Denim HQ x NoKipple – Summer Survival Wear

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In an earlier piece I voiced my displeasure with Summer, and hot weather generally. I am Northern European, of Celtic descent and as such I am pale and pasty, add to this the small but important detail that I am also bald and ginger and you get the picture of a man who is far more comfortable in snow than heat. As such Summer time is a difficult time for me, I’m not one of those guys who can wear a light jacket in 25 degree heat, in fact I think those guys are probably loons, I am a guy who looks longingly at my coats, boots and heavy denim as the sun beats down. So what should your average denim and work wear enthusiast wear in soaring temperatures? At NoKipple we have a few answers for your summer needs which could make things a little more bearable.

Denim

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A surprising choice maybe but some denim works well in warmer weather, especially if you are like me and prefer to cover up due to the high chance of sun burn. A good tip for summer denim is not to be blinded by weight, heavier doesn’t necessarily mean warmer, the main factor for a good Summer denim is the tightness of the weave as this will effect how breathable the fabric is, which is essentially what helps to keep you cool. I have baked in 13oz denim but been comfortable in 25oz before. This summer my denim choice will be Trophy Dirt Denim, the loose weave is absolutely perfect for summer days.

Cotton Tee’s

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Cotton is a versatile fabric, and a cotton tee is a summer classic which can be dressed up, dressed down and be the background or the core of your summer wear. The Trophy striped 3/4 sleeve tee is a perfect tee for your summer relaxations.

Linen

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A linen shirt or linen trousers are (in my opinion) THE summer essential. There is nothing quite as light and breathable as linen and you will be glad of it once the mercury soars and the days are long. The Trophy linen shirt is an extremely comfortable option on a sweltering day.

Cotton Shirts

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A good quality light cotton shirt is another summer essential, the breathability of cotton coupled with a button front makes for a versatile and cooling garment. A medium weight cotton shirt is always handy as a jacket alternative for summer evenings, and Trophy combine versatility with a striking design.

Head Gear

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As a bald man I find a summer hat to be necessary, but even to more hirsute people they can be a requirement to keep the effect of sun stroke at bay. Personally, I don’t care for trucker caps as they are a little too flimsy for my liking, I prefer a full cap made from a breathable material such as the Trophy light denim cap.

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Denim HQ – What Makes A Pair Of Jeans Great?

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There are many really good brands and models of jeans in the market or all cuts, prices and origins but what makes a pair of jeans great? What follows is my personal opinion about what constitutes a great pair of jeans in every sense, from the design and provenance to what it delivers to the wearer on an emotive level. It might sound strange that something as simple as jeans should deliver an emotive response, but when I buy something, when I spend a considerable amount of money on something, I want it to please me and I want it to make me happy and feel good about buying it.

Design

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Design should be simple, minimal and yet subtly detailed in a way that makes sense with no added frills for the sake of it. Conversely it is nice to have details which work as a differentiator, but only if they are not done for the sake of being different. The hardest part of classic design in clothing is to take something which is already loved and make people love it more, and you will never do this with all people but so long as you get enough people to love what you have done then you will succeed. The key phrase in simplicity with subtle difference.

Materials

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When choosing a pair of jeans materials are one of the two most important factors, the other being fit. The denim should obviously be ethically sourced and made from high quality raw materials, I like denim which is woven on old style low tension looms simply because I love the character of loom chatter in denim, and the uneven fading process it delivers. Aside from the denim I like poly cotton constructional thread, as it is less prone to breaking, and brass buttons with copper rivets which should be plain or Universal brand, I am a bit of a traditionalist. I honestly have no preference as to where the raw materials are sourced, so long as it is done ethically.

