Denim: A Unique Journey In An Ordinary World

From start to finish, making a raw product your own.

Brand Review: A.P.C.

Based in France, A.P.C. is known for producing luxurious clothing for men and women. What A.P.C. is most known for, and has become a staple in every well dressed man’s wardrobe, is their raw denim. Coming in a variety of fits ranging from their skinniest fit (Petit Standard) to the classic and relaxed fit (Rescue), A.P.C. denim has earned  it’s reputation by crafting quality product, at understandable prices.

Founded in 1987 by the Tunisian-Jewish born designer, Jean Touitou, A.P.C. stands for “Atelier de Production et de Création.”  Portrayed through the solid colors and luxurious fabrics, A.P.C.’s style is known for being simple, clean and effortless.

APC

A layout of the fit’s A.P.C. creates.

I could drool over the brand all day, but this article is about the brand’s raw denim line. I purchased a pair of raw indigo New Cure from Nordstrom and love them.

Here you can see the button and tag detail. Photo Credit: Austin Scarbrough

Here you can see the button and tag detail. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

With quality detailing on the buttons with a clean and simple look throughout the denim, A.P.C. has mastered raw denim. The New Cure is a slim/skinny fit throughout the leg with a low rise while being true to size in the waist.

This is the New Cure fit in a size 29W. Photo Credit: Austin Scarborough

This is the New Cure fit in a size 29W. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

A.P.C is definitely a brand to try for those of all skill levels and especially for those who are new to the denim game, this pair of French denim is a great place to start.

Brand Review: Traveller Denim

A while back, I visited a shop in Austin, Texas called Traveler Denim. From there, I was personally fitted and measured for my very own pair of selvedge denim. I had the luxury of selecting every aspect of the denim from the pockets, the denim itself, the buttons and even the rivets. You can read my previous post about my visit here.

For my personal pair, I selected a 14oz. Kuroki (Japanese) selvedge denim, with vintage Carhartt pockets and lining. The buttons are black matte and the rivets are a bright copper. For the fit, I wanted a skin tight grip that only a personally made pair could accomplish. Normally 14 oz. would make this a bit uncomfortable, but due to the light tint of sulphur, it actually gives the denim a lighter feel and a bit more fluid.

This is me trying on my pair outside of their shop.

This is me trying on my pair outside of their shop. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

On my second fitting, once I saw the denim fit perfectly, I got to watch them put the finishing touches on my pair. They put on the buttons, rivets, attached the belt loops and hemmed the jeans right in front of me. How many of your pairs can you say that about?

Here are a few photos to see the detail in the denim.

Here are a few photos to see the detail in the denim.

The red selvedge lining.

The red selvedge lining.

I love the asymmetrical pocket design.

I love the asymmetrical pocket design.

Traveller Denim uses very minimal branding to give the denim a clean image. The only branding is the beige leather belt loop right above the butt. On this, you can customize what it says and watch as they hammer in each letter. Yet another way to make this pair of denim your own.

My personalized belt loop with Traveller, my name and the serial number for my pair.

My personalized belt loop with Traveller, my name and the serial number for my pair.

I absolutely love this pair of denim. The fit, of course, is spot on and feels like a glove. Obviously your pair does not have to be skin tight since you decide the fit when they take your measurements. As far as the quality goes, I have no complaints. They have the feeling of a quality pair of selvedge denim with the sheer pleasure of knowing it is one of a kind.

Recently, the brand is beginning to branch out into bespoke denim jackets. I had the luxury of trying one on at the shop and loved it. Erick and Selenia are destined for greatness. With the thoughts of expanding and even being involved with Justin Vernon, the lead singer of the well-known band Bon Iver, Traveller Denim has a promising future.

I highly encourage denim enthusiasts everywhere to look into Traveller Denim. Even if you are just a fan of fashion or quality products in general, this brand is one to keep an eye on.

The Heaviest Denim In The World

Naked & Famous is known for developing many creative pairs of denim. I have mentioned their brand in several posts throughout my blog. Amongst all of their crazy ideas, Naked & Famous’ greatest achievement (in my opinion) is constructing the heaviest denim in the world weighing in at 32 oz.

