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Your Grandpa’s Jeans: A Primer on Raw and Selvedge Denim.

raw selvedge denim guide

While denim jeans have been a clothing staple for men since the 19th century, the jeans you’re probably wearing right now are a lot different from the denim jeans that your grandpa or even your dad wore.

Before the 1950s, most denim jeans were crafted from raw and selvedge denim that was made in the United States. But in the subsequent decades, as denim went from workwear to an everyday style staple, the way jeans were produced changed dramatically. With the implementation of cost cutting technologies and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was greatly reduced. Changes in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape as well; guys wanted to pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-“ripped” jeans that “looked” like they’d been worn for years.

But about a decade ago, the pendulum began to swing back again. Men started pushing back against the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted a quality pair of denim jeans and to break them in naturally. They wanted to pull on the kind of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.

To give us the scoop on raw and selvedge denim, we talked to Josey Orr (fast fact: Josey was named after the protagonist in The Outlaw Josey Wales), co-founder of Dyer and Jenkins, an L.A.-based company that’s producing raw and selvedge denim right here in the United States.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I just hit up Josey for the inside dope on denim because he’s a cool young dude who makes awesome jeans, has an awesome beard, and knows his stuff.

To first understand raw and selvedge denim jeans, it helps to know what those terms even mean.

What is Raw Denim?

If you’re reading this in the email, click here to watch our video intro to raw and selvedge denim. 

Most denim jeans you buy today have been pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, and prevent indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw denim (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans are simply jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through this pre-wash process.

Because the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, raw denim jeans are pretty stiff when you put them on the first time. It takes a few weeks of regular wear to break-in and loosen up a pair. The indigo dye in the fabric can rub off as well. We’ll talk more about this when we go over the pros and cons of raw denim below.

Raw denim (all denim actually) comes in two types: sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage after you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and many raw and selvedge denim jeans are too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, so when you do end up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.

What is Selvedge Denim?

vintage man on motorcycle rolled cuff jeans american flag background

To understand what “selvedge” means, you need to understand a bit of history on fabric production.

Before the 1950s, most fabrics — including denim — were made on shuttle looms. Shuttle looms produce tightly woven strips (typically one yard wide) of heavy fabric. The edges on these strips of fabric come finished with tightly woven bands running down each side that prevent fraying, raveling, or curling. Because the edges come out of the loom finished, denim produced on shuttle looms are referred to as having a “self-edge,” hence the name “selvedge” denim.

During the 1950s, the demand for denim jeans increased dramatically. To reduce costs, denim companies began using denim created on projectile looms. Projectile looms can create wider swaths of fabric and much more fabric overall at a much cheaper price than shuttle looms. However, the edge of the denim that comes out of a projectile loom isn’t finished, leaving the denim susceptible to fraying and unraveling. Josey pointed out that contrary to what you may hear from denim-heads, denim produced on a projectile loom doesn’t necessarily equate to a poorer quality fabric. You can find plenty of quality jean brands from denim made on projectile looms.

Most jeans on the market today are made from non-selvedge denim. The pros of this have been the increased availability of affordable jeans; I recently needed a pair of jeans in a pinch while on a trip and was able to score a pair of Wrangler’s at Walmart for just $14. But consumers have been missing out on the tradition and small quality details of classic selvedge denim without even knowing it.

selvedge vs non-selvedge jeans denim

Thanks to the “heritage movement” in menswear, selvedge denim jeans have slowly been making a comeback during the past ten years or so. Several small, independent jeans companies have sprouted up (like Dyer and Jenkins) selling selvedge denim jeans. Even some of the Big Boys (Levis, Lee’s) in the jean industry have gotten back to their roots by selling special edition selvedge versions of their jeans.

The problem with this selvedge denim revival has been finding the selvedge fabric to make the jeans, because there are so few factories in the world using shuttle looms. For a while, Japan held a near monopoly on the production of selvedge denim because that’s where most of the remaining shuttle looms are; the Japanese love everything post-WWII Americana, and they’ve been sporting 1950s-inspired selvedge denim jeans for a long time now.

Japan remains the world’s top producer of high-end selvedge denim.

But there are a few companies in the U.S. producing denim on old shuttle looms as well. The most prominent selvedge denim mill is Cone Cotton Mill’s White Oak factory in North Carolina. White Oak sources the cotton for their denim from cotton grown in the U.S., so their denim is 100% grown and woven in the USA.