Provenance

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Denim should not be costume, when we pull on our jeans we are not “dressing up” as a cowboy, a biker or a 50’s rocker no more than people who are wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors are dressing to play basketball, but we are connecting to that heritage. I know that to some the thought of Japanese ,or any foreign to the USA, denim companies making Americana heritage wear brings into question the provenance, what would a real cowboy think of a solicitor spending $400 on a pair Flat Head, Samurai or Iron Heart jeans? Honestly I do not see it as an issue of provenance to have Americana wear made outside of the USA, if anything the respect and authenticity of detail and design brought forward by some foreign manufacturers has preserved jeans in the way they used to be made. Whilst the majority of American brands sub contracted their manufacture to Mexico and Puerto Rico it was the Japanese brands in particular who carried on with the old looms and the hand detailed touch. I would pose the argument that this “new” generation of brands from the East has not only preserved the American provenance better than America did itself, but they have also created their own with the quality of their work. No, they are not the jeans and work wear of old time America, they are the same yet different, based on clothing for miners, cowboys and rockers but made for a wholly different market.

Emotive Response

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We all have our happy buttons pushed by different things, mine are pressed by quality presentation, subtle detailing and sturdy construction. I am not a particularly rich man and I like to be able to see where the money has been spent when I buy an expensive item, and this is especially true of jeans as they are quite obviously my passion. I like to think that over the years I have handled many pairs of quality jeans and it has taught me a thing or two about spotting fine details inside and out. For me the joy of a new pair of jeans is in the engineering, I like to turn new jeans inside out and look at the neatness of the inside of the top block, I look where extra strength has been added to stress points and how (stitch or rivet), what the pocket bags are made from and how easy the pockets are to access, a simple but important detail to a pocket hoarder like me. I look at the dye shade, the weave consistency, the stitch pattern and the belt loop attachment. These details, whilst meaningless to some, make me happy and feel good about my purchase, they let me know it is something which has been conceived with genuine thought and passion and I like to know that someone has cared about both designing and making what I buy as much as I have cared to buy it.

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Jeans are a deceptively simple thing, easy to get very right but even easier to get very wrong. We are indeed fortunate that there is so much quality choice in the market, but as new brands look to enter and older brands look to establish market share there is a slight worry that we will perhaps see more and more silly gimmicks. The market (like all markets) can only sustain so much custom, but it is still growing and cream will always rise to the top. My hope for any brands and their jeans is that they simply stick to the basics of making great jeans, cream will always rise to the top.

Denim HQ – Guilty Pleasures Past And Present

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We were not all born the cool, stylish people we are today. We all have skeletons (literally) in our closets, things that we perhaps wouldn’t want our hip denim buddies to know about or see, or maybe you still wear them with pride just not displayed on the internet? Well, I’m willing to come out of the closet on some of my guilty pleasures and share some of the things I have owned and loved in recent times, and some of the things that I still own, which do not fit the mould and are not are not internet approved.

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To come out kicking and screaming I will start by saying that my worst ever clothing purchase was a hip length cream jacket by Japanese street wear brand A Bathing Ape. It looked like it was made of some kind of thin plastic, and whilst I thought it made me look like a member of the Dharma Initiative from TV series “Lost”, my wife pointed out that it actually made me look like a creepy Ice Cream man, I wish I still had it in all honesty so I could show you just how bad it was, alas I could not bear to be photographed in it either.

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My guilty pleasures mainly revolve around street wear, even today I sometimes find myself idly browsing eBay in search of a reasonably priced Supreme Box Logo hoody, or a Wtaps ALICE pack. I really enjoyed street wear, it reminded me of the fun I had in my youth when it was all about rap music, skate boarding and getting chicks (ladies), simpler times. Supreme made cleverly designed (graphics at least) clothing which often straddled the border between athletic and work wear, Supreme in its day was a fantastic mash up of old time Americana and modern culture, with an anarchistic skater vibe, right up to the point where rich people discovered it and started wearing it to the yacht club disco.

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Japanese street wear was slightly different, it had that cool collectors vibe of limited runs and collaborations, the entire concept of basing a clothing range around the movie “Planet Of The Apes” would be completely ridiculous anywhere but Japan, but it really worked and was wildly popular with so many for so long. Bathing Ape (I hate the term Bape), was killed by its own popularity in the end though, too many shots of Kanye West rocking his Bape Stars and too many collaborations with comic and cartoon companies took the brand so far away from what made it cool to begin with that there was no coming back. In the end even Nigo (the founder) has left the company now.

