Earlier on in my raw denim journey, I was recommended “Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks: A Visual History of the World’s Most Legendary Fabric” by Graham Marsh and Paul Trynka to learn about the story behind denim. I searched high and low for this book and it turned out my local library had two copies. This book is highly recommended for any denimhead collection.
It’s written in a very engaging manner that keeps you flipping the pages. I learned a wealth of information ranging from the forefathers of denim, Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss, to the battle between different brands to society’s views on denim throughout the ages. There are many drool-worthy photos of denim that would easily hold its own on our Fade Friday feature.
The most striking lesson from the book for me is that all denim used to have selvedge fabric. At this point, you’ll be saying “Of course they’re all selvedge. They were all made with shuttle looms. Duh!” But my rebuttal is that it’s different from just reading and hearing about selvedge denim coming from shuttle looms compared to actually seeing it in the book’s photos. Selvedge denim was the only existence for denim back-in-the-day. You’ll see the majority of photos of people in jeans and denim-only photos with the coveted selvedge line that we’ve come to love.
Another big eureka! moment is when I learned that all denim used to be raw denim. It wasn’t until the late ’70s that pre-distressing happened, but now that pre-distressing is the norm the term “raw” is used to distinguish itself from the rest. It’s definitely a fun factoid you can use to defend your raw denim ways. Denim back in the day used to be raw denim. What a different time it must have been, eh?
Graham Marsh and Paul Trynka set the pace and tone with an excellent introduction to the book. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction of “Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks: A Visual History of the World’s Most Legendary Fabric”:
Presidents and prime ministers wear it. It’s still a rebel fabric. A badge of workers, a totem of anti-establishment cool, denim is the most democratic of fabrics, one that flatters everyone but the powerful and paunchy.
Denim is simple, non-intellectual stuff. But it abounds in dualities. It is a symbol of egalitarianism and of materialism; it embodies the freedom of the west and is traded in closed societies in lieu of hard currency. It ages gracefully, yet signifies an obsession with youth. It glories in its ubiquity, but it looks different on everyone who wears it.
Although I left the best photos and pages of information for when you pick up the book, there’s still plenty to see. Here’s a preview of the book:
I hope your appetite is whet and your hunger for more denim knowledge is satiated. There’s so much more content in “Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks: A Visual History of the World’s Most Legendary Fabric” than you could imagine. Although it doesn’t seem like the book is in production anymore, you can find a few copies on Amazon:
- Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks: A Visual History of the World’s Most Legendary Fabric (2002 ed.)
- Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks: A Visual History of the World’s Most Legendary Fabric (2005 ed.)
- Paul Trynka’s Official Site’s Denim Page