“Typically, the most popular 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 – right now – vertical slubs instead of cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing before a wall of heavyweight selvedge denim in his SoHo store, 3×1. He was not speaking in tongues; he was in brief the language of denim. Morrison grew up in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as being a kid, went to the University of Washington to experience golf on a scholarship, drafted a business plan in college to launch a golf company, then finally transferred to New York City in 1997 and began in on denim.
He arrived at the party on the proper time. “I remember going and purchasing a pair of Replay Jeans and looking at the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, what is Produced in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ These were $125, which at the time was $25 higher priced than every other product these people were making.” This is 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 Many Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then your wave really caught on and leading up to the current premium denim companies have begun ad infinitum.
Way 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 that tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic kind of denim – “it’s the record player in the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is one of the founding fathers from the fabric. Starting in 1891, these were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the entire early and mid-1900s, they made only one sort of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and also 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 raw selvedge denim. “At the 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 seen in Japan were mills focusing on premium denim of the sort Canada And America once made. He remembers it being better over the board, from fabrics to sewing to clean. Plus it left an impression. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I was a little 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 at that time – ended up being to bring this quality returning to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we do the same in the States?” said Morrison. He did, however it didn’t catch on immediately. He says his first 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 up until 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, in the year 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project up to now. 3×1, provides the largest collection of selvedge denim on the planet. They may have, at any time, 70 rolls of japanese denim on their “denim wall,” and over time have introduced a lot more than 1000 various kinds of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the globe. “The denim luhoxj the mills are the rockstars of the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 focuses on specialty, and they also meet the needs of a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer is the one guy that’ll walk in and be like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s a few things i want,’” said Morrison.
To get to that point takes some education. And without digging from the annals of denim geek forums, it will take some translating. So, Morrison offered to provide a lay from the selvedge land – a review of what to consider when buying premium denim.