My pair of 32 oz. denim. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

My pair of 32 oz. denim. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

This pair in particular is only available in the Weird Guy fit. Normally I would prefer the Skinny Guy fit, but once I tried this pair on for the first time, I saw how impossible it would be to put them on if the leg was any skinnier. It took me a total of 15 minutes, a butter knife, elbow grease and sweat to get them on for the first time. Call me crazy, but once I got them fastened, I felt extremely accomplished! After a couple of days, the denim now feels like any other pair, making my other pairs feel that much lighter.

The selvedge of the denim. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The selvedge of the denim. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

I had a chance to ask Brandon Svarc, founder and current CEO of N&F, a couple of questions about the denim. According to Svarc, “It took us 2 years to develop the fabric and figure out how to sew the jeans together.” He also informed me that only 3 pairs were able to be made per day due to the sheer difficulty involved in the manufacturing process.

The pair of denim standing up on their own. I apologize for the poor quality of this photo. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The pair of denim standing up on their own. I apologize for the poor quality of this photo. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

With an intense shade of indigo, even after the pre-soak, the denim has a different look than any other pair in my wardrobe. Partnered with a slight taper from the knee down, the Weird Guy fit was the perfect choice for this pair.

Me wearing the denim. This is the Weird Guy fit and I love it. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Me wearing the denim. This is the Weird Guy fit and I love it. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Here in Texas, it doesn’t stay cold for long, but on the days it was, the heavy weight came in handy. I purchased my pair towards the end of the summer, so there were several occasions where I wore them in triple digit weather. They were hot, but not unbearable. It’s definitely manageable and most places don’t remain as hot as Texas, so the average user will be fine.

As of now, I’ve been wearing this pair often for a little over 3 months. Fades are beginning to appear in the seat area as well as the right back pocket where I put my wallet. Overall, a great pair of denim that I would recommend for hardcore denim fans. I can’t wait to see how they will look in another 3 months. Only time will tell…..

Notice the fades beginning to appear on the back pockets after 3 months. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Notice the fades beginning to appear on the back pockets after 3 months. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

American and Japanese Denim: The Heads and Tails of Denim

With the denim market being a vast grouping of different brands and styles, raw and selvedge denim are the heart of it all. Surprisingly, most selvedge and raw denim originates from one of two places, America or Japan. Although there isn’t an official ‘debate’ between which of the two is better, a common question I’ve seen floating around is, “which one is better?” Honestly, I don’t know if I can say one is better than the other, but there are differences between each country of origin.

Residing in the United States, the oldest selvedge denim factory in the world is the Cone Mills Factory located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Brothers Moses and Ceasar Cone began the factory in 1891 with an entrepreneurial spirit in mind. If not the only one, Cone Mills serves as the powerhouse of American selvedge and raw denim. The factory takes great pride in its history and several of the employees have worked there for over 50 years preserving the traditional methods of the factory. A few of the many brands that use Cone Mills are imogene + willie, Tellason and Left Field NYC.

A vintage photo of the Cone Mills weaving room in 1941. Source: (www.conedenim.com)

A vintage photo of the Cone Mills weaving room in 1941. Source: (www.conedenim.com)

Denim from Cone Mills tends to have a particular look; a dark raw denim that fades into a bright shade of indigo. With only one factory, some perceive most American selvedge denim as having the same look with each fade. Partially true, however most brands implement their own finishing touches on the denim to make their own pair’s unique. Across each brand the raw denim will eventually fade into a bright indigo. With a well-established reputation, Cone Mills has made a name for itself and is not only the leading selvedge mill in America, but one of the top producing in the world. Every denim enthusiast should have at least one pair of raw denim from this American factory in their closet.

