear.

And in more recent years, as reverence for craft over mass-production has at last regrouped, well-made and authentic denim jeans have become more and more common in sophisticated settings (such as beneath a fine tailored blazer).

Japanese Selvedge Looms

Today the best denim in the world comes from Japan.

And in part, we have James Dean to thank for that.

Post-war Japanese youth developed an enthusiasm for silver screen western troublemakers. They obsessed over Brando’s Johnny Strabler with his upturned cuffs, and Dean’s swaggering Jim Stark from Rebel Without a Cause.

What the motorheads, the greasers, and the switchblade youth all had in common was disdain for high-society and a love for well worn denim and blue-collar muscle.

Pair these sentiments with an ever-present cultural drive for craftsmanship, add some of the world’s best looms, and the Japanese denim wave had begun its swell.

By 1973 Japanese denim manufacturers were producing the world’s finest selvedge … denim with finished edges and a thus a tighter, higher-quality weave with charming artisanal imperfections.

Selvedge denim is harder and slower to produce (a 31” loom width is the maximum limit for selvedge … nearly half the bolt-width of non-selvedge looms). But for dedicated denim enthusiasts, there is no substitute for it.

To Dye For

When one thinks of denim, one thinks of indigo.

Deep dark blue, natural indigo is one of the world’s oldest dyestuffs, dating back some 5,000 years. Producing natural indigo requires immense expertise and is quite expensive, but is still done today.

Most denim is dyed instead using synthetic indigo. This allows for greater consistency, but as one might expect … the more expensive, inconsistent, different-from-one-batch-to-the-next character of natural indigo is vastly favored by denimheads.

Whichever dyestuff is used, the results are relatively similar. Denim is only dyed on the warp threads, which is why the underside of a denim fabric is still white. And because indigo pigment can’t quite penetrate the cotton fiber, but rather sits on top of it, we get the signature fading and wear over time that denim jeans are known for.

In fact, the fading is a large part of the draw.

Raw Personality

Once upon a time, all denim was sold raw.

Raw means the fabric hasn’t been washed or “broken-in.” Raw denim is woven on the loom, dyed, sewn, finished, and sold stiff. 

During the 1970s, western mass-production and widespread popularity essentially commoditized denim jeans, and with commoditization comes a need for consistency. Outside of Japan, raw denim fell out of favor. Denim jean manufacturers would wash and break-in the denim before selling it, so that every pair was predictably the same. No shrinking. No fading. No fuss.

But a true connoisseur, as always, relishes fuss.

A true connoisseur wants to be in control of the fading, of the shaping to form, of the character.

In recent years, raw denim has gained deliberate popularity.

When one buys raw denim jeans, the breaking-in process makes every pair unique. Every wrinkle, every faded line, every pattern of wear is one of a kind. 

Denimheads take great pride in the breaking-in of raw denim. They dive into the sea wearing their denim, they air-dry it afterward, they starch the fabric for pronounced creases, and they refrain from washing it for the first few months or longer. 

They shape them with intention, and make them their very own.

A Perfect Fit

It is a universal truth that clothing looks best when it fits well.

Denim is no exception.

There’s a reason everyone has a favorite brand. Levis, Wrangler, Guess, Polo … whatever you prefer to wear, chances are it’s because that brand just seems to feel better. Unconsciously, most people are already aware of the value of a good fit.

As one of the few shops in the world where one can have a pair of custom, tailored, raw, selvedge, natural indigo denim trousers made, Tailor Cooperative takes great pride in the history behind denim, and in the immensely personal nature of jeans made from the finest denim available.

To this end, we believe there is no such thing as “standard sizing.” All of our denim trousers are made to measure. And to make them even more uniquely you, we offer customizability in the rivets, thread, fade, and other details.

What you wear is a reflection of your personality, of your attitude, of your comport. And there should be nothing standard about any of that.

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