Meet Your Maker: Cone Mills Of Greensboro, North Carolina

Cone Mills is one of the last remaining manufacturers of selvedge denim in the United States. Their textile factory in Greensboro, North Carolina turns out quality raw denim around the clock, and many top brands swear by the White Oak factory’s denim.

Though most people know and recognize the name, most do not know the story of the company, how the denim is produced, and why it is renowned for its quality and durability.

History

History Of Cone Mills

The Cone Mills we know today was originally established in 1891 by Moses and Caesar Cone as a textile manufacturing plant primarily focused on flannels. In 1905, the Cone Brothers purchased the White Oak plant, named for a 200-year old tree that stood on the property, in Greensboro, North Carolina. At this point they began to manufacture their famous denim on shuttle looms, some of which are still in use today.

By 1908, they were the largest denim manufacturer in the world. Cone Mills was best known for suppling Levi Strauss and Co. with their denim, something they did from 1915 until Levi’s began to move production overseas. Positively, Levi’s has recently began to source some denim from Cone Mills again.

Cone Mills continued to produce denim in various styles for various brands throughout the century. However, in 2003, with business steadily declining, the Cone Mills Company filed for bankruptcy. In 2004, billionaire Wilbur Ross purchased the company, along with others, and formed the International Textile Group.

Today

Cone Mills Today

Today, Cone Mills White Oak denim, still produced in Greensboro, North Carolina goes hand-in-hand with both quality and the resurgence of American made goods.

The company’s signature selvedge denim is still woven on American Draper x3 fly shuttle looms from the 1940’s. The company asserts that the fabric woven on these looms has a “depth and dimension” that is unique to Cone Mills denim. They even claim that the turn of the century wood flooring that the machines sit on create a unique rhythm that is woven into the fabric. These antiquated machines, combined with loyal and skilled employees, some of which have been working at the White Oak plant for 50+ years, all contribute to the old world quality of Cone Mills denim.

Many companies still look to Cone Mills for their denim needs because they are one of the last quality selvedge denim producers in the United States. Cone Mills also produces an incredibly durable and unique denim that is admired by both manufacturers of denim as well as consumers.

End-Product Of Cone Mills Denim

Brands

Cone Mills Denim

Cone Mills denim is used by many of the top denim producers today, including:

  • Levi’s Vintage Clothing
  • Raleigh Denim
  • Apolis
  • Left Field
  • Tellason
  • Roy
  • Rising Sun
  • Post O’ Alls
  • Ande Whall
  • Mister Freedom
  • Railcar Fine Goods
  • Epaulet
  • Baldwin
  • Jack Spade
  • Freemans Sporting Club
  • And many more…

To see Cone Mill’s White Oak Plant in action, check out this excellent video produced by Self EdgeROY, and Kellen Degger.

Darius Lalier

Darius is currently a student living in New York City, attending New York University. Darius has a strong interest in all things raw denim and a specific interest in American manufacturing. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @dlalier.

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  • Ji

    Thanks for the article, I’ve always wanted to learn more about where my denim comes from.

    One lingering question, though. Some jean makers put “White Oak” on their denim and others just put “Cone Mills” on their label. Are these from the the same factory or does Cone Mills have more than one factory?

    • http://www.facebook.com/oldmanstryker Kyle Stryker

      from what I understand, Cone Mills is in White Oak

  • http://www.facebook.com/devan.prithipaul Devan Prithipaul

    good article, although i would have liked a way to identify cone mills denim from other kinds of denim. im personally not a big fan of cone mills, but its a good article

  • bocah

    this is cool!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/devan.prithipaul Devan Prithipaul

    cool brand! if only they would license their technology to denim. super cool

    • Get In DeVan.

      Cool story, Bro..

    • Get In DeVan

      Cool story, Bro.

      • http://www.facebook.com/devan.prithipaul Devan Prithipaul

        haha that’s a clever username! ive never thought of that!

  • William Harris

    nice

  • Jun

    FYI, darahkubiru means my blood is blue in Indonesian…

    Also, I love Indonesian babes yum yum!

  • Ash Edwards

    Bought some selvedge denim at Club Monaco (owned by Ralph Lauren) in the last few months and was told it was from North Carolina. This must be the place.

  • Conehead

    Unfortunately this article has some inaccuracies. The Cone brothers built White Oak, as it was not just a simple purchase and acquisition in 1905. It was a multi-year construction project that gave them what would go on to become the world’s leading supplier of denim fabric.

  • fred starling

    My grandfather worked in the card room starting 95 years ago; my father spent his entire career with Cone and eventually became the plant manager of White Oak, and that deeptone denim still runs through my veins. Numerous family members worked there through the years also. Everytime I go to Greensboro, I have to ride by that magnificent mill!

  • rbrtpcy

    What jeans are shown in the image above the brands section?

    • Altoclefchris

      I’m not sure, but I think that’s tellason’s hem.

  • Here’s Johnny

    A billionaire saved all these jobs. How many poor people would it take to do that.

  • Doug Swails

    When I was 16 I drove a Forklift at the White Oak Plant. When the denim was finished upstairs it would fall through the floor on a pallet as seen in one of these photos. There were 3 forklifts going wide open to keep up with moving the pallets of denim out of the way and to replace the empty area with a new pallet before the start of a new roll of denim to fall on it.

  • http://www.soni-enterprises.net Faran Maqsood

    Nice Discussion going on