Everyone’s got an opinion on denim – it’s the one fabric that joins us all together. There aren’t many people who can go through life without owning at least one pair of jeans, some dungarees or a denim jacket. And of course, we all know that within the world of denim, there are different levels of quality but for the purists who get queasy at the thought of some elastane-infused stonewashed numbers, selvedge is the instinctive choice.
At Universal Works, this iconic, red-edged cloth has been a firm feature of the denim department for years. Authentic selvedge is something that every wardrobe deserves; its purity and quality stand out against the shady crowd of lesser denims and guarantees a lifetime of durable pleasure. To find out why buying box-fresh is your best bet, it’s over to UW founder David Keyte, to spill the beans on his decision to make selvedge a non-negotiable part of the collection.
“Denim is one of the most amazing fabrics due to the way it ages. It’s different from most other cloths because the older it gets, the more we love it. It doesn’t get worse and deteriorate, it just develops its own patina, gets softer, more comfortable and more unique. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of pulling on a pair of ‘lived in’ jeans.
In terms of value, selvedge is the best. It tends to be made on older, slower-paced looms that create narrow reams of cloth with the recognisable red edge that you see on the inside (I’ve also seen green, orange and blue selvedges in the past). This manufacturing method creates a different texture to the modern, faster looms and sometimes you’ll even get the odd imperfection, which I think makes it all the more beautiful.
We have two makers crafting our selvedge, which we source from Japan and Portugal. Some UW trouser and jacket pieces are made in Leicester by a trusted denim expert with over 30 years of experience. It used to be a 40-strong team but now it’s down to just 4. There is also a great maker over in Portugal, who we collaborate with to make our ‘non-jean’ styles.
You’ll notice that the UW selvedge is described as ‘Organic & Real Indigo’ to show our commitment to putting less chemicals into the environment. It’s a big UW goal right now to work as sustainably and organically as we can – which is where indigo comes in. Alongside the selvedge being woven from organic cotton, the real indigo dye is from a plant source. This gives it that amazing colour, but because it’s less stable than the artificial version it sometimes transfers to other fabrics, so you have to be a bit careful when you first wear them. You’ll even end up with bright blue hands if you leave them in your pockets for too long!”
All Universal Works, selvedge is cold rinsed before selling to regulate the shrinkage and maintain the correct sizing. In terms of the folklore about breaking in your selvedge pieces, David Keyte isn’t part of the ‘never washing it’ crowd, or the enthusiasts that insist on 2-3 years of wear before striding into the ocean for a salty freshen up. “Honestly NO! I wash my denim when it’s dirty. It fades a little bit each time and the colour wears off in certain places that get used the most – like sitting on your backside! I’m a big fan of treating denim in the way it was intended; as a long-lasting, hard-wearing fabric to be lived in, and enjoyed.”