“Why don’t you review things?”, my friend Simon asked me, “Your stuff is quite readable and reviewing things could add a new dimension to it”, Ok, I thought, let’s give it a go. So I asked Simon to pick me something out of his not inconsiderable wardrobe and send it to me to have a look at, I asked for something I had never seen before preferably made by a brand I was totally unfamiliar with, and he did. This is how I ended up with a black box waiting for me on my desk this morning containing Simons unworn pair of 4301XX jeans by little known, little worn but much praised Japanese manufacturer Ooe Yofukuten.
Honestly, and as a confirmed denim enthusiast I’m ashamed to admit this, the sum total of my knowledge of this brand has been gathered from all too brief conversations with Simon followed by quickly skimming the Ooe contest thread over on Superdenim. I’ve done a little research about the brand to give me context and foundation, but as this is a product review I am going to stay on topic and just talk about the jeans.
Up until a few months ago it was possible to custom order a pair of jeans from Ooe, choosing from one of 94 different denims which they kept varying amounts of stock of. The denims were a mixture of roll ends from the different mills, and specially ordered materials by Ooe. The 4301’s are made from denim number 43, which is a 13.5oz right hand twill denim, bearing much similarity to the denim used for the Warehouse 1001, the 01 cut is based around 501 55’s cut (the 02 is the 66 cut) and Ooe go above and beyond the call of duty to recreate every vintage detail on each pair . Unfortunately, due to popularity, it is no longer possible to custom order your denim, but these jeans are still available.
This particular pair of Ooe’s is their 4301XX model, thus named because it is made from Ooe’s own 43 denim in their 01, or regular 55 style, straight, cut. The denim is supplied raw and rigid, but in this washed state it is soft and smooth with very light surface hair and slubs. The colour is quite a vivid shade of blue and is extremely uniform with the white weft being clearly visible amongst the dyed warp, it has a real vintage feel to it and is definitely what I would term as “greaser wear”.
It should be pointed out here that this pair is 4 or 5 years old, and Ooe have changed several aspects of their manufacture in this time. At this stage in their history they were using very good quality domestic sewing machine the attach belt looks, sew the seams and reinforce the button holes, these days they have acquired a range of vintage machines to perform all this operations in the manner we associate with quality Japanese denim. I actually like the fact that these were not made on the now industry standard machines, it gives me something new to look at and something a little different to compare against what I usually see.
The jeans are constructed using a 100% natural cotton thread which adds to the authentic heritage feel but does have a tendency to wear quicker than the more usually used polycotton. The stitch count is high and evenly spaced, all seams are stitched evenly and to a very high standard with not a loose thread to be seen and even on the inside everything is very neatly done and finished to be not only pleasing on the eye, but durable.
The buttons carry no logo and dead stock vintage, the rivets are plain copper Universal brand, the pocket bags are the same off white cotton twill used in vintage Levis and pocket arcs are none existent. This is a truly no frills, no nonsense pair of jeans.
This first experience of Ooe jeans has been to experience jeans which, to me, are not immediately remarkable. They don’t have outstanding features which are noteworthy and worth investigation as a curiosity as much as anything else, they are not super heavy, dyed with natural indigo or hand stitched by temple virgins but does that make them dull and forgettable? Well, no. What you get with Ooe Yofukuten are jeans which are simply really well made, flawlessly constructed and I would imagine that unlike many jeans with stand out attributes I would think that they are extremely easy to wear for a very long time, and there is much to be said for just being that.
In a time when most (myself included) have been looking for the differentiator, the thing to make your jeans stand out from the crowd, that innovative spark that attracts the crowd it seems that Hiro and Rio of Ooe Yofukuten have been quietly going about their business, and that business is simply making great pairs of jeans. This five year old pair of 4301’s have been improved upon immensely in the last few years by Ooe, but that does not detract from the fact that this is still a great pair of jeans, and isn’t that what’s important really?