Here is a pair of denim from Railcar Fine Goods constructed at Cone Mills. Shot after 14 months and 7 washes, notice the bright blue shade of the natural indigo. Source: (www.rawrdenim.com)

Here is a pair of denim from Railcar Fine Goods constructed at Cone Mills. Shot after 14 months and 7 washes, notice the bright blue shade of the natural indigo. Source: (www.rawrdenim.com)

At the other end of the globe, literally, lies Japan. Also known for their high quality selvedge and raw denim, Japan is home to several mills, with variations between each facility. Established not too long after Cone Mills, Kurabo Mills was founded over 110 years ago and is the oldest selvedge mill in Japan. Kurabo supplies denim for Big John which is Japan’s first denim brand. After Kurabo, Nisshinbo Mills opened in 1907. Nisshinbo was known for combining traditional and modern techniques, and is widely recognized for their ring-spun denim. Taylor Stitch utilizes Nisshinbo denim as well as other mills in Japan and America. Other notable mills in Japan are Kaihara, Japan Blue Group and Kuroki. With each mill comes different colors and variations of denim.

Pictured is the spinning mill at the Kaihara facility. Upon first glance, the mill is a lot more modern than that of Cone Mills. Source: (www.kaihara-denim.com)

Pictured is the spinning mill at the Kaihara facility. Upon first glance, the mill is a lot more modern than that of Cone Mills. Source: (www.kaihara-denim.com)

Each mill will produce a quality pair of denim. Where yours is produced depends on the brand you choose. Clearly, Japan has more of a variety than American when it comes to selvedge denim. I own several pairs of Japanese selvedge myself and love them. However, I love my Cone Mills pair just as much. Whichever one I wear depends on my mood, what else I am wearing, etc. With a variety of mills, brands such as Naked & Famous are born that create anything from a traditional japanese denim, to raw denim naturally dyed with pomegranates.

A pair of Momotaro jeans after 14 months with several washes. Source: (www.rawrdenim.com)

A pair of Momotaro jeans after 14 months with several washes. Source: (www.rawrdenim.com)

Compare the Momotaro pair above to the pair from Railcar Fine Goods. Can see you a difference in the fade and the intensity of the indigo? I tried to find a pair that was worn for the same amount of time. Obviously, not every pair will fade in this particular way, but the process the indigo is treated in the factory does have an effect on the intensity of the fade.

At the end of the day, where you purchase your denim will be one of the determining factors in the pair’s quality. As far as which country produces better denim, it all boils down to personal preference. Hopefully this breakdown has opened your eyes to another level of depth within the denim community. So go ahead and discover a brand you admire from each country and see the differences firsthand. Or better yet, some brands even use denim from American and Japan. The worst thing that can happen is you having two new pairs of beautiful raw and/or selvedge denim. Now for a denim enthusiast, that’s heaven.

Brand Spotlight: Baldwin Denim

Established in 2009, Baldwin Denim quickly entered the spotlight. Based in Kansas City, the brand specializes in American made apparel. Known for their quality selvedge denim, the brand has other ready-to-wear items such as knits, button downs, hats and more.

Pictured is founder of Baldwin Denim, Matt Baldwin in his home shop located in Kansas City. Source: www.baldwindenim.com

Pictured is founder of Baldwin Denim, Matt Baldwin in his home shop located in Kansas City. Source: (www.baldwindenim.com)

Over the summer, I purchased a pair of the White Oak Cone Mills selvedge denim in the Henley fit. They happened to be on sale at Nordstrom’s for around $80 (literally a steal). They are a 28 waist, which made them a bit too tight at first, but I have quit noticing or lost weight (who knows?). At 13oz, they were my first pair of Cone Mills selvedge denim and I couldn’t wait to break them in. I am in love with the wash as well as the way the denim feels.

The Henley fit in a size 28. This pair could easily become an every day pair. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The Henley fit in a size 28. This pair could easily become an every day pair. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

This pair in particular has an orange selvedge which I thought was pretty unique without being too cheesy. I keep finding myself attracted to the company and I am unable to pinpoint exactly why, but I believe it is due to the quality of their product and the minimal marketing on their behalf. The company does utilize a few advertising methods, but I love the slick look of their website and the style they promote.

Along with the recent increase in raw and selvedge denim, there has also been a rise in companies claiming a quality product through intense marketing strategies, only to provide sub-par quality (refer to my previous post, reviewing the brand Bluer Denim). However, competitors such as those help others see the quality in brands such as Baldwin.