Don’t Confuse Selvedge with Raw

A common misconception is that all selvedge denim jeans are raw denim jeans and vice versa. Remember, selvedge refers to the edge on the denim and raw refers to a lack of pre-washing on the fabric.

While most selvedge jeans on the market are also made with raw denim, you can find jeans that are made from selvedge fabric but have been pre-washed, too. You can also find raw denim jeans that were made in a projectile loom, and thus don’t have a selvedge edge.

Make sure to keep this distinction in mind when you start shopping for selvedge or raw jeans.

The Pros and Cons of Selvedge and Raw Denim

The Cons

Upfront costs are typically very high. There are varying price levels for raw and selvedge denim, generally ranging from $50 to $300. The lower-priced selvedge and raw denim jeans (like the kinds you find at Gap) are usually manufactured in developing countries. However, there are a few brands that make their jeans in China and still charge $200+ for a pair.

If you want to buy a quality pair of jeans made in the U.S.A, from denim manufactured domestically, look to spend at least $90-$120.

Always keep in mind that higher prices don’t necessarily equate to higher quality. Higher priced selvedge and raw denim brands usually make their jeans from the same White Oak denim factory fabric as the more affordable brands. While the higher sticker price might reflect stylistic details that lower priced denim brands ignore, the high price of most designer denim jeans is often an attempt by brands to artificially create a high value in the mind of the consumer. Remember, price does not equal value!

They take a while to break in. Unlike most mass-market jeans that are oh-so-soft when you first put them on, when you initially don a pair of selvedge/raw denim jeans, they’re going to be super stiff. Depending on the weight of the fabric, it may feel like you’re wearing two plaster casts on your legs. Give it some time, wear them every day, and your jeans will soon start to soften up.

Sizing can be tricky. This is based on my personal experience. Most major jean brands use “vanity sizing” on their jeans. Which means while you may have a 34” waist, the sizing label on the pant will say 32” to make you feel better about yourself. Most selvedge jean brands don’t use vanity sizes (grandpa wouldn’t approve), so you can’t use the size of your Old Navy pants to gauge what size you should buy in selvedge and raw denim. You’ll need to actually measure yourself.

They’re mostly available online. If you live in a big city, you can probably find a brick and mortar store that you can visit to try on a pair of selvedge and raw denim jeans. Because of the tricky sizing with selvedge denim, being able to physically try on a pair just makes things easier.

If you’re like me and live in a smaller city, your only option for buying raw and selvedge denim is online. This, of course, makes finding the best fitting pair of jeans a pain. I’d recommend buying two different sizes of the same jean so you can find the pair that fits just right, and send the other back; make sure the company offers free exchanges and returns.

Indigo can rub off. Because raw denim hasn’t been pre-washed, there’s a lot of indigo dye in the fabric that can easily rub off on whatever it comes into contact with, like seat cushions, car seats, and your shoes. Hey, you’ve always wanted to leave your mark, right?

After a few weeks of wear and a washing, the indigo bleeding stops. And even if you do experience an occasional indigo rub off, removing the stain isn’t all that difficult.

The Pros

They’re durable. Because of the selvedge edge and the often heavy weight of raw denim, selvedge and raw denim jeans can hold up for a long time, even with near daily wear. A quality pair of raw/selvedge jeans, properly taken care of, can last anywhere from a few years to a decade. And if they do rip or wear out, they can always be patched up and repaired and put back into service!

Better value. While raw and selvedge jeans can have a high upfront cost, because of their durability, the long-term cost-per-use can actually make raw and selvedge denim a value buy. Instead of replacing a pair of mass-produced globocorp jeans every year, your raw and selvedge jeans will likely last you for a long time.

They’re (usually) made in the USA. If you like to shop American-made, then raw and selvedge denim is for you. While Japan is still the leader in producing quality selvedge denim, the U.S. is quickly catching up.

While most raw and selvedge denim jeans available in the U.S. are made domestically, there are some brands that do make theirs in third-world country sweatshops, so always check the label.

They look great. Raw denim is dark denim and dark denim is probably one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you can own. Raw denim jeans look much sharper than a faded pair of Wranglers, and not only can you wear them with a t-shirt and a pair of Converse shoes, you can also pair them with a dress shirt and a sport coat for a night on the town.

They’re personalizable. While mass-produced jeans come with faux fading and distressing that is the same for every single pair, with raw denim, you create the fading and stressing based on your body type and how you actually wear them. There are different types of wear patterns that may appear in your raw denim such as honeycombs on the back of the knee or “whiskers” on your thighs. Each pair is uniquely yours.

whiskers fading on raw selvedge denim

honeycomb fading on raw selvedge jeans

How to Fit Yourself for Your First Pair of Selvedge Denim Jeans

Because you’ll likely be buying your raw and selvedge denim jeans online, it’s important you get the measurements right.

