i’m sure all of you own at least one pair of jeans. denim trousers. seluar jean. that piece of contraband apparel, only in malaysian government boarding schools (the rationale behind such a ban has defied me to this day).

last year, i was intrigued by denim trousers made of selvage/selvedge. a friend of mine got two pairs from a levi’s outlet in bicester for like 30 quid each (courtesy of a mate of his who worked there, hence staff price, during the sales to boot). so what’s the fuss here? selvage levi’s are pricier as they are made from sturdier stuff woven on a shuttle loom (which also takes a longer time to make). they are mostly american made (the majority of levi’s sold aren’t american anymore due to closure of US levi’s factories). my last american (bog standard non-selvage) 501’s were bought in 1992 at pertama complex and i still have it to this very day – very the tight, making me look like a metallica fan circa 1985. selvage denim is much denser due to the shuttle loom (they look like the looms you see in songket-making!) tenunan as compared to the mass-produced jeans you get in the shops. that’s why they cost more than a hundred quid per pair. and you can tell that they are selvage from the red threads in the inseams.

the selvage levi’s are designed based on the original 501’s and come in various forms according to the year they were designed (1901, 1939, 1947, 1966…). unlike current levi’s, the red tab shows a big E, as opposed to the current ones with a lower case e. also, they come in vintage, distressed forms as well as stiff, newly tailored dark denim. when one buys a newly-made raw selvage denim, there’s a little routine that one has to do which i actually followed (or tried to).

so, a fortnight ago i bought my first “new” 1947 (allegedly the archetypal 501 among denim collectors) 501 (from the same outlet – i try not to pay retail). i had to buy two sizes above because of this routine i am describing next. the recommended method is to wear them and get in the shower as denim shrinks. not wanting to risk dripping indigo dye onto my beige carpet, i washed/spinned them in the machine and wore them without drying them. lo and behold, the denim fitted me like a glove. did a few lunges (hehe) and i just waited for them to dry. i couldn’t be arsed waiting that long. so, once i was happy the shape was right i just hung them on the bannister to dry further. only then, i sent it to my trusty tailor to cut the kaki to my desired length.

one more rule with these guys – you are not supposed to wash them. if you have to, wash them once every six months. my red ears have only been washed once since december 2006…

will this be a new hobby? entah lah.

[click here for a brief FAQ regarding selvage denim, with photos]