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Outside of street wear I used to, and sometimes still do, have a soft spot for Uniqlo. I know it’s high street clothing and I know that much of it is made in China under supposedly ethical conditions but I really think that they offer value for money, I have had some Uniqlo stuff last for years and their Japanese selvedge jeans were one of my gateway products into high end denim. I still keep several Uniqlo shirts and a couple of hoodies for casual wear, along with the rather unusual zip fronted chambray pictured below which I am a fan of.

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On my feet it is a shame for me to admit that up until about 7 years ago I would not have entertained the idea of wearing a pair of shoes or boots on a regular basis, I exclusively wore trainers, and owned only cheap pair of shoes just in case I was required to wear formal attire at any point (weddings and funerals only). My favoured footwear brand of the time was Nike, and my favoured style were the first six itineration’s of the classic Air Jordan basketball boot. Moving into my 30’s I made the transition from sneakers to boots, first via Timberland Abington hiking boots, then to Red Wing Gentlemen Travellers and finally onto White’s boots, but I maintain fond memories of my Jordan’s and the rest of my sneaker collection. These days I still own a pair of Bathing Ape Skull Sta’s, which were designed to “ape” the classic Adidas Shell toe, I have wore them quire regularly for 7 years and they still see action, I also own and wear a pair of simple Nike SB Dunks.

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Our past clothing choices brought us to where we are today, just as life experiences mould our character and personality so too do our fashion faux pas mould our style, and continue to do so. I am still quite fond of some of my former items, I miss my Wtaps BDU’s and my Supreme Box Logo hoody, but I feel more complete without them, yet I have no idea why?

Denim HQ – Introduction And Beer Camp Part 1.

Post by Mike

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Before diving in to today’s post I’d just like to thank Gav for the wonderful introduction. As Gav said, I’ve been around the denim and workwear scene for a few years now and over that time I’ve come to build an appreciation for well made goods from brands with an eye for the small details. I have a passion for craft alcohol in all its forms, be it spirits, mead, cider, or beer, and have been home brewing consistently for about a year now. If you feel so inclined you can find me around the internet as emceeQ on the Iron Heart forums or as @emceeq on instagram. Now on to the beer.

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One of the products and events I’ve been most excited for this summer is Beer Camp by Sierra Nevada. Sierra Nevada, based out of Chico, CA and one of the largest craft breweries in the US, decided to collaborate with 12 different breweries from across the country to create twelve different beers across twelve different styles. The beers have been packaged into a mixed twelve pack with one of each, and are also being showcased through a touring beer festival that is stopping at seven cities across the US. The beers themselves range in style from stouts and ales to bocks and lagers, and even a few belgian inspired brews. All of them sound fantastic on paper, and given the brewers involved with this project I’m sure they’ll all be a treat.

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The level of collaboration involved in pulling off a project  this huge, and the cooperation and openness between breweries required to make this happen is present, albeit not to this scale, throughout the craft beer industry. Between communications back and forth to select ingredients and figure out recipes, and actually getting everything together and brewing the beers, collaborations often have a much higher cost and time associated with them. It’s not at all uncommon to see collaborative brews made both by direct competitors and breweries that are across the country from one another though, as the results can be something greater or at the very least different than any involved brewery could make on their own.

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Collabos often promote experimentation and usually produce interesting, if not always good, beers that are unique and fun to try. Take the New Belgium x Three Floyds Grätzer that I’m drinking while writing this. It’s an uncommon Polish style ale that is made using an oak smoked wheat, and is a perfect example of what can be achieved when two breweries work together. It has a light, not overpowering, smokiness with a subtle sourness to it. It’s not an everyday drinker, but a fascinating brew and one I enjoyed thoroughly. Much like the crazy styles present in Beer Camp, this unique ale would likely not find wide distribution if it weren’t for the collaboration between the two breweries. So next time you’re out at your local beer shop take a look around and see if you can find a collab, chances are it could be something awesome.

