“Typically, the most common denims on earth are going to 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 facing a wall of heavyweight selvedge denim 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 experience golf on a scholarship, drafted a business plan in college to launch a golf company, then finally moved to New York in 1997 and started in on denim.
He arrived at the party in the perfect time. “I remember going and acquiring a couple 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 during the time was $25 higher priced than every other product they were making.” It 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 awesome Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For Many Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then the wave really caught on and leading up to the present premium denim companies have begun ad infinitum.
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 North Carolina were still. 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 of the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is among the founding fathers in the fabric. Starting in 1891, these were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the entire early and mid-1900s, they made only one kind of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the newest rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, no one was ordering the slower, more expensive japanese selvedge denim. “At time, the major brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – every one of the American brands were focused on this moderate price point.”What Morrison seen in Japan were mills concentrating on premium denim of the sort North America once made. He remembers it being better over the board, from fabrics to sewing to wash. Plus it left an impression. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I used to be a little 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 person 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 – was to bring this quality returning to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t perform the same inside the States?” said Morrison. He did, but it didn’t catch on right away. He says his first couple of 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 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 to date. 3×1, supplies the largest collection of selvedge denim in the world. They have, at any moment, 70 rolls of selvedge denim wholesale on the “denim wall,” and through the years have introduced greater than 1000 several types of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills are definitely the rockstars in the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 specializes in specialty, plus they 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 a few things i want,’” said Morrison.
To reach that point takes a bit of education. And without digging with the annals of denim geek forums, it takes a bit of translating. So, Morrison provided to provide a lay from the selvedge land – an introduction to things to consider when choosing premium denim.