As this is a denim blog, and I am a denim enthusiast, I thought it was high time that I posted about the brands who I think are the best around at the moment, in no particular order. Please bear in mind that this is based on my personal experience of brands which have drawn me in, many will argue for their own favourites which is great and totally valid, but these are mine.
Samurai are innovators and traditionalists at the same time, the sheer variety of denim, cuts, details, styles and dyes is mind blowing and they seem to release an anniversary edition pair of jeans roughly every 20 minutes or so, but their fans are many and deservedly so. My personal experience of Samurai is spread over 5 different pairs, some I’ve fallen totally in love with (21oz S5000VX and 17oz S5000BK), others have been quite a disappointment (S510 and 110xj) and all of them have suffered from broken seams due to the use of cotton rather than poly cotton, but all of them have had a single feature which makes them uniquely Samurai and that is the way the denim fades. When I took my first steps onto the denim scene it seemed strange to me that so many denim contests seemed to be dominated by people wearing Samurai jeans, so I bought a pair and then quickly figured out why this was. No other jeans fade like Sammie’s, some would say that they give up their indigo a little too easily, but I think that is a little harsh, what they do give however are some of the most striking contrast fades you will ever see.
Almost the antithesis of Samurai is Iron Heart, where Samurai give up their indigo with ease you have to fight (most) Iron Heart jeans, where Samurai can be flimsy and prone to broken seams Iron Heart feel bomb proof, like denim armour, and whereas Samurai almost seem to shun the Western market Iron Heart are at least partly based there. Iron Heart are heavyweight motorcycle wear and much more (weighing between 17 and 25oz), it is real genuine work wear built to do the job it was designed to do and fly in the face of trends and fashion. None of this is to say that it is not clever, it’s very clever in the choice of fabrics, hardware and design to achieve maximum durability with the minimum of fuss. Some accuse Iron Heart of being utilitarian, which it is but then again I don’t see utilitarian as being a negative, I see it as being the brands greatest strength that it makes what it makes extremely well, and carries on doing exactly that. In a market where much is unknown Iron Heart remain a constant.
No surprise here, Trophy are a brand which I hold very dear as what they do really resonates with me, especially their denim. The signature Dirt Denim has literally more character than you could shake a stick at, it is rough, loosely woven, has great colour variation and looks just as pretty on the inside as it does on the out. Trophy jeans are full of differentiating details and quirks which serve to add character to the garment without making detriment to their traditional and functional nature. They weigh in at a mid range weight 14.5oz, making them ideal for slightly warmer weather and my favourite details include the ghost stitch inseam on the DD narrows, the slash pockets on the standard DD and the chain stitch run off on every pair which Trophy make.
Sugar Cane are all about subtlety, they are a true denim heads jean in terms of their details and fabrics, blending locally produced sugar cane into their denim, using dyes from various sources and even producing patches from snake and horse leather taken from the place after the particular model was named. Sugar Cane are famed for their reproductions of famous vintage cuts, which they tend to get right more often than just about everyone else, and their detailing which requires a little knowledge, experience and a good eye to fully appreciate. It is no wonder that they maintain their popularity after all these years.
Red Cloud represent something quite special to me, they represent a culture shift in quality denim towards an awareness that quality denim can be produced away from Japan and the USA. Red Cloud produce a wide range of ethically made denim and work wear/ military wear made from fine domestic cottons and materials, their denims have great character, texture and substance and what they make is extremely reasonably priced. I must confess that I have never owned any of their jeans, but I have handled them and they are impressive enough to give me hope that they can be at the forefront of the next logical expansion of the quality denim scene, and I wish them all the luck in the world with that.
Coming up in related articles I’m going to be running through my favourite boot makers, leather companies and work wear manufacturers, and I hope to hear yours too in the comments section.