 

photo 2

Notice the orange selvedge on my pair. This is a larger cuff than I usually make, but I wanted to switch it up a bit by minimizing the stacking for a more clean fade. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Recently, the brand has done a collaboration with Suitsupply and it looks  like a quality pair of jeans. Also, the brand’s Fall/Winter campaign is really slick. In this collection you will find wool and corduroy pants, a brand new fit and knitwear. I find myself frequently checking their website to see what they are up to.

Oh, and that keychain in the mirror shot above? That is a project I am working on with this pair. A friend of mine had a Momotaro X N&F Collaboration pair and in the coin pocket left a pair of brass knuckles creating a sick fade! For this pair, I have placed a gold anchor in the coin pocket in the hopes of creating a slight anchor fade. Why an anchor? Simply because it is one of my few obsessions next to owls.

The anchor I am leaving in my coin pocket. I can't wait to see how this turns out.

The anchor I am leaving in my coin pocket. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Also, the brand’s customer service is rather friendly. I popped the top button of my pair off on 6th while twerking (due to the size, not the quality). After contacting the company and receiving a friendly response, I mailed the denim off and they replaced the button free of charge. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you purchase a pair from Baldwin Denim. Whether you start off with a pair of selvedge denim, a sweater, a hat or even just view their website, as a denim enthusiast, you will not be disappointed. I am excited to see what this brand does in the future, let alone in their next collection.

Inside Traveller Denim Co. and The Bespoke Denim Experience

This week, I had the opportunity of making a visit to Traveller Denim Co. here in Austin, Texas. Enhanced by the owners and founders Erik Untersee and Selenia Rios as they took me on a brief tour of the shop, my visit was nothing short of spectacular.

According to the website, which was confirmed during the visit, Traveller Denim Co., was, “born through drunken nights in Austin, TX while dreaming of ways to make our lives more fulfilling and struggling with our discontent of disposable America.” The two are very down to earth and seek to create something unique. Although I was initially surprised to find this shop in Austin, I quickly understood how the two blended in so well with the culture of the city.

Founders of Traveller Denim Co. Selenia Rios and Erik Untersee. Source: Matt Rainwaters

Founders of Traveller Denim Co. Selenia Rios and Erik Untersee. Source: (Matt Rainwaters)

Their slogan, “the devil is in the details,” is commonly found around the shop and it becomes clear that the two are not just interested in denim, but the art of making denim. They do so by hand, from start to finish and with careful detail. Not only that, but they use vintage and quality machines that are hard to find in modern times.

Source: Austin Scarborough

Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The Reese, a powerful machine that moves quickly and violently. According to Erik, very few of these are now used. Source: Austin Scarborough

The Reese, a powerful machine that moves quickly and violently. According to Erik, very few of these are now used. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The shop is beautifully done. With such a limited amount of space, every component must have a purpose. This idea was executed to the fullest as the main mirror they use for measuring is also a door into the next room. I did not even notice until they showed me!

The mirror that also serves as a 'secret door,' leading to another room. Source: Austin Scarborough

The mirror that also serves as a ‘secret door,’ leading to another room. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

After hanging out with Erik and Selenia for a while, Erik began to take my measurements for a bespoke pair of denim. Yes, you read correctly, a pair of denim that is custom made and fits every inch of your body perfectly. The entire time, a grin was glued to my face due to my excitement of receiving my own pair of denim. I chose a Japanese indigo with black matte buttons and patina rivets. The indigo has a little bit of sulfur that, according to Erik and Selenia, drapes really well and it is not as stiff as other pairs of raw denim. It felt great as I led my hand across the roll. Not only that, but the sulfur adds a variation in the pigmentation of the denim as you hold it to the light, giving it a unique look.

The rolls of denim in stock at Traveller. Erik, one of the owners, is standing right next to them as he explains each one. Source: Austin Scarborough

The rolls of denim in stock at Traveller. Erik, one of the owners, is standing right next to them as he explains each one. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Overall, the two were very welcoming and their passion radiates through their work. The next time we meet, it will be for my second fitting as I try the denim. Before I left, Selenia and I talked about what is in the works for Traveller, including working with Justin Vernon, the lead singer of the popular group Bon Iver. Another amazing aspect about the two is that they serve as an example to follow your dreams. They were unaware of where life would take them and neither of them have a degree in textiles or fashion. However, they followed their dreams using their heart as the fuel to keep them going and made it happen. They are living proof to never give up on what you want and what you feel is right.