Measure yourself. There a few key measurements you’ll need for getting a proper fit on jeans. The most important are the waist and inseam, but you’ll also want to measure the front rise, back rise, thigh, and leg opening. Josey breaks it all down for us in the video below. Also, take a gander at the diagram from Real Men Real Style.

If you’re reading this in an email, click here to watch video on how to measure for raw denim jeans.

jeans measurements how to measure yourself diagram

Remember, unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated to prevent shrinking, so when you wash or soak your jeans for the first time, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%. When purchasing jeans made with unsanforized denim, you’ll need to buy jeans a few sizes larger than you normally would and soak the jeans before you put them on so they shrink to the appropriate size.

Decide on fit. Most raw and selvedge denim jeans come in two fits: slim and regular fit. What each brand considers “slim” and “regular” will differ, which is why it’s so important to double-check their respective sizing guides.

  • Slim fit. Slim fit jeans have narrow thigh openings and are designed to hug your body (avoid this fit if you have thighs bigger than your head). If a brand doesn’t offer a slim fit, but you want a closer-fitting style, just buy your jeans a size down. Raw denim stretches a bit (about an inch at the waist) so you shouldn’t have a problem with fitting into a smaller pair of jeans.
  • Regular fit. Your traditional blue jean fit, giving you more room in the thigh and the crotch than you get with a slim fit. If a brand doesn’t distinguish between slim and regular fit, and you want a regular fit, make sure to buy your jeans “true to size.”

How to Break In Your Selvedge Denim Jeans

“Just wear them all the time.”

That’s the answer Josey gave me when I asked him.

There’s a lot of selvedge/raw denim old wives’ tales floating on the internet about breaking in your jeans. Some folks say you need to wear them in the ocean and then roll around in the sand to break them in (preferably while reenacting the love scene from the film From Here to Eternity, I gather) or that you need to soak them in starch so you can get some really “sick fades” — high contrast lines/fading in your jeans. There are indeed things you can do to create “sick fades” in your jeans, but in my opinion that’s too pretentious for a pair of workwear. Just wear your raw denim jeans regularly and let nature take its course.

The only exception you should make for pre-soaking a new pair of jeans is if they’re unsanforized. Soak unsanforized jeans before you start wearing them so they shrink to the appropriate size.

How to Wash and Care for Your Selvedge and Raw Denim

soaking washing raw denim jeans in bathtub

Another one of the old wives’ tales out there is that you should never (and I mean NEVER dammit!) wash your jeans. Or if you do wash them, you should wait at least a year. And if your jeans get smelly, just put them in the freezer to kill the bacteria. Or something.

The reason people tell you not to wash your jeans is so you can achieve those wicked sweet fades in the fabric.

But all of that no-wash advice is bogus and will just leave you smelling like a hobo.

What you want to do is to strike a balance between distressing the jeans and washing out the fabric’s indigo and your fades-in-the-making too quickly, and them smelling like swamp crotch. To achieve this balance, wash them every two months. Remember, denim jeans are workwear. Do you think 19th century miners were holding off on washing their jeans just so they could get fades? No, and neither should you.

While washing your jeans every 2 months might seem too frequent to a raw denim purist, it probably seems too infrequent compared with how often you’re used to washing your regular jeans. But you honestly don’t have to wash your jeans all that often. If they’ve started smelling before the 2 months is up, then giving them a wash early is a-okay.

There are a bunch of ways to wash your raw denim jeans. The easiest is to simply turn them inside out and wash them in cold water in the washing machine using Woolite. The first few times you wash your jeans, you’ll probably want to wash them by themselves to avoid the indigo bleeding onto your other clothes.

Here’s the method Josey recommends for washing your raw denim:

  • Fill up a bathtub with lukewarm water
  • Add a teaspoon of detergent
  • Let jeans soak for 45 minutes
  • Give them a bit of a scrub to remove any dirt and grime
  • Rinse off with cold water
  • Hang them outside to dry (if it’s raining outside, line dry them inside — just don’t use the dryer)

Here’s a video lesson on washing your raw denim:

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Blue Jeans: An Introduction to Denim

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Is there anything more American than blue jeans?

