United States and Japan have worked tirelessly on establishing themselves as the pinnacle of raw selvedge denim manufacturers throughout the continents. The antique but unique process and production of raw selvedge denims has almost lost its place in this modern era. Albeit, both Americans and Japanese have continued on producing the most exquisite quality and most coveted denims in the world.
For potential buyers, one thing strikes their minds: Which one is better? This could spark and endless debate on which one is superior to the other, which likely ends in a more personal preference. However, we are going to dissect the details and look at some of the distinguished differences of selvedge raw denims between Japan made and American made.
Unlike the United States, Japan has multiple denim mills that produced top-quality premium selvedge denims. This means that Japanese denim has a broader range of choices and fades than the American denim, which primarily produced from one mill. The fading is dependent on which mill the denim is manufactured at as well as the characteristic of that specific mills’ production process.
Additionally, since there are multiple mills in Japan they are able to produce varying selvedge products. Other mills, of course, are known for manufacturing less innovative yet higher quality replicas of American denim that are simpler in design.
In general, when compared to American denim from the fading aspect, Japanese denim is known to manufacture contrasts fades. However, for many users these fades take more time to set in, yet develop more character and personality in that time. The denim is produced on Toyoda looms, that works slowly and produce an uneven (but looked after) texture and slub in the denim, especially when compared to the quicker and more precise denim mills in today’s time.
Japanese jeans are also known for their top-tier quality construction and massive attention to detail. For this reason they are often considered the best jeans on the market. The denim is also best known for being dyed using natural indigo. Natural indigo dye produces a more pure, darker indigo color, as well as better fades. As mentioned, there is more color range in Japanese denim. Some mills sought to replicate American style denim, while others look to make colors unique to their mills.
Without saying, there is variety in the Japanese denim market with over 40 brands exhibiting the “Made in Japan” label, but not all the denim manufactured in Japan is made to the top-quality standards. The characteristics we outlined, however, hold true for the ones that are.
American denim is considered to be equal in quality when compared with similarly priced Japanese denim. Unlike the Japanese made, almost all the denim that is produced in the United States comes from the legendary Cone Mills plant in Greensboro, North Carolina. As the result of the limited amounts of mills, the American denims fade patterns are much more consistent than those of Japanese made denim. This means the majority of jeans made with American Cone Mills denim looking almost identical to one another. Some enjoy this, while others prefer more “colors” to their jeans.
The fades American denim produced are more even and consistent, relishing an old-school and vintage feel to their jeans. In comparison to the high contrast fading that Japanese denim produces, the blue hues that comes from a well-worn pair of American jeans are very distinctive and easily recognizable. These distinguished fade patterns are even replicated by some Japanese brands.
American denim often does not have the slubiness texture that many denim enthusiasts sought for. Apart from changes in weight, and different cotton used in production, American denim mills are not nearly as versatile and as adventurous as their Japanese counterparts.
American mills still produce denim in a similar way to the Japanese mills. The denim from Cone Mills is woven on vintage shuttle looms – American Draper x3‘s from the 40’s – that fabricate the material slowly and give the denim a texture that is unique and contributes to the fades.
The differences between Japanese and American denim are subtle, but for many denim enthusiasts they make all the difference in the world. While denim quality is obviously a large factor in differentiating pairs of jeans, a considerable portion of the difference in denim quality can be made up in the fabrication of the jeans themselves.
When it comes to choices, it will always ends in personal preference over what you sought for in denim. There remains no clear winner in the competition for a superior denim fabric from either Japan or the United States.