It is with great sadness I receive the news today that Cone Mill’s White Oak plant in North Carolina is closing its doors at the end of this year. These guys have been making denim for Levi’s for over 100 years and is the last mill in America to make selvedge denim. Their parent company was bought out about a year ago and obviously dwindling profits has meant that White Oak is becoming another casualty of profit margins and changing times.
But this isn’t just another unprofitable business going down. This is the end of an era, much like the ceasing of car manufacturing in Australia. Much like how Commodores and Falcons are intrinsically Australian, denim is intrinsically American. And to no longer be able to buy quality denim woven in America is a sad day indeed.
You could argue that the Japanese have been beating the Americans at their own game for decades and you’d be right. And I don’t know if it’s just nostalgia or an irrational yearning for things that are authentic, but it is amazing to be able to buy a pair of brand new Levi’s Vintage Clothing 501s cut like they were in 1947 and woven in the very same factory on the very same machines with the very same wooden floors that cause vibrations in the machines that give the denim a unique irregularity just like in 1947. That is fucking amazing and unfortunately that is soon going to cease to be possible.
I recently bought a pair of 501ct’s made from White Oak selvedge denim and they are currently being broken in. In fact I am wearing them right now. It’s a weird feeling knowing that after literally millions of yards of denim coming out of that factory, my jeans will be the last of its kind. So go out there right now and buy some White Oak selvedge denim now while you still can. You’ll own a piece of history.