Introduction of Cone Denim

The American Cone Denim fabric mill is one of the leading suppliers of denim fabrics since 1891. Cone Denim is mostly known of their long business relationship with Levi’s Jeans. This denim agreement goes back to 1915 and is known as ‘The Golden Handshake’. The Cone Denim company was formed by the brothers Moses and Ceasar Cone. The Cone brothers purchased more than 2.000 acres in Greensboro and built their first plant. Ater their successful start the brothers expanded their business with the opening of the Revolution mill in 1899. The Revolution mill was offering new flannel styles.

In April 1905 Cone Denim opened their largest denim plant in the world called White Oak. The mill was named after the 200 year old White Oak tree that stood nearby and served as a gathering place for people traveling to Greensboro from the surrounding countryside. The White Oak plant is still running today and is still embraced by the true denimheads of its rich history and of course of their high-quality made selvage fabrics.

Cone Denim White Oak mill at the early ’40’s with American Draper X3 fly shuttle looms 

Cone Denim is still crafting authentic, vintage styles, but also develops new innovative technologies. Their global platforms include denim operations in the United States, Mexico and China. Cone Denim is focused on serving the worldwide denim market with top quality fabrics.

The story of the Pinto Wash by Cone Denim

Cone Denim has a lot of stories to tell, but the story of their Pinto Wash is an one of a kind. For this story we go back to June 15 of 1969. Greensboro was hit with the most rain since Hurricane Hazel went through the city 15 years prior. The Greensboro paper reported that Cone Mills was the industry hit hardest by the more than six inches falling rain in 24 hours. The heavy rain damaged their machinery and all the shifts were cancelled at their White Oak mill. Even the total warehouse and central power plant were flooded. As a result, millions of yards of denim stored in the warehouse were soaked with water. It was a true disaster.

High school students were hired to help wash and dry the fabrics to save them. It seems to be the worst day in the Cone Denim’s history until a young denim merchandiser from the Cone Denim’s New York marketing group came with a brilliant idea. He suggested to remove randomly the dye which gave the denim a faded, mottled appearance. They also made an advertisement to share and promote this true story. The advertisement came in the Daily News Record and over 50,000 designers, manufacturers and retailers rushed to place their orders. After the denim was made into garments, thousands of college campuses fell in love with it, and the Pinto Wash Denim became an instant success.

The original Pinto Wash advertisement by Cone Denim

Ready to order Cone Mill Pinto Wash fabrics

Cone Denim is still producing their Pinto Wash denim fabrics, based on the originals. The fabrics are available in both selvage and wide styles and are all produced in their White Oak mill. The Pinto Wash denim fabrics are available here at their webshop.

Cone Denim Pinto Wash denim fabrics

Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.