Decor found inside the shop and representations of Erik and Selenia. The briefcase was actually made by a friend of theirs who sells vintage briefcases. Source: Austin Scarborough

Decor found inside the shop and representations of Erik and Selenia. The briefcase was actually made by a friend of theirs who sells vintage briefcases. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

As a denim head, Traveller Denim Co., is a dream come true. I am anxiously awaiting my second fitting and even more excited about receiving the final product. Not only that, but I encourage each and every one of you to visit. If not to order a pair of denim to begin a unique journey, then to meet Erik and Selenia to witness the same passion I did.

My Current Project: Rainbow Core Selvedge

As soon as I saw this pair, I had to get them. The Rainbow Core Selvedge in the Weird Guy fit from Naked and Famous, a Canadian brand known for being the most creative when it comes to specialty denim, was a pair that I had to see for myself. From a pair that glows in the dark to the heaviest denim in the world, the brand has certainly made a name for themselves in the denim community. I own several pairs myself and admire each one.

Me wearing the Rainbow Core denim. Here you can see the fit in size 29. Source: Austin Scarborough

My pair of Rainbow Core denim. Here you can see the Weird Guy fit in size 29. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The selvedge lining of my Rainbow Core denim. Note the difference between this and the selvedge lining on the Bluer pair in my previous post. Source: Austin Scarborough

The selvedge lining of my Rainbow Core denim. Note the difference between this and the selvedge lining on the Bluer pair in my previous post. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The Weird Guy fit is the brand’s slim-tapered fit. The next step after creating the Red Core denim  where the denim fades to a red color over time, the Rainbow Core fades into just that, a rainbow. Using the five colors of a rainbow, the denim is vat-dyed and then it is rope-dyed the color of indigo. With this process, the denim over time will fade into the colors of the rainbow. Below is a picture showing how the fading will look. The depth of the fade will depend on the amount and intensity of how you wear them.

Source: (Rawr Denim)

The denim pictured displays the fabric used in construction depicting the colors used to create the rainbow fade. Source: (www.rawrdenim.com)

I purchased my pair in July and have worn them quite a bit. Unfortunately, I work two jobs where a uniform is required so I am unable to wear them at either location. To compensate, I have slept in them a couple of times which is a controversial move among the denim community, due to the potential of creating irregular fades. I have also been rotating them between two other pairs I am working on, further reducing the amount of time I am in my Rainbow Core pair. I have noticed some fading on the back right pocket however, and I love the way it looks. Once they are more developed, the fading will be a lot more noticeable.

Some of the fading on the back right pocket on my pair. Note the difference in color in comparison to the indigo. Source: Austin Scarborough

Some of the fading on the back right pocket on my pair. Note the difference in color in comparison to the indigo. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

The denim is also sanforized and weighs in at 14 oz. which makes for a great weight. It is composed of 100% Japanese cotton and made in Canada. I found myself enjoying to wear them purely for the look themselves, regardless of the eventual rainbow fades. Leave it to Naked and Famous to create another unique pair of denim. What’s next, a pair that makes your legs invisible? Knowing these guys, that could be right around the corner…

Bluer Denim: A Well-Marketed Disappointment

From the founder of Agave Denim, Jeffrey Todd Shafer dives into a younger audience with Bluer Denim, a brand that promotes using products originating from and being finalized in North America.  Upon researching the brand and viewing their webpage, I was eager to try the denim on for myself.

To begin, the website is well done with a promotional video showing customers the story of the brand and the care taken in each pair of denim. All of what the video advocates is true, each pair is hand inspected with the name of the inspector written on the inside of the jeans (mine was inspected by Dan).

