Friday, August 23, 2013

Naked and Famous x Big John x Rockin'Jelly Bean

Naked and Famous Denim is one of those denim brands I always bring up when friends and family who have never heard of raw selvage denim ask me what jeans to try. At full retail price a basic pair of Naked and Famous jeans can be purchased for $135 at easily accessible department stores, boutiques, and e-tailers.

What Naked and Famous does better than almost every other denim brand selling unwashed jeans is pack in a lot of value for a very low price. The fabric is interesting and the construction is solid. Garments are made Canada with Japanese fabric, often selvage and usually provides a novelty factor to talk excitedly about.

Their Fall collection features a collaboration with Japanese denim label Big John and the Japanese artist with a cult following Rockin'Jelly Bean, who designed the artwork for it. Retail price is expected to be $265 at Barneys New YorkTate + Yoko, and Blue Owl Workshop in September. This jean has been featured on other blogs earlier this year but I wanted to give a better idea of what you can expect.

14.5 oz sanforized Japanese selvage denim. Light and bright indigo shade reminiscent of some early Big John jeans from 1960's which featured a lighter indigo shade.

Example of early Big John jeans: M1002 PROT0 MODEL from Big John's website. On Big John's company history webpage this jean from 1967: "In parallel with sewing the Canton jeans of Oishi Trading, produced jeans of the BIG JOHN brand using the fabric imported from Cone Mills (U.S.A.) (M1002 PROTO MODEL)."

Artwork by Rockin'Jelly Bean.

The artist Rockin'Jelly Bean has a quirky persona much like the Naked and Famous brand.

Features labels from all three collaborators.

Big John buttons. Chain stitched waistband but not all around and tucked.

Single needle belt loops offer a cleaner look.
Hidden rivets at back pockets.

Selvage coin pocket.

Selvage detail at side seam and chain stitched chem.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tender Update

We check in with Tender Co. Denim in NYC. Founder William Kroll is in town to show Tender's Fall line and we took the opportunity to catch up and geek out.

My first encounter with William was back in 2010 when he launched Tender Co. Denim centered around an unsanforized selvage denim jeans dip-dyed in plant indigo. To date it is still one of the most exciting and unique products available in men's denim. For the new season Tender continues to showcase William's love of natural, historically-relevant dyes.

He walked us through the Tender Type 132D jean, which is an update to the Type 132 jeans introduced with the first season. The "D" can be said to be said to represent modifications made to enable driving (or tractor operating) more comfortable as the back pockets have been moved lower and closer to the side seam. This change allows easier access to wallet and tools stored in the pocket while minimizing stress caused by sitting on objects in your back pocket.

William shows us the pair of Type 132 jeans he has been wearing for about a year and a half. He has attached the side pocket to it, testing its functionality and form before officiallly implementing it into the Type 132D. The denim fades beautifully and you will notice the new pocket is darker than the rest of the jean because it was added after the jeans have already been worn for some time.

On the final Type 132D the seat back pockets have been removed and the size and position of the new pockets fine-tuned. It is shown here in unwashed form without overdye.

Said pockets are calico lined with the same soft and durable fabric that lines the belt loops.

Riveted for lasting wear.

Selvage side seam. Double cuffed in William's preferred style.

Here are the 132D unwashed/undyed next to William's modified 132 natural indigo dip-dyed.

Other details include denim pocket bags with the selvage line at the bottom seam. When you reach into the front pockets you will touch the selvage.

This picture shows the selvage when the pocket bag has been pulled out, on a different pair of Tender jeans.

Other details include riveted snob's thumb pocket (not coin pocket) and removable brass button.

William is an adventurous product developer full of exciting ideas. Some other fun things he shared with us include a hefty, gorgeous brass whistle. Here it is shown alongside my brass Falling Whistles (with my own titanium ball chain and indigo yarn dyed braid). The Tender whistle feels significantly more solid and weighty and exhudes workmanship.

13 inch MacBook case made with selvage denim lined with moleskin padding.

We look forward to many more great things from William. Stay tuned to the Tender website and the discussion forum on Superfuture dedicated to it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gross but Safe

This is relevant. And reassuring. The Star reports that an Alberta student's science experiment indicates our strange habit of not washing our jeans is not a health hazard.


John Cotter
The Canadian Press

EDMONTON—A University of Alberta student has discovered through science that a current fashion trend is safe, but can be a little stinky.

Josh Le donned the same pair of skin-tight jeans for 15 months without washing them. The idea was to break in the raw denim so the fabric would hug the contours of his body, leaving distinct wear lines and creases.

Curious about the health risks of wearing such a grubby garment, Le asked his textile professor to test the jeans for bacteria before he washed them for the first time.

The results showed high counts of five different kinds of bacteria in the denim, but nothing that posed a health hazard.

“I was blown away. I thought there would be a lot more bacteria than was present,” Le said Wednesday. “It sort of shows that it is okay to not wash jeans.”