Over the last 160 years blue jeans have woven their way into American and even world culture.  Classless, utilitarian, and yet classically stylish, jeans have been worn by prisoners, plumbers, and presidents alike.

Iconic American Figures Associated with Blue Jeans

The Cowboy

vintage cowboy painting wearing jeans hat

Although many frontiersmen never wore a pair of jeans and instead opted for buckskins, in the last century denim has become the trouser of choice for the American West’s most visible ambassadors.  Both Will Rogers and John Wayne wore them and countless rodeo legends as well.  Today if you make your way to a rodeo in Pecos or Cheyenne, you’ll probably see dudes sporting a pair of Wrangler blue jeans.

The Biker

the wild one marlon brando riding on motorcycle

I’m not talking about the Harley Davidson clad bunch we see nowadays; I’m referring to the 1950s vets who returned from WWII and hit the road on bikes because they needed excitement and freedom in their lives.  Think Marlon Brando in The Wild One with his leather jacket and rolled cuff blue jeans.

The Young Rebel

the outsiders cast photo wearing jeans denim

Today, nothing could be more mainstream than denim, but jeans used to be the badge of the rebel, the man who broke from the traditional dress of society and rejected the old way of doing things.  Rebels of all types have flocked to denim, starting in the 1940s with rule-breaking college youth who wore them against the wishes of their parents to James Dean in the classic film Rebel Without a Cause to the Greasers in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.  Rebellious youth have for the last 60 years found a kindred spirit in denim, and will for at least another 60.

The Blue Collar Worker

born in the usa bruce springsteen cover

Blue is the color of the working class because it takes to staining and cleaning better than white; the classless blue jean, prized for its inexpensive durability and ability to suck up grease, was and is the pants of the working man.  Personified in the 1980s by Bruce Springsteen, the blue collar worker loves his blue jeans because they, like him, are made to be worn but never beaten.

An Overview of the Major Jean Brands

Levi Strauss and Co

vintage levis jeans denim ad advertisement western

Founded in 1853 by Levi Strauss in San Francisco, the company started as a dry goods wholesaler but quickly found its place in history when a tailor named Jacob Davis partnered with the company to create a superior pair of pants that utilized copper rivets to reinforce areas of the jeans that commonly tore under heavy stress. Patent number 139,121 was awarded in 1873 and the rest is history.  Utilizing the best denim in the world at the time, Levi Strauss and Co established itself as a beacon of quality for next 150+ years.

In 1890, lot number 501 was assigned to the waist overalls with the copper rivets and button fly.  Today you can buy the same jeans, minus a few details introduced over the years because of changes in menswear style (suspender buttons are gone) and the requirements of wartime rationing boards (the back buckleback).

Lee Company

vintage Lee Jeans denim ad advertisement young boys

H.D. Lee was a man who headed west after starting a bright business career on the East Coast only to have it derailed by bad health.  Against the advice of his doctor, Lee headed to the opportunity he saw in Kansas, where he founded Lee Mercantile in 1890.  Seizing on the lack of local quality goods and the natural central location of Salina, KS, Lee pushed his work wear division and the Union-All jumpsuit became his flag product.  It sold like hotcakes, in part because the designers catered to the men wearing them and made them easy to slip on and off and innovated with the now classic zipper.

Lee has continued to grow over the last century, in large part to smart marketing and sponsorships including the founding of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.  By closely associating itself with the American Southwest, the jeans built a strong and loyal base among the western crowd.

Finally, I need to mention Buddy Lee.  First making waves in a Minnesota shop store window back in 1920, Buddy has since been spotted promoting Lee Dungarees in a variety of strangely funny commercials. Over 90 years old, Buddy Lee is a legend; don’t let his 14 inch height fool you.

Wrangler

Founded in 1904 as the Hudson Overall Company, the company changed its name to Blue Bell 15 years later and remained primarily regional to North Carolina with its core product being overalls.  After WWII, Blue Bell bought a work wear company and revived Wrangler with the specific target customer being the Western crowd.  With an innovative cut utilizing higher pockets and wider belt loops, and the sponsorship of rodeo legend Jim Shoulders, Wrangler was able to wrangle itself to the top of the Western market within two decades.

vintage wrangler jeans denim ad advertisement young boy

Lee Cooper

Lee Cooper Jeans are less well known in the USA but have a loyal following in England and Europe, and for good reason.  The brand made a name for itself during WWII when rationing made anything but denim a luxury.  With only 30 ration coupons for clothing, working men had the option of a business suit for 26 coupons or a pair of Lee Cooper overalls for 2 (or better yet – jeans for 1).   The Lee Cooper Brand grew quickly in the 50s and 60s under Harold Cooper, and now sells clothing in over 70 markets around the world.

