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Rags & Blues Aren’t Just for Denim

RAGS & BLUES — Music

  • Blues & Rags aren’t just for denim. 
  • The term “rags” has long been used in the garment industry: “rags trade” for industry,  “rags” for clothing, and “rags” for jeans.
  • “Rags” also describes Ragtime music. Piano Rags are distinctly American, with African American origins and a syncopated rhythm.  Scott Joplin famously composed “Maple Leaf Rag”, “Entertainer” and many other rags.   Piano rag music was used to accompany silent movies.  Western movies also use the music for saloon scenes.
  • Ragtime music influenced early jazz composers, such as Gerschwin. 
  • Although Roanoke Rags rhapsodizes about our blues, Gershwin takes the cake with his composition Rhapsody in Blue, still famous and well-played one hundred years later.
  • Appalachian Blues, originating from this region, also influenced jazz, according to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • Today, you can visit the Crooked Trail which is SW Virginia’s Musical Heritage
  • Galax hosts an Old Fiddler’s Convention every August
  • Floyd Fest is another musical event every July in Floyd, Virginia.  Or just visit the Floyd Country Store on Friday!

RAGS & BLUES — Textile

History of Denim in the Blue Ridge Region

Did you know that the Blue Ridge Region has a rich textile history?  For years, Roanoke was home to the Blue Ridge Overalls Company.  Another company, The Favorite Garment Company, produced overalls in Lynchburg.  Glad Rags was a sewing factory which used to be in Buchanan, Virginia.  Garment factories used to dot the Appalachian Mountains and southeast, before most factories went overseas.  Travelers passing through the Appalachians could buy factory-direct blue jeans, just by pulling off the highway!  They also got an impromptu tour of the factory. 

For many years, the Norfolk & Western railroad had a track line running through the New River Valley, due to the numerous garment factories.  Today, most of these factories are gone.  The New River railway line has since been converted into the New River Trail for hiking,  biking and horseback riding.  If you get a chance, take a bike ride along the New River Trail starting in Draper, and head south.  You will be rewarded with stunning views as you cross old railroad trestles and the Hiwassee River Bridge.  Enjoy the mountain biking without intense exertion — this trail is almost flat, with a gentle slope. 

Next time you put on your pair of “ragged blues”, remember the rich history of denim manufacture in America, and support locally made!  

The good news?  Textile companies are once again popping up in Virginia, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills.  Besides Roanoke Rags, here are some of the other companies: 

Appalachian Gear

Blue Ridge Overland Gear

DAM Good Equipment


Shockoe Atelier




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