Born, raised, made in Knoxville: Marc Nelson Denim

Whiskey dyed jeans from Marc Nelson Denim, Knoxville, Tennessee

Whiskey dyed jeans from Marc Nelson Denim, Knoxville, Tennessee

Ad for Marc Nelson Denim

Ad for Marc Nelson Denim — from website:

Dogwood Art DeTour 2015 took us a lot of places from the open studios of Diana Dee, Melanie Wood, and Shannon Davis to the heart of Knoxville on E. Depot Avenue for the art of manufacturing at Marc Nelson Denim.  Oh, sure.  We’d seen the ads of a handsome couple sporting whiskey-stained denim, but never knew the story — or even the location — of denim jeans causing a buzz in the fashion world.

Founder Marc Hall, born and raised near the old, now defunct, Levi’s plant on Cherry Street, took pride in wearing Levi’s partly because his grandfather, L. C. Nelson, had a flair for fashion and a love of quality.  My grandfather always told me that when you leave the house, even if you don’t have a million bucks, you should dress like a million bucks, said Hall (as quoted on website.)  And thus, the trend began.  Now, this small-batch craft denim brand produces sought-after limited quantity jeans named for Marc and his grandfather, Mr. Nelson.  (Full story here.)

Founder Marc Hall's grandfather, L. C. Nelson

Founder Marc Hall’s grandfather, L. C. Nelson

Our tour began with a greeting from the affable buyer and product developer, Kim Milligan, who directed us to one of the friendliest PR guys in town, Andy Jones.  Andy almost immediately took us to the racks of clothing, like the waxed denim shirt.  (Waxed, right?)

Andy explained that denim starts out white and then takes on the colors given to it — like the indigo blue we’re all familiar with.  Or orange, if you live in Big Orange Country!

Marc Nelson Denim jeans can be bought from racks or customized to a specific fit and size. But you need to wear them.  A lot.  Or that’s what Andy told us: They take on your shape and become part of you.  That’s why Andy — and the instructions on their denimology fact sheet on the website  — recommend not washing them — well, for at least for six months.  Surprised?  We were. But now it kinda makes sense.

Wear 'em for six months so they conform to you!

Wear ’em for six months so they conform to you!

The newest for Marc Nelson?  The color of whiskey.  Andy again:  That’s right.  We put whiskey in the wash with the denim.  And this is the color we get.

As described on the website blog: We steep raw, natural 12 oz. Selvedge Cone Mills Denim,  in a barrel of Whiskey for 30 days. After the month, we wash it, soften it and hang it to dry. The pair is breathable, yet incredibly sturdy – ready for years of wear and conversations over thick, amber whiskey.   (And no, we didn’t sample the product in the bottles!)

Whiskey-steeped jeans, Marc Nelson Denim

They felt softer to us: whiskey-steeped jeans!

Housed in an industrial district, the Marc Nelson Denim showroom is urban all the way –from displays on rough-hewn wood panels to tables who had a past life in a manufacturing setting.

We wouldn’t have necessarily thought of Marc Nelson Denim being a favorite stop on an art tour.  But with the story, the craftsmanship, the unique quality of the garments — well, why not?  This IS art.  And, thankfully, it’s right here in Knoxville.

Bin full of signature buttons for Marc Nelson Denim

Bin full of signature buttons for Marc Nelson Denim

For more information:

Marc Nelson Denim, 700 E. Depot Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917;  800.605.9782;


Where to buy Marc Nelson Denim:

For more posts on the Dogwood Arts Festival 2015, click here.

4 thoughts on “Born, raised, made in Knoxville: Marc Nelson Denim

  1. Oh, the Places We See

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    Nice read Rusha, and you had me at whiskey-soaked denim. I’ve never heard of this brand, and after visiting the website, I’m sure that I will never be wearing them – but they look very cool. I didn’t know that all denim started out white. Wearing the jeans for a good fit reminds me of my days in Texas and the recommendations for good-fitting cowboy boots. Of course, you could wear them to break them in, or as one oldtimer told me the best thing to do was to get in the bathtub with your boots on and get them totally soaked. Then, wear the boots (continuously) until they dry out, and they’ll fit perfectly. I didn’t try it, but it made sense. ~James

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks so much for the comment. The folks at Marc Nelson Denim also recommend that you get in the shower wearing your new jeans so the jeans will conform to your body. I’d never heard of that, but it sounds doable. It’s funny you said you might not ever wear these. I asked Andy (in the post) if there were any plans to produce jeans for Boomer women. He said they were coming. So, who knows? Every body. Every price range. It could happen!

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