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Stay tuned for pt. 2 of this article in which I slowly work my way through this twelve pack and hopefully taste some of Beer Camp on draft at my local bar.

Denim HQ – How To Lose Friends And Alienate People

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All is not rosy in my garden of denim and work wear, contrary to popular opinion I do not love everything about this scene, in fact there are certain things, brands and products which I go right against the grain on. There are commonly held opinions that I cannot help but disagree with and there are unwritten rules which I believe remain unwritten because they are utter rubbish. Allow me to elaborate on a few.

Red Wings

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I’ll start with a big one by taking aim at undoubtedly the biggest brand in footwear connected with the denim and work wear scene and I will nail my colours to the mast and state that I do not like them. They are common,mostly ugly, much more expensive than they were only a few years ago (in Europe at least), poorly constructed for their price point and I am simply bored of seeing them. As a brand I feel that they do not inspire any sort of emotive response, I don’t love them and I don’t hate them….they’re just a bit dull.

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I know that people will start calling me out on just about every point there and I simply do not care, for the money you pay for them I have no idea why a person wouldn’t just wait another couple of months and buy Wesco, Viberg, Nicks or White’s (before they get taken over by the Japanese version of the Quickiemart). Honestly, I have worn Red Wings extensively (Moc Toe boots and Gentlemen Travellers), and when I first tried on a pair of White’s Semi Dress I could have kicked myself about all the money I had spent on Red Wings, the difference in quality is vast.

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From the common place, overuse of the wedge sole to the characterless leather and sometimes obnoxious branding I am not a fan of this brand at all. I wish I was, in a way it would make things easier for me as I know so many people who love Red Wings that I would stop having to explain myself when they ask me if I like their boots. I will make exception for some of their engineer boots, which I genuinely like the look of, I’d still rather save an extra couple of months and buy a pair of Wesco Boos though.

Loop Wheel Does Not Mean Better

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This commonly accepted opinion that loop wheeled tee’s, sweatshirts and hoodies are the best needs to stop. Loop wheel is a construction technique which eliminates side seams, and that is all. I could make an equally compelling argument that a double stitched felled seam add much more strength to a potential stress area than a lack of one from a tube body construction. Sorry people, but I honestly believe that this is a case of loop wheel being adopted as a byword for awesome, and it can be, just not above everything else.

Work Wear Is Not Fashion, And Should Not Be Treated As Such

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There is perhaps nothing which annoys me more in the world of denim and workwear than seeing a photo shoot where a brand or a retailer have gathered together a bunch of super good looking people in an industrial/ rural location and taken pictures of these folks trying to look awesomely casual in thousands of dollars worth of Japanese made work wear. To me, this completely misses the point of the entire scene and smacks of the high fashion, low morals side of clothing.

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Take a look at the fit pics from Japanese retailers, or the work of photographers like Farhad Samari for Flathead, this is the kind of imagery which should be selling work wear in my opinion.

Wear, Don’t Store

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Probably my most famous unpopular sentiment, a drum which I have banged often in the past and one which I won’t ding into in detail again here. Simply put, I think that high priced, high quality denim should be worn rather than stored and to do otherwise is missing the point. I know many great folks who disagree with me on this, and it isn’t their fault that they are wrong ha ha.

 

Denim HQ – The Denim Celebrity

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An interesting phenomena, which I have been uncomfortably labelled with myself on a few occasions, is that of the denim celebrity. Now, every social grouping, scene, niche, community, society, call it what you will, creates celebrities in one way or another, but to gain notoriety for wearing jeans is not something that any of us expected I don’t think.

