“Typically, the most famous 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 – right now – vertical slubs as opposed to cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing facing a wall of selvedge denim factory in his SoHo store, 3×1. He was not speaking in tongues; he was simply speaking the language of denim. Morrison matured in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as being a kid, visited the University of Washington to play golf on a scholarship, drafted a business plan in college to produce a golf company, then finally transferred to New York in 1997 and began in on denim.
He got to the party in the perfect time. “I remember going and acquiring a pair of Replay Jeans and exploring the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, precisely what is Made in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ These people were $125, which at that time was $25 more expensive than any other product they were making.” It 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 and his awesome Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For All Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then your wave really caught on and leading as much as the current premium denim companies have started ad infinitum.
Back in 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison stated 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 type of denim – “it’s the record player of 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 early and mid-1900s, they made only one sort of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the new rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, no person was ordering the slower, more costly selvedge denim manufacturer. “At time, the major brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – each of the American brands were focused on this moderate price point.”What Morrison seen in Japan were mills focusing on premium denim of the sort The United States once made. He remembers it being better over the board, from fabrics to sewing to clean. And it left an impression. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I had been a bit obsessed, to put it mildly.”
Next trip, Morrison’s travels in Japan (and in addition 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 only a couple other premium denim companies at the time – ended up being to bring this quality returning to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we do exactly the same thing within the States?” said Morrison. He did, nevertheless it didn’t catch on immediately. He says his initial 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 through two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s interest in premium denim.
Finally, in the year 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project to date. 3×1, supplies the largest collection of selvedge denim on the planet. They may have, at any time, 70 rolls of selvedge denim wholesale on their “denim wall,” and over time have introduced greater than 1000 various kinds of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills are the rockstars from the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 concentrates on specialty, and they focus on a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer will be the one guy that’ll walk in and become like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s the things i want,’” said Morrison.
To get to that point takes a little bit of education. And without digging through the annals of denim geek forums, it requires some translating. So, Morrison offered to offer a lay in the selvedge land – an introduction to what you should consider when purchasing premium denim.