“Typically, the most common denims on earth will be a three-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – today – 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 in brief the language of denim. Morrison matured in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as a kid, went to the University of Washington to try out golf on a scholarship, drew up a business plan in college to launch a golf company, then finally relocated to New York in 1997 and started in on denim.
He arrived at the party in the perfect time. “I remember going and purchasing a set of Replay Jeans and looking at the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, precisely what is Made in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ They were $125, which at the time was $25 more costly than some other product they were making.” It was an advantageous enlightenment; through 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 Many Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then your wave really caught on and leading as much as the current premium denim companies have begun ad infinitum.
In 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison claimed that during the time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in N . C . were still. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for that 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 in the fabric. Starting in 1891, these people were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the early and mid-1900s, they made only one kind of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved as well as 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 one was ordering the slower, higher priced selvedge denim jeans. “At the time, the large brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – every one of the American brands were focused on this moderate price point.”What Morrison present in Japan were mills concentrating on premium denim in the sort North America once made. He remembers it being better across the board, from fabrics to sewing to wash. And it also left an effect. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I was a bit obsessed, to put it mildly.”
After that 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 one who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by a couple other premium denim companies at that time – ended up being to bring this quality back to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we do the same thing in the States?” said Morrison. He did, but 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 stuff that we ignore 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 thru 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 currently. 3×1, supplies the largest selection of selvedge denim on the planet. They have, at any time, 70 rolls of japanese denim on the “denim wall,” and over the years have introduced more than 1000 different types of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills across the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills are definitely the rockstars from the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 specializes in specialty, and they also cater to 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 what I want,’” said Morrison.
To access that time takes a bit of education. And without digging from the annals of denim geek forums, it takes a little bit of translating. So, Morrison offered to give a lay in the selvedge land – a review of what to consider when buying premium denim.