Other options outside the Big 4 brands:

Designer Jeans

High fashion brands began to push out jean lines in the 1970s, but saw the market fade within a decade.  The most recent surge began again in the early 1990s and continues today; brands such as Lucky were the first to start charging $100 for jeans that were built on nothing more than slick marketing (my old college roommate would disagree–he felt the unique inner lining and fit was worth the price he paid).  In the last 20 years, designer jeans have leveraged celebrity endorsements and notoriety to sell jeans at prices that can now soar into the $500 range.

If you can’t tell, I am not a fan of designer jeans.  Instead, if you’re looking for something beyond the ordinary you should consider….

Raw Denim Jeans

Raw denim is unwashed denim fabric that has not been shrunk or exposed to water after the dying process.  It is typically very dark, and made on old style shuttle looms.  Selvedge denim, as it is also called, is priced at a premium because of low production runs, the need to use older equipment and more fabric per pair, and the fact that it’s made in high labor cost countries.   However, raw denim is more durable, and many raw denim advocates claim to wear their jeans thousands of times before they wear out, thus making them a strong value when you look at the number of wears vs. the amount paid.

raw denim jeans folded with tag

Blue Jeans and Pricing

A gentleman walks into a store and finds a terrific pair of jeans that are the right size and made well. He then looks at the price tag and is shocked; the jeans are almost ten times more expensive than the pair he has on.  After checking with the clerk, he leaves the shop in disgust wondering who would ever buy such expensive clothing. The year is 1870, and those overpriced jeans are selling for $5…10 times the cost of the more popular brand our price conscious shopper was used to buying.

The scenario I just described could have easily taken place today.  With jean pricing ranging as wide now as it did then, there is still much confusion as to why.  Below are 6 reasons why jeans vary in price:

  1. Market Positioning – Price positioning based on smart (or not so smart) marketing is the most important factor in determining price.   Raw denim made in the US has to be priced high because of the quality of material and construction. But designer jeans, which can cost ¼ as much to make can sell for the same amount if not more, simply because they are worn by the right celebrity or a marketing ploy creates a feel of exclusivity or scarcity.
  2. Clothing Pattern – Some jeans are made to fit a particular demographic.  Levi’s, the brand most of us associate value and Western heritage with, makes a pair of raw denim jeans called “matchstick.”  As the name implies, they are made for skinny young men.  Any man carrying more than a few extra pounds around the waist or older than 30 should approach the jeans with extreme caution.
  3. Factory Run Size and Material Cost – Mass produced jeans, built on modern machines prized for their speed and acceptable error rates are generally going to cost less than jeans built on older equipment.  Who’s using older machinery?  Believe it or not, most of the older machines were bought and shipped to Japan (they love their denim) or have been painstakingly restored by the craftsmen behind the small vintage lines here in the US.  The older equipment may not be as fast, but for the denim artisan, this hardly matters.
  4. The Jean Manufacturer’s Bargaining Power – When Levi Strauss talks pricing with JC Penney, there is a negotiation.  When a small start-up line tries to talk pricing, there is a take it or leave it offer put on the table–if they make it that far.  Often the only route for the small guys are small distributors, who shoulder higher per foot costs than the big guys and have to charge more to stay in business.
  5. Labor Cost – Denim made in Japan or the USA is going to cost more than high volume fabric coming out of China.  Simple economics associated with price of labor and as mentioned above, much of the Chinese machinery is more efficient.
  6. Durability and Specialty Design – Although rare, there are jeans out there that are developed to serve a special purpose besides covering a man’s lower extremities.  Draggin jeans have Kevlar sewn in and are designed to protect a motorcyclist from road rash.

draggin jeans fast company denim for motorcyclists

What to Look for When Purchasing a Pair of Jeans

Focus on Fit – Fit is the most important thing to look for in a pair of jeans–you may have to try on 5 to 10 different brands and types–but it’s worth it when you find that one style that fits you just right.  During regular wear the fit will become more relaxed as the cotton stretches; however, once you wash them and expose the cotton to any type of heat, you’ll shrink them back to their original size and in some cases even a bit smaller.  The best thing to do then is to put them on and stretch them out with extensive body movement.

