“Typically, the most common denims in the world 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 rather than cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing before a wall of selvedge denim in his SoHo store, 3×1. He had not been speaking in tongues; he was simply speaking the language of denim. Morrison matured in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as a kid, visited the University of Washington to experience golf on a scholarship, drew up a business plan in college to produce a golf company, then finally moved to New York City in 1997 and began in on denim.
He came to the party on the right time. “I remember going and purchasing a set of Replay Jeans and exploring the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, what exactly is Made in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ They were $125, which during the time was $25 more costly than any other product these people were making.” This was an advantageous enlightenment; from the late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim has become booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B along with his Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For Those Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then this wave really caught on and leading up to the current 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 during the time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in N . C . were still. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for the tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic kind of denim – “it’s the record player from the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is probably the founding fathers in the fabric. Starting in 1891, they were a premier fabric manufacturer, and throughout the early and mid-1900s, they made only one type of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved as well as 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, no person was ordering the slower, higher priced japanese selvedge denim. “At time, the big brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – every one of the American brands were dedicated to this moderate price point.”What Morrison found in Japan were mills focusing on premium denim of the sort Canada And America once made. He remembers it being better across the board, from fabrics to sewing to clean. And it also left an impression. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I had been somewhat obsessed, to put it mildly.”
Following 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 person who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by a couple other premium denim companies during the time – ended up being to bring this quality back to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we all do exactly the same thing within the States?” said Morrison. He did, however it didn’t catch on straight away. He says his first two forays into offering selvedge denim failed miserably; customers weren’t ready for $250 jeans. He remembers that things that we take for granted on jeans today – oven baking, 3D-whiskering, hand sanding, bleach sponging – didn’t even exist till the early aughts. But Morrison held his vision, and thru two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s fascination with premium denim.
Finally, this year, he started 3×1, his most specialized project currently. 3×1, supplies the largest selection of selvedge denim on earth. They may have, at any given time, 70 rolls of japanese denim on the “denim wall,” and over the years have introduced a lot more 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 concentrates on specialty, and they also cater to 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 what I want,’” said Morrison.
To access that time takes some education. And without digging with the annals of denim geek forums, it will take some translating. So, Morrison provided to give a lay from the selvedge land – an introduction to what you should consider when buying premium denim.