Southern Selvage: A Profile of Denim & Spirits

DS tag on machine

Over the last 5 years I have become a big believer in jeans made from selvage denim, mainly for two reasons.

First, the manufacturing process delivers higher quality. Selvage denim is woven on an old-style shuttle loom where a single cross thread is passed back and forth on the loom. The result is a denim that has a tighter weave and an edge that cannot fray. Typically this means stronger, more durable jeans.

Second, selvage denim feels more personal to me. What exactly does that mean? Well, allow me to explain.

Most jeans made from selvage denim are “raw,” which means they haven’t been washed, and ideally you want to wear a new pair of raw jeans as much as possible for about 6 months before you wash them for the first time. (Tips on washing coming later, BTW.) Now, that sounds crazy, I know. Why would anyone do that??!!? Well, that first 6 months is a breaking-in period where your jeans begin to mold themselves to your body, creating a fit that is uniquely yours. Then, when you do finally wash them for the first time, you’ll begin to see with your own two eyes how you’ve been wearing your jeans. The outline of your phone or your wallet on the back pocket, the lines on the back of your legs from the natural bending of your knees, even areas where you’ve scraped dried mud off with a pocketknife, you’ll start to see all those little marks that are yours and yours alone. A dear friend of mine put it this way: “Selvage jeans tell your story.” I’ve always loved that.

But, in my opinion, there is a downside to selvage denim, and that is the price. Because they are made using a more time-consuming process and because they are higher quality, jeans made of selvage denim also tend to be more expensive. WAY more expensive. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find raw selvage denim jeans selling for $250 and higher.

Enter Denim & Spirits.

Denim & Spirits

Denim & Spirits is an American Heritage clothing company founded by Sarah Mallory and Eric Davis in Nashville, Tennessee. Their aim is to produce high-quality clothing (including selvage jeans) at reasonable prices compared to the rest of the hand-made clothing market.

Sarah is a Kentucky native who has been sewing since she was knee high. She moved to Nashville to attend fashion school, and that’s when she met Eric, an Americana-obsessed music business major. Together they hatched the idea of Denim & Spirits, a line of menswear inspired by timeless rock & roll fashion and classic American workwear. Whether you’re looking at a photograph of Bob Dylan from 1965, or a black & white pic of Ryan Adams from 2003, the idea is that each artist could be wearing Denim & Spirits and you’d never know the difference.

Denim & Spirits shirts are sewn right here in Nashville, and are made to order. Their fall line includes some wonderful ginghams and chambrays, as well as their newest addition, a sawtooth western denim shirt.

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When it comes to jeans, Denim & Spirits keeps it simple with one classic fit: 45’s.

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45’s are slim and straight. THEY ARE NOT SKINNY. They’re made from high-quality selvage denim (sourced from Cone Denim in Greensboro, NC) and hand-sewn in East Tennessee. They’re dang good looking too.

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One thing I love about Denim & Spirits is their attention to detail. Take the pocket lining for example. While most companies might use a plain, white lining, Denim & Spirits uses this American Stripe for their standard lining.

stripe

As great as the American Stripe is, Denim & Spirits offers several other linings as custom options. And because each pair of Denim & Spirits jeans are made to order, adding a custom lining only costs $5 extra. My personal favorites are the Blue Dots and the Classic Patriotic lining.

blue dots army

If you’d like to try a shirt or a pair of hand-sewn selvage jeans from Denim & Spirits, they’re offering a special deal for our readers for the month of October. Just use the code MADESOUTH when checking out, and you’ll save 15% on your total order.


FAQ + Tips on the wear and care of selvage denim

  • “Won’t my jeans get smelly and nasty if I don’t wash them for 6 months?!?!” No, they really won’t! Hang them up each evening to let them air out, and spot clean them anytime you get dirt or mustard or anything else on them.
  • “How should I wash my jeans?” First, turn them inside out. Wash them by themselves on gentle cycle with just a bit of mild detergent. I use Woolite For Darks. WARNING: DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DRYER OR THEY WILL SHRINK UP LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS. Instead, let them air dry. They’ll be a bit more snug when you put them back on, but in a day or so they’ll be right back to fitting just how you like them.

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