A lesson in denim with Freenote Cloth's Andrew Brodrick


Let's start with a quick education on denim. Can you explain the terms "raw" and "selvedge" and why it's important to understand what they mean?

That's a great place to start. First and foremost, it's important to know that none of these terms are scientific. We use them generally to describe product details. That being said...

RAW DENIM is denim in its purest form. Technically speaking a homespun loom state denim is pure denim; however when people say raw denim, they are referring to denim that has not been rinsed, washed or treated. Generally what people call "raw" denim has still gone through a sanforization process, which we'll talk about later. For most denim enthusiasts raw denim is the way to go. It will fade beautifully and actually take shape to the body.

SELVEDGE DENIM on the other hand, derives from the the words "self" and "edge" and refers to how the fabric is finished. It has clean edges and because of the tightly woven band on either sides the fabric will not unravel. When the fabric is sewn into a pair of jeans you get a garment with a clean edge.

"Selvedge" and "raw" are two different things. Denim can be raw but not selvedge, and vice versa. However most independent, high-end denim brands are both raw and selvedge because they pursue the best of both worlds: Pure denim and a clean edge to the fabric.

What makes Japanese denim different from denim produced elsewhere?

Japanese mills offer a lot of options. Similar to the French who have a reputation for making the greatest variety of the best wines, the Japanese mills offer the greatest variety of the best denim and that's why your highest end denim brands turn to the Japanese mills. They offer a higher degree of specialization across a broad spectrum, whereas the few US denim mills we have are the best at producing a specific kind of denim. If you're a brand like Freenote Cloth, you'll want to use US mills as much as possible because we pride ourselves on sourcing and manufacturing in the USA. However, we turn to the Japanese mills to help fill the gaps on products not produced locally. In the US, Cone Mills—located in Greensboro, North Carolina—is the most well known denim manufacturer. Any great US denim brand that uses US denim will source from Cone Mills. When it comes to Japanese denim mills, the list is endless.    

What is "loomstate denim"?

Loomstate denim is denim in the purest form. It's denim that has not been through the sanforization or shrinking process. For the most part, even "raw" denim is processed whereby the fabric is shrunken so that it is true-to-fit. However, "loomstate" denim is for true "denim heads" who buy their denim slightly tighter, knowing it will loosen up with time, and they never intend to wash it. For most raw denim that goes through a sanforization process, when the fabric is close to completion it is run through a hot water via a conveyer belt going through a tub of water. In the 1930's, Sanford Lockwood Cluett patented the process of sanforization, hence the name. The denim goes through this process like a stretched out tortilla shell. The process was created to reduce shrinkage from time of final sale. Loomstate denim is the purest form of denim. It's rigid and rough and will break in with time to the person wearing it and and should never be washed unless you want shrinkage to occur.

Sanforization cures the denim where unsaforized denim does not go through any rinse whatsoever.

When someone's looking to buy a pair of denim, what are the things they should consider?

First thing to me is to just forget all the reasons why and just go for a pair of raw selvedge denim. Once you are able to to get to this point, then fit to me is always most important. The tricky thing is most raw denim will shrink to some extent but yet you want to buy a pair of jeans that fits right off the bat so you can instantly begin breaking them in. A classic example of a Catch 22. I simply never wash my denim so I start with a pair that is slightly snug with room to break-in. All raw denim will open up to some extent so I always like to start a little tighter than most. If you want your denim to fade quickly then I recommend getting the darkest and deepest indigo available.       

What inspired you and Matt to create Freenote Cloth?

A passion for style, a passion for great product, and a passion for American Made. We know we are not reinventing the wheel and we know where we came from. The basics of the brand are great product and great customer service. We know it is important to welcome people with open arms and the job has certainly become more than what we do. It's who we are. Our fathers and grandparents were not garmentos or old school fashionistas. My brother and I just brought to the table what we could control. We both truly felt there was not an American clothing brand out there that spoke to us and our peers. I feel most people want a little edge, dustiness, and toughness to the brand they represent. Sometimes people always want to put brands into buckets like "this one is heritage" and "this one is workwear" and "this one is classic Americana." How about this is just an American clothing brand.  

Tell us a bit about your collection and what you offer.

Our collections changes with the season because we aim to offer a year-round product. We make denim tops and bottom, wovens, jackets, chinos, t shirts, and we just released a summer board short this year. 

My favorite pieces each season are always the jackets. I love denim jackets. To me a good denim jacket is straight rock and roll.

One of the things that makes Freenote unique is the attention to all of the details. Your hardware, buttons and leather patches are all made in the US. Can you talk a bit about where you source your materials and why using US suppliers and manufacturers is so important to the brand?

Sourcing the best available just keeps everything in line. We do source hardware and denim from Japan as well. We just do our best to make sure each garment is complete so the buyer can appreciate several details about it along with the fit. Discovering nice details throughout the life of a purchase should almost be a given especially when the product is of high value.          

Talk about your recent collaboration with Red Wing.

The crew at Red Wing is so solid. It all just started as a friendship with several people there. There really is not much more to it and we are now proud to say we will exclusively be using Red Wing Leathers from SB Foot Tannery for all of our leather patches. It doesn’t make or break our denim but it does add another nice detail and puts another story into our denim.

Where can someone looking to buy Freenote go and if they have any questions, is there a way to reach out to you?

Anyone can reach out to me directly at andrew@freenotecloth.com. I am seriously more than happy to answer any questions or, of course, get someone dialed in some Freenote gear. I enjoy answering questions about our product and love sending people into our retailers. We do not sell in every city in the US, but we should be able to find someone a place to try on our product.     

What's in store for the future of Freenote Cloth?

A lot of continued effort and work on perfecting each piece we make. Our offering is pretty diverse where each category requires a lot of tinkering. We have made it a brand mission to keep working on the product we currently offer while trying our best to perfect it. 

We all work 6 to 7 days a week either in the office, at the factories or on the road. We don’t just like what we do—we love it. We enjoy surfing and snowboarding in our free time when we do get it; but, man, I can say we are working on product non-stop. It creates a simplicity and clear path for our future in that all we have to do is focus on making great products.