Fabric Weight – Denim will vary in weight from 7 to 18 ounces, with most men wanting a jean that strikes a balance.  Too lightweight and the fabric will tear too easily–too heavy, and the fabric will be as stiff as a board.  The latter is rarely an issue; rather, you need to be careful of brands that try to save money by going with lighter weight fabrics.  The difference is subtle, but you’ll know you’ve been had when the jeans begin to tear at high stress and friction areas after only 6 to 9 months of wear.

Select the Right Color – Denim comes in a wide variety of colors and shades.  Also, the way the denim has been washed and treated will determine its suitability.  I recommend men first look at darker colored jeans with minimal distressing– jeans like this can be worn with a sport jacket.  Jeans with lighter colors/heavy washing /distressed fabrics are only for casual wear.

Be Careful of Knockoffs – Rarely a problem in large chain stores, this has become a bigger issue since more and more men shop on sites like eBay where the burden of understanding the merchandise falls on the buyer.  If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Brand Construction Consistency – A perfect fit can seal a relationship with a jean manufacturer for decades.  I’ve heard of cases where news of an impending bankruptcy in a clothing company has led to shortages in supply because diehard fans immediately go out and buy a lifetime supply.  It sounds funny, but how many of you have that trusty pair of jeans you reach for when you need something that works with everything from Birkenstocks to a blazer?

The parka Jacket

From indigenous people of the Arctic to Quadrophenia, by way of the US military and then indie bands, the parka has proved itself to be more than just a practical winter coat. Its name is the sole word in English derived from Nenets, the language spoken in the Arctic north of Russia close to where the parka originated. The Parka was originally designed and worn by hunters in the Arctic regions for protection against the freezing temperatures and wind.Typically made from caribou or sealskin and trimmed with fur, the hooded Inuit jacket is the model for today’s parkas, which first came to prominence in the 1950s when the US military developed the N-3B snorkel parka.In the 1960s the Fishtail Parka became popular with the Mods, wearing it to protect smarter clothes underneath when riding their scooters.  As popular today as it was in the 60’s and manufactured by many of the top brands the Parka seems like it’s here to stay!

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The Fishtail Parka

The fishtail parka was first used by the United States Army in 1950 to help protect soldiers from the elements in the Korean War. Following the end of the Second World War the US army recognized the need for a new cold weather system for fighting in as the existing kit was inadequate; the fishtail parka solution was the result of a concerted design effort.

There are four main styles of fishtail parkas: the EX-48, M-48, M-51 and the M-65. The M stands for military, and the number is the year it was standardized. The EX-48 model was the first prototype or “experimental” precursor to all of them. The M-48 then being the first actual production model fishtail parka after the pattern being standardised on December 24, 1948.

The name fishtail comes from the fish tail extension at the back that could be folded up between the legs, much like a Knochensack, and fixed using snap connectors to add wind-proofing. The fishtail was fixed at the front for warmth or folded away at the back to improve freedom of movement when needed.

The EX-48 parka is distinctive as it has a left sleeve pocket and is made of thin poplin, only the later production M-48 parkas are made of the heavier sateen canvas type cotton. The EX-48 also has a thin fibre glass based liner that is very light and warm, the M-48 has a thicker wool pile liner with an integral hood liner made of wool. Both are distinguishable from any other type of parka by having the sleeve pocket. This was dropped for the M-51 onward The fur ruff on the hood is also fixed to the shell of an EX-48/M-48 and is of wolf, coyote or often wolverine. The M-48 parka was costly to produce and therefore only in production for around one year. The pockets were wool lined both inside and out. The cuffs had two buttons for securing tightly around a wearer’s wrist. The later more mass-produced M-51 parka had just the one cuff button. The liner had a built in chest pocket which again was unique to the M-48 parka.

The next revision was the M-51, made because the M48 was so good and of such high quality it was just too expensive to mass-produce.

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The outer hood of the M-51 Fishtail Parka is integral to the parka shell, an added hood liner as well as a button in main liner make the M-51 a versatile 3 piece parka. The idea behind this 3 part system was to enable a more customisable parka that allowed for easier cleaning of the shell as the hood fur was on the detachable hood liner, not fixed to the shell as in the M-48. It also allowed for both liners to be buttoned in or our depending on the temperature and hence warmth required. It was also cheaper than the M-48 to mass-produce The early M-51 was made of heavy sateen cotton, the same material as the M-48. Later revisions of the M-51 were poplin based. The later liners were also revised from the “heavy when wet” wool pile to a lighter woolen loop or frieze wool design that dried easier and were far lighter. The frieze liners were constructed of mohair and were designed using a double loop system which repelled cold weather.

