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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.