Edwin Rainbow Selvedge

Exclusive fabric and technology stay true to the brand’s rich heritage

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg

Edwin is a 70-year old premium Japanese denim brand, and an anagram of the word 'denim', with the 'm' inverted. You can buy me a drink if that knowledge or anything else in this piece ever helps you out at a pub quiz. Edwin’s selvedge offering is the stronghold of their collection and it’s the Rainbow Selvedge in particular – which is registered by Edwin and exclusively developed and woven by the Nisshinbo mill in Japan – that’s the most sought-after.

Now the reason why selvedge is so special is because it can’t be churned out like regular denim. Woven on old, narrow 28-30 inch shuttle looms, it’s not only how they’re spun but also the threads used and the indigo dyeing process that allows selvedge denim to fade with more contrast, which makes it so special. 

Selvedge denim often has a coloured thread in the middle, something that was originally added to help manufacturers recognise the different qualities that they were producing for their different clients. That’s where the rainbow comes in. Instead of the more common red or other solid-colour selvedge line there’s a three-way rainbow, something Edwin originally created in the 60s to signify their more premium selvedge offering.

I personally prefer raw selvedge jeans best. Even if you’ve never happily chaffed the back of your knees with a pair of these, you may have noticed a dude wearing a pair of stiff, unyielding denim. The reason why these are so great is because they form a unique partnership with the person wearing them, adjusting to the wearer’s body beautifully and becoming an individual pair of jeans. While many have attempted to fake the authentic wear process, it’s something that simply can’t be replicated, as the characteristics of wear depend on your lifestyle. 

I’ve only attempted the breaking-in process once, and even though I could’ve done a lot of things better, it was a rewarding process nonetheless. Unlike other pre-washed and distressed jeans that I own, I can actually talk about every abrasion on these with authority. They’re 16 oz and started out so stiff that they could actually stand up all by themselves. Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve gone a size smaller and stretched them out. Still, they’re super slouchy now and feel more like sweatpants than jeans. I wore them to death when I first got them, about three or four months straight, even sleeping in them for the first week or two just to try and hurry up the process and staining my bed sheets blue as a result. In retrospect this was a mistake. The wearing-in process needs time. You need to earn those whiskers, friend.


Next time I’ll first rinse my jeans in spring water from the Newlands Spring (no chemicals!) so that they don’t discolour on my clothing, skin and, if I choose to sleep in them again, bed sheets. And there will be another pair, no doubt, as they’re the gift that keeps on giving and reveal a little bit more about their character every time I pull them on. That fading on the seams on the yoke, the back pockets, the belt loops and the fly is something that you just can’t buy. And you don’t need to be in forensics to see that I sit down a lot – those beautiful fades around the calf and the back of the thigh - or that I keep my wallet in my front right pocket and my iPhone in the left. Those vertical fade lines are caused by the slubbiness of the yarn, the hems are perfectly frayed and there’s the perfect amount of sag in the back. Otherwise the crotch has been repaired a bunch of times now because I wear my pants low, below my hips, and almost always split my pants after a few months of stepping over my bike. But that repair work, a mad zig-zagging of fabric, looks as impressive as a scar and adds to the general patina wonderfully.

Look, anything worthwhile in life takes work, and the jeans I have now are not the same jeans that I bought. And they are like they are now because I waited a really long time before washing them, and would get rid of any odour by putting them in the freezer. Never frozen your jeans? Here’s why you should and how you do it: The smell on dirty jeans is caused by bacteria ‘emissions’ and you can get rid of them simply by turning your jeans inside out, rolling them up and putting them in a bag and then in the freezer overnight. This is especially good when you’ve, say, spent the night in a smoky club but haven’t necessarily spilled anything gross on them. 

When you do wash them remember that it’s very important to turn them inside out and to wash them separately. To use little or no washing powder. To wash by hand or on a delicate cycle. And always hang dry. Never use the tumble dryer. 

Think of your selvedge denim as more than just pants. Treated correctly they’re a collaboration – a time-capsule that could’ve only been created by you.