Cone Mills White Oak Denim

With the launch of our essential denim jeans and the denim we use being steeped in such history, we thought you really ought to know more about it.

Cone Mills White Oak, situated in Greensboro North Carolina is Americas oldest running denim mill and has been a leading supplier of denim since it was founded in 1891 by two brothers, Moses and Caesar Cone. The mill was named after the 300-year-old tree that stood nearby and served as a gathering place for people travelling to Greensboro from the surrounding countryside.
The White Oak plant opened in 1905 and by 1908 was the largest denim producer in the world. In 1915 they began making denim for Levi's becoming the sole supplier of denim for the 501. Cone's denim, a 2x1 workwear fabric which was predominantly produced and used across the US workwear industry, but they also supplied for the likes of Wrangler and Lee.
Denim has been produced on a series of Draper shuttle looms, the first was a Model E, an automatic machine where the bobbins of yarn were loaded automatically which meant the machines could run constantly. Then came the Draper X2 narrow width looms which the plant had around 400 of until the introduction of the now infamous Draper X3 shuttle looms which were wider and increased efficiency. The denim industry has been in constant technological advancement throughout its history and in 1985 these machines were all replaced with state of the art Swiss Sulzer looms.
It was the denim connoisseurs that started noticing the denim just wasn't as good as it used to be, with American consumers focused on buying cheaper denim, the mill had to accommodate this shift. The Japanese began to capitalise on this and started producing their own selvedge focusing on supplying smaller artisan brands producing their selvedge on old Toyoda shuttle looms. Japanese selvedge has probably been the most popular Selvedge over the last twenty years but no more so than during the last ten years with just about every denim brand manufacturing Japanese Selvedge jeans. 
Fortunately, Cone kept some of the old X3 shuttle looms and had stored them next to the White Oak plant, with the rest being sold off for scrap. These were brought back to life during the 90's helped by the workers of Cone who had been there for 30-40 years and had a lot of experience with these machines. An important factor in producing the kind of selvedge that cone used to, was, in fact, the cherry wood flooring that the machines sit on. As the draper shuttle looms shoot back and forth the wooden floor gives and it moves, this intern creates a unique rhythm that is woven into the fabric, creating a depth and dimension that is impossible to replicate.
Today, our 3x1 selvedge is woven on these exact 1940's draper looms. This history alone made Cone Denim essential for us to use in crafting our denim jeans. Not to mention the fact that the denim itself is outstanding and fades beautifully with wear. We've bucked the trend for Japanese selvedge and now you know a little about the history of Cone denim, you will understand why.