Raw or dry denim is not washed or treated with chemicals when it is manufactured. The dark indigo pants are as stiff as cardboard. It’s trendy to wear the tight jeans without washing them in the hope the indigo will wear away at stress points in the fabric. When the jeans are finally washed, they leave wear patterns that are as personal as a fingerprint.

Human Ecology professor Rachel McQueen said the highest recordings of bacteria were found in the crotch of the jeans at 10,000 units per square centimetre, with lower readings in the back and front of the pants.

But the colonies were normal skin bacteria and did not include dangerous E. coli.

“I didn’t see any evidence of those, but that could be very unique to Josh. I mean, he wore underwear, which can be helpful,” she said.

Le said some of his friends were disgusted by his jeans experiment, but others were very understanding.

He said his dingy denim even became a good way of meeting new people.

“Some people really liked it, but some people were completely grossed out by it,” he said. “I was able to meet a lot more people and have a lot of good conversations. It was like, ‘hey, nice jeans.’ ”

Despite his best efforts to keep his jeans clean, Le said he still managed to spill food on them. He also wore them on hot days. He figures he wore them well over 200 times during the experiment.

He acknowledged the denim did get pretty ripe. His solution was to toss them in his freezer whenever they got too smelly.

“There were times when it had a bad odour, like in the seventh month,” Le said. “That’s when I threw it in the freezer and magically when it came out it was odourless.”

McQueen said what was most surprising was a second test she did on the jeans after they were washed and Le wore them again for another 13 days. The results were about the same.

She said while the bacteria didn’t pose a risk for a healthy, strong young person, she recommends that people wash their jeans more often — at least once a month.

“I would suggest washing your jeans more frequently. But that is more for control over the odour,” she said.

“If people are just being lazy, perhaps odour could become a problem and they may lose friends rather than gain friends.” Article

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ROY at Self Edge

Friend and fellow (denim nut) Roy Slaper is now selling his self-made ROY jeans at Self Edge stores and online shop. Self-made is the term I am using to describe not the fact that the jeans make themselves but Roy himself makes every pair from fabric cutting, sewing, to pressing. It requires quite a bit of ingenuity to figure out how to set up his production process to be efficient enough for such an endeavor (producing enough jeans to support 3 stores, Self Edge online sales, and the upcoming ROY store in Oakland to be opened by appointment in 2011). It would be an understatement to say Roy knows what he is doing and has not sacrified quality. In fact from what I can see the quality has gone up as he puts more jeans under his belt.

Here is a quick look at the specifications:

-Fabric is White Oak Cone denim, pure indigo, no leg twist, high shrinkage
-RS01 model is slightly fuller cut, same the one he offered for a limited time through his website
-RN01 is a new model with a narrower leg and a lower rise
-New 11 oz twill pocketing cut on cross grain for balanced shrinkage effect resulting in bettering fit and comfort
-Shell stitched inside fly edge
-Price: $275

Big thanks to Roy for the bare-all pictures.

For anyone wondering if the product is worth the price I will put my name on the line here to say it is worth every penny.

ROY Website

Monday, October 04, 2010

Denim Made by Tender

One of the most honest and heartfelt jean I have seen this year is made by Tender Co. It is made from heavy unsanforized and unskewed Japanese selvage denim. It is sewn in England to respectable specifications and then dip dyed in plant indigo at a woad farm in Norfolk, England. Here it is.

People like William Kroll of Tender Co. inspire me and fuel my belief that there will always be excitement in denim. Kroll is an English designer who cut his teeth working in the denim industry, trained with tailors, picked up indigo dyeing in Okayama, Japan, and admits to maybe enjoying product development a bit more than design. This man loves the product, loves materials and I imagine him spending more time experimenting with possibilities and research than dreaming up fancy drawings. His line of jeans, jackets, vests, and tees immediately conjure a reverie of the dyeing heydays of England. If one considers the extensive use of woad and, later, indigo in Europe in general and Britain in particular the tradition is very rich. There has not been a comprehensive denim offering which draws upon the English heritage of woad and indigo dyeing and it will be exciting to see what Kroll does in this regard.

In the next few posts I will post an exploration of some of the details that make the Tender jeans special.

Tender Website

Monday, August 30, 2010

Self Edge Los Angeles to Open

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A First Look at "Jeans of the Old West: A History"

With "Jeans of the Old West: A History" author Michael Allen Harris delivers one of the most important works of literature related to jeans. The book's subject—denim garments and their manufacturers in late-1800's San Francisco—is specific at the risk of being esoteric but provides important insights in such an engaging manner that everyone from designers and collectors to fashion students and casual consumers will find much relevance. Anyone particularly interested in the lost history of workwear before the turn of the 20th century will jump for joy poring over the ample pictures and deductive reasoning Harris presents about forgotten manufacturers and their patents to innovate how jeans are made stronger and better. Given the amount of history destroyed in the fires following the major 1906 San Francisco earthquake it is a wonder Harris was able to paint these vivid portraits of the Neustadter Brothers, A.B. Elfelt & Co., Greenebaum Brothers, Heynemann & Co., and other important figures and concerns. In fact this is the primary challenge Levi Strauss & Co. will always face in building their company archive—too many records and properties were destroyed in those fires.

