October 4, 2012

Raw Denim Jeans

I was a little reluctant to write this post because I find it difficult to explain why anyone (me in particular) would devote so much time and money on something as ordinary as jeans. Seriously, I have little to no style and really don't care much about fashion trends and clothing other than being cognizant of the fact that I don't want to look like the color blind village idiot. For this reason, I still don't understand how or why I became interested in "premium" raw denim jeans. I do, however, recall the avalanche of thoughts that led me to pick up my first pair of ridiculously awesome jeans (the RN04 jean, by Roy).

The path to the RN04 jean started simply enough; I needed new jeans. A simple beginning, but the path had many steps:

1. OK, my stable of Levi's 569 Loose Straight jeans is getting old and ratty. I need at least one new pair.

"U Can't Buy This"
2. Damn, the cheap department store doesn't carry Levi's 569s anymore (duh, probably because loose pants went out of style in the mid 90s). No worries, I'm sure they are sold on Amazon or the Levi's website. This is interesting: a boatload of user comments on both Amazon and the Levi's website mention that the "new" 569s are cut much differently than the "old" 569s that I have (probably because balloon-cut pants went out of style with MC Hammer). Not a problem; I can adapt and find something modern to buy.

3. I'm too old to shop at Tilly's. Besides, skinny jeans + me = fail.

4. Huh? An entire thread on Head-Fi related to jeans? Whatever, I'll read it during lunch. What the hell are all of these random brands that I've never heard of? Nudie, Samurai, Momotaro, Eternal, Sugar Cane, what? Let me Google that for you. WTF, $350.00 for jeans that are made in Japan? Is that 350 U.S. dollars or Japanese yen? That is so ridiculous yet intriguing at the same time. Must. Do. More. Research.

5. Whoa, there is an entire subculture surrounding premium denim jeans, and they use strange terminology like: "raw denim" and "selvedge" and "18 oz unsanforized loomstate" and "18 months, one soak, two washes" . . . this stuff is rich. This Rawr Denim website is interesting, and it looks like the real serious enthusiasts are members of certain online forums such as Superfuture, which contains more information about denim jeans than anyone can imagine. I guess it's time to lurk and read up on the subject.

6. Maybe these crazy denimheads are on to something. I've read some valid justifications and some half-hearted rationalizations for spending $300 to $500 on ONE PAIR OF JEANS. For instance, I'm hearing reasons such as: "dude, these are handmade from the highest quality denim in the world," "this denim is super heavy, it's like leather," "I would gladly pay a premium for old world craftsmanship and attention to detail," "these jeans are woven from unicorn hair," "one pair of these jeans lasts three times longer than a pair of Levi's 569s," "these raw denim jeans are good for the environment because they are not chemically treated during manufacturing and because I never wash them," and "hey man, you wear these jeans and nurture them until they develop distinctive and unique fade patterns, and such that they assume a personality that reflects your lifestyle and philosophy." Wow, this is pretty deep. Definitely too deep for someone who simply wants to replace his Levi's 569 Loose Straight jeans. That said, all of this is extremely interesting.

7. So I'm really supposed to wear new jeans for a year without washing them? That is straight up disgusting. Must. Educate. Myself. Now I understand (I think); infrequent washing results in higher contrasting fade patterns, which seem to be desirable among the denimhead population. Still sounds pretty gross, though. I haven't been convinced to spend so much on a pair of jeans when my trusty 569s can be had for the cost of a twelve pack and a bag of chips.

8. Oh. Levi's 501s are the original old school raw denim, and they are still widely available on the cheap. I realize that 501s are far from "premium" these days, but perhaps I can buy a pair of new 501s (on sale) as a low cost introduction to this raw denim craze. Done deal. (As an aside, my mom used to buy 501s for me when I was a youngster, and they were dirt cheap. As in $15.00 or less from the Army surplus store). Hmm, shrink-to-fit made sizing a little challenging, but I lucked out and got it right. Hey, these actually fit pretty good and, in comparison, my old 569s now look like "husky" sized jeans on me.

9. The "501 Project" has convinced me to seriously consider a pair of premium raw denim jeans. Great. Additional research leads me to believe that Japanese denim is the way to go. Several retail websites carry the popular Japanese brands, but I'm not spending so much money on a ridiculous pair of pants without trying them on. Wonderful. I need to wait until a business or family trip takes me to a reputable brick and mortar store.

10. After an extensive amount of online research, I've narrowed down my choices to a few Japanese brands. I really want to check out some jeans by Samurai, Sugar Cane, The Strike Gold, and Real Japan Blues. These Roy jeans look pretty cool, too. Handmade in NorCal by a small company (small = one person, i.e., Roy). Wow, these videos are awesome, and they really make me want to support Roy. I'm really liking the DIY ethic associated with Roy jeans. Plus, that sticker on one of Roy's machines leads me to believe that he is down for skateboarding. Bonus points for that, so I'll need to check out Roy jeans, too.

Roy Jeans (Pocket Bag)
11. My life schedule is finally on track, and my travels are bringing me close to a store where I can check out at least some of the jeans on my wish list. They don't carry Samurai jeans, but at least I'm able to see many others and try on a few pairs. Damn, the jeans in this store are thick, heavy, and stiff as hell. Am I really doing this? Are these things really supposed to be comfortable to wear? No turning back now, I'm in. Even though I really want to buy something from Japan, these Roy jeans look super cool and are extremely well-made. The guy at the store is telling me that these particular Roy jeans were just released today, and that they will most likely be sold out in a day or two. Really? Nice salesmanship . . . ring me up for that there pair of RN04 jeans, please.

I have intentionally stopped before reaching the twelfth step lol. I don't have any "evolution" pictures of the Roy jeans because they don't have any high contrasting "sick fades" yet. I simply don't wear them hard enough or expose them to enough dirt, grime, or abrasion. I don't work on cars or cut down trees for a living. Instead, I walk to and from my air conditioned car, sit on my ass for eight hours a day, stare at a computer monitor, and use the restroom several times a day. These activities do not promote raw denim fading. That said, my Roy jeans ARE developing a little bit of character and flair (after one initial soak to shrink them, and one wash awhile ago).

I should concede that the Roy jeans look somewhat ordinary from ten feet away. Up close, however, one can appreciate the workmanship and attention to detail. For example, the picture at the beginning of this post shows the super thick real leather tag, and the picture next to step 11 shows Roy's chainstitched signature on the pocket bag. I'll conclude with a few additional pictures that show other nifty aspects of the Roy RN04 jeans. These are just some of the details that make these jeans special. (Note that my amateur photography skills really messed up the color and white balance in these pictures; at the time of this writing the true shade remains a deep and dark blue, very close to that shown in the next picture).

Seashell Stitching

Canvas Lined Back Pockets

Button Fly (Of Course) Using Burly Hardware


  1. Ha. You didn't post a picture of the jeans "planking"...

  2. Nice post and i am very impressed about how you describe all the branded jeans in your post.

  3. There are a myriad of denim hats, jeans, and even a few studded vests in my walk-in closet.

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