Beardsmen appreciate quality. We appreciate the time and effort it takes to craft an exceptional thing of beauty. That’s why we invest in items that are made from outstanding materials and crafted with extraordinary precision. We value things that are built to last, especially when they are built in America. Tellason denim answers the call with its remarkable line of raw selvedge denim from the land where it was invented, San Francisco.
Before we dive into Tellason let’s delve into selvedge. Just what is raw selvedge denim? If you’re already a dedicated denimhead you can probably skip this little history lesson. For those that are new to raw denim, here’s a crash course.
Some believe the name “denim” came from the French town of Nimes, one of the earliest producers of a woven wool twill fabric. The stuff was originally called “serge de Nimes.” Authentic denim, however, has always been made of 100% cotton and was originally worn in the late 1800’s as workwear by miners and laborers that needed tough clothing that could take a beating.
Denim remained a staple in workwear until the early 1950’s when James Dean wore jeans in the iconic movie “Rebel Without A Cause” and Marlon Brando rocked them as a biker in “The Wild One.” After that, jeans became so popular that manufacturers abandoned slow shuttle looms for faster industrial machines that could mass produce. Tellason makes their jeans the old-fashioned way on antique shuttle looms.
(On a side note, raw denim is also insanely popular in Japan. That’s because many of the antique American looms were sold to them as they were rebuilding their post-war economy.)
Raw, or dry denim, is that which is not washed or processed after the jeans have been built and indigo dyed. Commercial jean makers wash and process jeans with chemicals, stones, and tons of water to get a pre-faded look and softer feel which washes away the dye evenly. Instead of being stressed by sandpaper, grinding tools, hot water and commercial dryers, raw denim is a pure blank slate for the wearer to break in and personalize. Your jeans should tell a story about where you’ve been and what you’ve done.
The word selvedge comes from “self-edge” and refers to the self-finished edges of the fabric that have a tightly woven band on either edge to prevent raveling. Not all selvedge is raw and not all raw is selvedge. Even the terms selvedge and selvage are used somewhat interchangeably. Selvage is considered more of an American term whereas selvedge has its roots in England.
Tellason was started in 2008 by owners Tony Patella and Pete Searson (the company name is a combination of their last names). I only had to talk to Pete for a few minutes to pick up on how much passion he has for his craft and the storied heritage of San Francisco denim. “This is the home of denim, the heartbeat of blue jean culture. We’re probably making more jeans in the city of San Francisco than anyone else right now.”
Pete and I talked about jeans for nearly an hour, but what came out of the conversation were his convictions about his products and how they’re made. “The Tellason customer is a guy who appreciates high-quality authentically made products. Not flashy, but great attention to detail.”
“We source all of our raw denim from Cone Mills White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, and make the jeans in our factory here in San Francisco. Cone Mills has been in operation since 1905. We only use raw selvage denim, the thread we use is from North Carolina, pocketing from Tennessee, the leather patch is from Tanner Goods in Portland Oregon (all of the leather is sourced from the Northwest and vegetable tanned). The same is true of the buttons and rivets. All American. Tellason is 100% committed to the city of San Francisco and will make our jeans here and only here, forever. Moving production somewhere else to save a couple of bucks just won’t happen.”
Tellason has six different men’s jeans (and two for the ladies) in their collection and each comes in multiple weights (12.5 oz, 14.75 oz, and 16.5 oz). The weight refers to how much a yard of fabric actually weighs. I grabbed a pair of the Ladbroke Grove 16.5 oz and they are hefty. The Ladbroke is slim tapered and comes in one length, throw a cuff or two in it and you are ready to go. Tellason has some great jackets and shirts as well.
The construction and stitching is unreal on these jeans. The button-fly has sweet burnished buttons look like antique copper. I loved that the rear pockets are lined with the same pocket material as the front so that your wallet won’t break a hole in the bottom like some jeans. I’ve worn them about 25 times at this point (without washing of course) and plan on updating this post with wear photos in several months.
Why invest in high quality denim? Sure, the initial investment is higher than some jeans you can pick up in a store, but the price per wear is much lower in the long run. The superior fabric and the construction makes them rugged and tough. You might get 100 wears out of commercial jeans but Tellason denim might last for 500 or more wears. Where Tellason really nails it is customer service. They build relationships with their customers and take care of them. Give them a call and they are eager to take care of you. If you call the office you are likely to get Pete or Tony. Not only are they the owners, but they are the only employees. Tellason also offers free domestic shipping both ways. “So go ahead, order as many pairs as you want to try on at home and ship back the ones that don’t fit.”
A quick note about care. The first step is to soak your denim (inside out) in a tub for an hour or two to break down the wax and starch left in the fabric. When to wash them is up to you, many agree on six months to a year. After the jeans have formed to your shape they will gain “whiskers” in the front and “honeycombs” behind the knees, each one unique. The first wash will take away some of the indigo and the fades will appear but it’s important to be patient and allow them to form one day at a time. But I don’t need to tell you that, you’re a beardsman… you know a thing or two about patience.
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