It is no surprise that Harris traces the long series of overalls innovations with Levi Strauss & Co.'s riveted pants patent as a starting point. After all it seems that it was Jacob Davis's 1873 patent, filed using Levi Strauss money, that sparked the subsequent patents for overalls improvements which did not infringe on the Levi's patent by other tailors and manufacturers that are so much the focus of this book. To supplement the countless hours of research are pictures (I stopped counting after 250) of antique garments that testify to the patents' practicalities. The best way to describe their condition is in Harris' own words in the book's foreward. He writes, "Considering the limited production runs for some of these jeans, and the difficult conditions under which they were used, the fact that any examples remain is a testament to the quality of their design and construction." That is these garment-remains currently in the collections of Harris and other collectors like Hitoshi Yamada, Mike Hodis, and Brit Eaton, were once the trusted, hard-worked tools of laborers in mines, mills and fields.

Through the study of these artifacts new knowledge is brought to light that will certainly tickle those interested in vintage denim. For example hidden at the end of the book is a tidbit that explains why sometimes old jeans found near mines or mills have one or two legs cut off. "I have seen tar-soaked blue jean scraps wrapped around air pipes at old mills. I surmise that this is why some of the old, discarded jeans I have seen had their legs cut off." He provides pictures of such uses and you will see how naturally-suited a pant leg is for this job. And did you know in 1879 Levi Strauss & Co. offered waistoverall workpants in brown, mode and deadgrass colors? Sprinkled throughout are evidence that may dispell long-held beliefs in the collecting world. His cinchstrap theory used to date early Levi Strauss & Co. jeans alone is a breakthrough that will certainly be heavily discussed. Yet through all the deductions Harris keeps a modest and honest tone that is perfectly suited for the topic of old jeans and by this characteristic provides an engaging and enjoyable read.

And so for a job well done Michael Harris wins the praise of this blog and surely many other denimheads for delivering a book that does not disappoint despite much anticipation. You can purchase "Jeans of the Old West: A History" directly from the publisher Schiffer or on

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Monday, July 26, 2010

A Shot of Inspiration

Are you feeling a bit low on creative energy? A friend just sent me this fantastic video about Raleigh Denim. Founders Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko are the sweetest and most passionate couple in the industry and their hard-working attitude and perseverance inspires all.

Their drive to minimize Raleigh Denim's carbon footprint and revitalize manufacturing in North Carolina has led them to work with the historic mill Cone Denim. Cone's White Oak mill in Greensboro, NC is prominently featured in the video with a rare glimpse at the legendary Draper X3 shuttle looms. These mid-century narrow looms are the only ones still producing selvage denim on the western hemisphere today. They are not only visually very different from Japanese Toyoda shuttle looms but are constructed differently as well.

A more special sighting still is the appearance of Ralph Tharpe, Senior Technical Design Director at Cone Denim. His knowledge of denim design and manufacturing is paralleled by few and his love and knowledge of American denim mills history should earn him a place as a living national treasure.

Raleigh Denim: Handcrafted in North Carolina from David Huppert on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Show Off and Tell

The most anticipated book of the year for denim lovers and vintage collectors comes from Michael Harris of Deadgrass. "Jeans of the Old West: A History" is expected to shed light on a number of legendary but little known workwear brands in the late 1800's in San Francisco. From what I have heard so far the publication is slated to become the important ever written on American overalls history given how little even seasoned vintage collectors know about the rare, non-Levi's denim pieces featured in the book.

Harris has been collecting old denim for some years now and to show off the caliber of treasures he will present in his book he sends us some awe-inspiring pictures. First up is what's left of a jean with the pronouncement of "Spring Bottom," though difficult to see, on what appears to be heavy twill pocketing.

In Harris' own words:
"The pant is most of the left side and fragments of the one back pocket. First picture is the stamped pocket bag. The pocket bag at the top says 'celebrated copper riveted.' Below the last phrase it says 'overalls spring bottom pants.'"

I have not yet had the opportunity to thoroughly study vintage Levi's Spring Bottom Pants but Harris's piece does not resemble the Spring Bottoms I have examined before. The garment pattern, construction and seams do not resemble the typically dandyish, flare-legged, and tailored trousers. Perhaps the pocketing print is simply proclaiming that Levi Strauss & Co. makes both overalls AND Spring Bottom Pants? It is difficult to tell from the pictures of this very dirty and aged garment if the denim is run of the mill Spring Bottoms fabric of which the weft yarn is twisted with a goldish brown or other colored yarn. The next time I visit Los Angeles I will be sure to request examining this fantastic piece.

Jeans of the Old West has just been made available from its publisher Schiffer Books and I can't wait to get my copy.

UPDATED 7/22/10: After some deliberation both Harris and I agree these are in fact not Spring Bottom Pants. Corroborating material is expected to come my way but given that these pants have no spring at the bottom they are definitely not SBP's. We are speculating now these are No. 2's. More on that later, perhaps.