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This is a tough piece to write without sounding like a conceited douche bag, but honestly I am simply writing the facts of my experiences and views. I feel that I should categorically state that I personally feel that I have done nothing to gain any form of real kudos within the denim scene, and it was an extremely weird experience to be stood outside Self Edge in New York to have a young dude approach me and say “You don’t know me, but you’re Megatron from the internet aren’t you?”, my wife nearly passed out in shock that someone on the other side of the world recognised her scruffy, bald, Brit husband. I introduced myself to everyone else that day as “Megatron, from the internet”.

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As general comment, I personally know quite a few “denim celebrities” in the real world and I have discussed this topic with them. I don’t know if it is something which many people are comfortable with, but it is a reality that in this industry personality helps to move products and in this way brand owners and retailers are amongst the first to gain luminary status. Arguably this is sort of deserved as these people are adding something tangible to the scene by providing product and access to customers, so in this way it is possibly an inevitability of their brand profile that they are elevated, but there are other forms of denim celebrity which seem even stranger.

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Although I am now a denim retailer I was previously a part of this odd group of denim personalities, who had seemingly gained status within the community for doing not much else other than prolifically post pictures of themselves and their possessions  on various forums and social media, thus gaining approval from the collective. Spend much time hanging around any forum and it will not take long to identify exactly who are the established and respected posters, and many of these guys do not even work in the clothing industry in any capacity.

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As someone who until recently also did not work in any capacity within this niche, and observing and speaking to people who are in the same situation, I can tell you that until recently I found the experience quite uncomfortable, and whether I just accept it now or whether because I work in retail I feel slightly more at ease with it, I don’t know, but to gain kudos for doing nothing but wearing jeans and taking pictures is a very odd thing.

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I have also been on the other side of this situation fairly regularly too, where I have found myself almost star struck to meet certain industry luminaries such as Haraki-San of Iron Heart and Nick Clements of Mens File. Such is my respect for what they do that conveying it without sounding like a complete idiot presents me with an insurmountable challenge in awkward behaviour, and believe me that I know fully how odd that sounds, but it is the truth.

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I guess that in many ways denim society is just a microcosm of society in general, where people are elevated for their achievements or perceived status, and longevity in the scene counts for something too. Personally, I try not to take it too seriously and I usually approach it with a sense of confusion and awkwardness that is totally not me…..right up until the next time I meet someone who’s work so inspires me that I mumble like an idiot and sit in a corner somewhere.

Denim HQ – Quick Series Updates

I thought that it was high time I posted a couple of updates on some of the ongoing series articles that run through DHQ, didn’t want anyone to think that anything had slipped my mind.

FWA – The Hunt

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I have ordered a couple of tees and a pair of shorts (well it is summer) from United Athle and am awaiting their arrival. As soon as they are in my grubby paws I will provide a full review here as to whether the hunt is over, or if it carries on.

Get Paid Or Dye Trying

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Another ongoing series linked to United Athle and CAB Clothing, where I have to be honest the company has simply not responded to me on this subject despite inviting emails in English. Slightly disappointing, but on a positive note things are picking up in other areas, most notably NoKipple where we have some great things in process.

I will not be giving up on trying to expand United Athle just yet though, and when products arrive in hand I will get back to harassing them via email, I can be quite persistent.

Denim Monk

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If you remember I did make certain provisions in my Denim Monk status to allow for the inclusion of both basics (tees etc…) and a couple of other FWA items, with the process being that nothing is allowed into my wardrobe unless it has a place and will get very regular wear. One of the the things I allowed in is my Alexander Leathers Simmons Bilt jacket in Horween Chromexcel, which means that I cannot wait for summer to be over so I can actually wear it.

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I have decided that the only other purchases I can make are when a regular use item wear beyond its point of usefulness, and is either sold or passed on. Such was the case with my White’s Oxford shoes, so now I have an opening for some oxfords, as I wear them daily as work shoes. I am currently just in the though process on this one, so more to come in the future as an FWA hunt.

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And that is all for the updates, my apologies for the navel gazing nature of this particular post, but this is what happens when a megalomaniac in denim is given blog space.