“Typically, the most popular denims on earth will probably be a 3-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – at this time – vertical slubs as opposed to cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing in front of a wall of selvedge denim factory in his SoHo store, 3×1. He had not been speaking in tongues; he was in brief the language of denim. Morrison matured in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as a kid, went along to the University of Washington to experience golf on a scholarship, drafted a business plan in college to produce a golf company, then finally relocated to New York City in 1997 and started in on denim.
He came to the party in the proper time. “I remember going and acquiring a couple of Replay Jeans and studying the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, what exactly is Produced in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ These people were $125, which during the time was $25 higher priced than any other product these people were making.” This was an advantageous enlightenment; through the late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim continues to be booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B and his Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For Many Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then your wave really caught on and leading as much as the present premium denim companies have begun ad infinitum.
Back in 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison said that at the time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in N . C . were. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for the tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic style of denim – “it’s the record player from the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is one of the founding fathers of the fabric. Starting in 1891, these people were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the entire early and mid-1900s, they made only one sort of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and also the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the brand new rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, nobody was ordering the slower, more expensive selvedge denim jeans. “At enough time, the big brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – each of the American brands were centered on this moderate price point.”What Morrison seen in Japan were mills focusing on premium denim from the sort The United States once made. He remembers it being better across the board, from fabrics to sewing to clean. And it left an impact. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I used to be a bit obsessed, as you would expect.”
After that trip, Morrison’s travels in Japan (and also in Italy) continued, as did his study of premium denim manufacturing. He believed he wasn’t the only one who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by only a couple other premium denim companies during the time – ended up being to bring this quality returning to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we all do exactly the same thing in the States?” said Morrison. He did, but it didn’t catch on immediately. He says his first couple of forays into offering selvedge denim failed miserably; customers weren’t ready for $250 jeans. He remembers that things which we take for granted on jeans today – oven baking, 3D-whiskering, hand sanding, bleach sponging – didn’t even exist until the early aughts. But Morrison held his vision, and through two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s interest in premium denim.
Finally, in 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project currently. 3×1, supplies the largest selection of selvedge denim on the planet. They may have, at any time, 70 rolls of japanese denim on their “denim wall,” and through the years have introduced greater than 1000 different types of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills are definitely the rockstars from the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 specializes in specialty, and they meet the needs of a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer is definitely the one guy that’ll walk in and become like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s a few things i want,’” said Morrison.
To get to that point takes some education. And without digging through the annals of denim geek forums, it will take a little bit of translating. So, Morrison offered to offer a lay in the selvedge land – an introduction to what you should consider when choosing premium denim.