When North Carolina's Cone Mill announced it would shutter its White Oak selvedge denim plant — America's last — in October 2017, consumers were led to believe they'd have to negotiate a veritable denim Gold Rush to get their hands on one of the last remaining samples.
A year later, that's clearly not the case: innumerable drops have since been billed as being cut from “the last batch ever,” and yet White Oak's final constituents keep coming. The latest? A pair of Chicago specials: one the first pair of jeans ever from a beloved local label, the other a collection by way of LA that's exclusively available at one Windy City men's shop.
Regardless their (alleged) scarcity, either will immediately rank as the nattiest pair of dungarees you own.
Before we get to the jeans, a note on the operative word here, selvedge (or selvage). It refers to denim with a finished “self” edge, which is visible when a pair of selvedge jeans are cuffed (see the first photo below). Selvedge denim has become increasingly rare in recent decades because it requires the use of old-fashioned looms that A) take up a ton of space and B) work far more slowly than newer, non-selvedge looms. In concert with their commitment to this deliberate process, denim mills that still use them tend to produce a superior product (tighter weave, heavier hand), which has stoked demand in recent years. The impracticality of its production, though, has pushed many mills (like Cone Mills) into abandoning it.
Stock Mfg Cone Mills Denim (3 images)
It's a bit of a shock that local workwear purveyors Stock are only just now releasing their first pair of jeans — they've been championing denim workshirts almost since their inception. But these pants, which Stock tells us took two years in the making, are well worth the wait. You're getting 10.5-oz. dark indigo denim with five pockets, reinforced rivets and custom hardware throughout. They come in a slim fit with a medium rise, and Stock advises to buy your normal size: they'll feel snug on the first few wears, but will break in summarily with regular use. They're also currently going for the special early-bird price of $115, or $20 off full retail.
Freenote Cloth Rios for Mildblend (3 images)
Built in L.A. by Freenote Cloth but sold exclusively at Chicago's Mildblend Supply Co. (1342 N. Milwaukee), these jeans are built from “the last rolls” of a robust 14.5-oz. denim that Freenote co-designed with White Oak a few years ago. “We've been saving them for a special release,” they say. And by the looks of it, they're telling the truth: copper button fly, antique gold selvedge ticking, loose weave for a softer feel, straight leg fit and two colors to choose from, a lightly flecked broken twill and a deep, dark blue black. They retail for a fairly steep $265, but trust that you'll be wearing them for years to come, and then some.
Main image via Stock Mfg Co.