The M-65 fishtail parka has a detachable hood and was the last revision. It features a removable quilted liner made of light nylon / polyester batting which are modern synthetic materials. The M-65 fishtail parka first came in to production in 1968. These parkas featured synthetic fur on the hoods after an outcry from the fur lobby. As a result, only hoods for these parkas made in 1972 and for one year later have real fur.

Designed primarily for combat arms forces such as infantry, they are to be worn over other layers of clothing; alone, the fishtail parka is insufficient to protect against “dry cold” conditions (i.e. below about -10 °C). As such all fishtail parkas are big as they were designed to be worn over battle dress and other layers.

In the 1960s UK, the fishtail parka became a symbol of the mod subculture. Because of their practicality, cheapness and availability from army surplus shops, the parka was seen as the ideal garment for fending off the elements and protecting smarter clothes underneath from grease and dirt when on the mod’s vehicle of choice, the scooter. Its place in popular culture was assured by newspaper pictures of parka-clad mods during the Bank Holiday riots of the 1960s.

See here :

https://offtheclothboff.com/2016/05/19/mods-and-rockers-battle-1964/

What is the reason for fur on hood jackets?

OK, this is super-interesting, because it’s non-trivial.

When a fluid moves around a body, the fluid flows around the body in a predictable manner. In particular, at the point where the fluid first encounters the body there is a phenomenon known as the bow wave effect. This is the tendency of the fluid to move outwards and around the body in advance of the leading edge of the body:

Now, here’s the important thing: Most of the fluid is in what is called laminar flow, meaning that it flows along the surface at more or less the speed of the fluid. But at the boundary layer, in particular the leading edge boundary, the turbulence causes the fluid to create a small vacuum. So in the area in green above, there is almost no flow at all.

Now, what does this have to do with parkas and fur trim? Well, it turns out that the bow wave effect is proportional to the area of the leading edge of the object that the flow is around. Or, to put this another way, the fur trim on a parka increases the effective area of the leading edge, leading to a larger bow wave effect and hence the creation of a zone of calm area right in front of your exposed face.

I myself have experienced the difference between parkas with and without fur trim many, many times, and the the difference is startling. Particularly when the wind is head-on, parkas with fur trim make the difference between relative comfort and rapid frostbite.

Cool, huh?

So, what’s super interesting is that while I know the exact answer to this question, and this was widespread knowlege of this in the arctic, there does not appear to be any literature on the subject. This would make a great Masters (or even PhD) thesis, and best of all you could do it in Engineering, Anthropology, Fashion… the possibilities are endless. I can even see the title now: Percieved and Actual Cooling As A Function Of Fur Trim-Induced Bow Wave Effects in Traditional Inuit Garments: An Empirical Approach.


Update to add: Viola Yee use

Adidas Jeans Mk II

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If you’re an adi obsessive then chances are that there’s a special place in your heart/wardrobe for the adidas Jeans. Originally released in the mid seventies and unusually for adidas designed with being worn alongside denim in mind rather than winning a particular sport, the adidas Jeans soon became ‘the’ shoe to be seen in by clued up kids all over the UK. The updated MKII version that appeared in 1980 with it’s additional heel stabilizer and toe overlay proved even more popular timing it’s arrival with that of casual culture and all that jazz. adidas Originals have got it spot on with their current re-issue of the Jeans Mk II (I know this because Jeans fan/expert Brooksy said so on instagram) and I’ve just had a look in Hip Store who have got both red and green versions of the MKII available right now. Don’t hang about though as it might be another 35 years before they get re-issued again.

 

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8 Classic Sportswear Brands That Are Back On Trend

Bring a touch of nostalgia to your casual getups with one of these retro activewear labels

 Nostalgia has become something of a pop culture phenomenon in recent years, with the arrival of the 2010s pushing the eighties and nineties firmly into the retro zone.

This revival of styles from times gone by has seen many once-popular brands re-emerge, tapping into the renewed obsession for all things old school. And with sports luxe currently dominating industry trends, it comes as no surprise that some classic activewear names are experiencing a renaissance, be it over ten, twenty or one hundred years later.

So, let us reintroduce you to eight sporting labels that are now back on the fashion radar – some of which you are sure to know from the first time around.

Champion

Athletic apparel brand Champion started out life way back in 1919, designing technical sportswear styles for professional athletes.

However, the label had its real heyday in the 1990s, being adopted as a sports-meets-streetwear brand for casual urban dressers.