Source: Me (Austin Scarborough)

Dan inspected my pair. I liked the personal touch. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Although this did not appeal to me, I admire the fact that the brand allows customers to try on the denim before purchasing, similar to Warby Parker, an eyeglass label. I unfortunately am too impatient for this.  The brand also asks customers to donate denim and offers a $5 discount on their next pair by doing so. This is also similar to what the eyeglass label does.

The denim itself has a very interesting selvedge line. Using the colors red, white and blue, the denim ties into the theme of the company: American made products. The cotton comes from Georgia, is woven in North Carolina, the denim is designed in Oregon and made in California. Culminated together these factors make for a great presentation, but upon opening my package, I was disappointed.

Source: Me (Austin Scarborough)

Here you can see the red, white and blue selvedge lining connecting the American Pride theme of the denim. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

I knew what I would experience as far as the weight is concerned, because it is a bit lighter than I am used to. I purchased the Super Slim 1776 Raw Selvedge weighing in at 12.75 oz. Once I tried the denim on, I was surprised at how unfitting the denim was. Not only that, but the denim itself did not feel of the quality I was expecting from the video and related web content. For example, each button was snapping threads as I unbuttoned them.

Notice the stacking from the thigh continuing to my foot. This is uncommon for a super slim fit. Source: Austin Scarborough

Notice the sagging from the thigh continuing to my foot. This is uncommon for a super slim fit. Source: (Austin Scarborough)

Unfortunately for me, but not so unfortunate for my wallet, I am returning the denim. I am glad I was able give the brand a shot. Next time, I may be a bit more skeptical about an attractive marketing campaign.

An Introduction To The World of Indigo

Choosing a pair of denim is more than just picking up the first pair of jeans that fit at Forever 21. There are several factors that go into the construction of denim, from the region of the world it originates to the presence of selvedge or lack thereof. Picking out the perfect pair will make your journey that much more your own. Pictured below is a great depiction of one of the many ways your denim can fade and the time it takes to do so.

A pair of denim over a span of 8 months. (Source: http://www.nudiejeans.com)

First, determine your true waist size. Different brands may run large or small, but they will state if they do and how to act accordingly. If the denim is unsanforized (not pre-shrunk), then you will need to purchase one waist size up and utilize a pre-soak to shrink them to your waist. Unless you are purchasing a heavy weighted denim, you have no need to worry about unsanforized denim, because most denim is sanforized (pre-shrunk).

Once you have determined your size, the next step is deciding whether you want a selvedge pair or not. Selvedge denim is crafted from a style of loom created in the late 1800’s. Made to prevent raveling, selvedge denim is woven in long strips with a refined edge adorned in a specific color (typically red) to signify the selvedge finish. While having this particular method does not equate quality, most denim of this nature is made with care and in fewer runs than other pairs. Most denim with this finish will come from Japan or America.

Denim without the selvedge lining. (Source: http://www.rawrdenim.com)

Denim with selvedge lining. (Source: http://www.rawrdenim.com)

The weight of your denim will be the next decision you make. Did you even know denim is weighed? Most denim weighs anywhere from 9 ounces to 11 ounces. Upon entering the world of raw indigo, you discover that denim can be anywhere up to 32 ounces like the pair from Naked and Famous. Heavier denim will feel uncomfortable at first for two reasons: the first being you are simply not used to the raw weight on your legs and secondly, the denim is just that heavy. Do not fret however, they will become softer with time and you will get used to the weight.

Despite the route you choose to take, feel comfortable in your decision. You will be wearing them for a while.  As far as washing is concerned, my philosophy is: wear them often, wash them, well, not so often. Most people do not wash their denim for the first six months. However, if you are like me, I never wash my denim. Ever. For those of you who choose to do so, washing should be done by hand in a cold soak. Most importantly, your denim should never be placed in the drying machine. The purpose of wearing the denim is to allow natural fading to occur. Placing the jeans in an environment with elevated temperatures and constant pressure can create unnatural and uneven fades. That is one way to end your journey quickly.

Some great entry-level brands are Naked and Famous, A.P.C. and Nudie Jeans. Do your research on brands, read their stories, purchase a pair and begin your journey. But most of all, make the process your own and know that after months, wait, years of wear, you will be the only person in the world who owns a pair of denim with fades such as yours.

 

 

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