The denim contest is possibly the most difficult to understand concept for people outside of the quality denim sub culture, and even for some people who actually are into denim. So as the creator of the Heavyweight Denim Championship I’m going to have a go at explaining things how I see them.
As a black a white explanation a denim contest is where a group of people wear their jeans for a pre agreed amount of time, the progress is followed by other contestants and the results are judged from which a winner is selected on the purely subjective field of whose jeans are the most aesthetically pleasing. The aesthetics upon which they are judged mainly include, but are not limited to, fades in the denim, evolution of the material and hardware and even the quality of any required repairs. This is the practical explanation of the denim contest, but I do not feel that it begins to explain the appeal of why I love them so much.
If you are a fan of denim then it is a fairly safe bet that you spend a serious amount of time fixating over pictures of details and well worn jeans, a contest is simply a fantastic opportunity to see these picture en masse. To get abstract for a moment, it is more than this it is also a chance to be part of a group of people who are all on the same journey, a chance to see how their lives effect their denim just as you affect your own, a chance to interact with like minded people from all over the world having a shared experience through something as simple and socially transcending as jeans. In a denim contest it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or what you do, it only matters that you wear jeans and you exist, your everyday life will take care of the rest. I believe that as a species we all like to belong, we like to take part and many of us are competitive with a desire to succeed. Being part of a denim contest identifies you within your sub culture, it gives you further validation for what you love (if you need it, and there is nothing wrong with that) whilst incorporating fun elements into committing yourself to a pair of jeans.
I know that some brands and retailers worry that denim contests (particularly the HWDC) can limit their business as people are only wearing one pair of jeans, I don’t believe this to be the case with the majority. I have found that the majority of people who take part in contests rarely commit to one pair of jeans, I don’t, it seems to me that most people have their “contest” jeans plus at least one pair of other jeans to give them a break and some variation. I think that for retailers and brands it represents a fantastic opportunity to interact with the denim community on a wider level, an opportunity that some perhaps have not fully realised the potential of yet. In the last HWDC2 Iron Heart released a competition specific jean in their 25oz denim which was phenomenally popular and has yielded some of the most stunning progress in the contest so far, we also had a launch party to celebrate the arrival of the jeans at IHUKHQ which was again a great success and lots of fun. I have even roped in my 8 year old boy to the contest, and he loves it !
I think that one of the most valuable functions of the denim contest is welcome into the community people who are perhaps on the fringes, observing without interacting, it gives them a group and a platform from which they can become active on forums and social media, exactly as it did for me.