Champion has now stormed back into the fashion charts, teaming up with the likes of Wood Wood, Todd Snyder and Urban Outfitters in the past year to bring its throwback pieces bang up to date.

Available at Size? and champion-eu.com.

Champion USA

Recommended

Champion Satin Varsity Jacket, available at Size?, priced £115:

Champion Satin Varsity Jacket

Ellesse

Another brand that found popularity back in the nineties is Italian heritage label Ellesse, with its bold slogan sweatshirts now returning to satisfy the appetite of vintage lovers everywhere.

The label continues to stay true to its original designs, reissuing key pieces with contemporary elements for an updated look.

Available at ASOS.

Ellesse Sportswear

Recommended

Ellesse Sweatshirt With Classic Logo, available at ASOS, priced £40:

Ellesse Sweatshirt With Classic Logo

Le Coq Sportif

Hands up if you once owned a Le Coq Sportif tracksuit? We certainly did, with the brand’s bold aesthetic considered on-trend back in the mid-nineties.

The French label first introduced its signature branded pieces in 1948, and has since gone on to become the official uniform supplier for a wide variety of sports teams – most notably Everton F.C..

If you’re not much of a football fan, do not fear, as the label is now focusing on vintage apparel that is bound to appeal to the modern man-about-town. We’re particular fans of its retro cycle wear range.

Available at lecoqsportif.com.

Le Coq Sportif Sportswear

Recommended

Ultra Light Jersey, available at Le Coq Sportif, priced £66.50:

Le Coq Sportif Ultra Light Jersey

Fila Vintage

A cornerstone brand of the eighties football casuals subculture, Fila has held a place in retro lovers’ hearts since its late 20th century prime.

Today, the brand continues to harness its throwback appeal, launching a range of classic and original pieces under its Vintage sub-brand.

From track jackets to striped polo shirts, shoppers will be transported back to the eighties (in a good way) in no time.

Available at fila.co.uk.

Fila Vintage Sportswear

Recommended

Fila Settanta Track Jacket, available at fila.co.uk, priced £65:

Fila Settanta Track Jacket

Reebok

Reebok’s popularity has shown no sign of faltering over its extensive lifetime, remaining one of the most successful sportswear brands in the world since it was founded back in 1895.

However, it was the trainer-mad days of the eighties and nineties that cemented it as a fashion leader, with key silhouettes such as the Pump and Classic becoming instant must-owns.

These signature styles are still being produced today, with new iterations and modern technology taking Reebok’s heritage designs to a whole new level.

Available at reebok.co.uk.

Reebok Sportswear

Recommended

Reebok Classic NPC UK II Trainers, available at Reebok, priced £62:

Reebok Classic NPC UK II Trainers

Saucony

Running shoes have remained the speciality of US label Saucony for decades, with the brand producing technical footwear for professional athletes and budding runners alike.

Once famed for its practical appeal, the running shoe revival of recent years has seen Saucony’s classic silhouettes coveted by sneaker fans worldwide, for their simple yet striking aesthetic.

Modern day collaborations with the likes of Club Monaco and Penfield, along with limited edition releases, have helped Saucony smoothly enter the luxury trainer arena to become a key footwear player for the modern age.

Available at saucony.co.uk.

Saucony Running Trainers

Recommended

Saucony Suede Shadow 6000 Sneakers, available at Oki-ni, priced £95:

Saucony Suede Shadow 6000 Sneakers

Kappa

Kappa is another Italian sportswear label that caters to both the professional and amateur athlete, providing the official uniforms for a range of football, basketball and hockey teams across the globe.

Although your everyday sportswear fan will probably hold vivid memories of its popper leg trousers emblazoned with oversized logos, Kappa now focuses on pared-back, technical styles for both working out and daily wear.

Available at kappa.com.

Kappa Sportswear

Recommended

Kappa Track Jacket, available at ASOS, priced £45:

Kappa Track Jacket

Umbro

Umbro’s diamond logo is sure to conjure up memories of your school days – bulky backpacks, branded sports socks and the like – with the Manchester-born label’s pieces going beyond their original purpose to be adopted by the style-conscious youth of the eighties and nineties.

After being acquired by Nike in 2007, the brand went through something of a revamp, focusing on its footballing heritage and vintage appeal to produce classic, stylish pieces complete with original features.

Available at umbro.com.

Umbro Sportswear

Recommended

Umbro 1990s Training Away Football Jersey, available at Size?, priced £45:

Umbro 90s Training Away Football Jersey

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