Denim HQ – My Top 5 Denim Brands (In No Particular Order)

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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

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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.

Iron Heart

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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.

Trophy Clothing

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Denim HQ x HWDC – The Unscientific Method I Use To Wash My Jeans Part 2

And the results of my white knuckle ride of denim dirt removal look a little like this…

First a line dry…

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After 4 or 5 hours on the line I commit another ultimate denim sin by throwing them in the tumble dryer ( I can hear the collective shock of a hundred denim heads passing out here).

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And this is the result….(bad lighting)

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So that is how I clean my MBB’s, just like normal folks clean their jeans, no magic here people. From here on in this will be happening at the end of every month.

Denim HQ x HWDC – The Unscientific Method I Use To Wash My Jeans Part 1

This is where I reveal my completely unscientific wash regime. This will be about the 10th wash for these jeans and I plan on washing them monthly between now and the end of the contest.

When jeans are new I am quite gentle with them, but after over a year I throw caution to the wind.

First, some pre wash shots.

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So first I remove the 2 things which I have carried constantly with these jeans, my HWDC belt and one of the removed hems from the jeans which I keep in the back pocket.

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Then I turn them inside out.

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The tools of the trade, nothing fancy just regular detergent and fabric conditioner.

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Place in washing machine.

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Set to high temperature and high spin cycle, watch as denim heads all over the world pass out at the thought of an 800rpm spin.

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And await results in part 2.

Denim HQ – A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

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The Iron Heart forum, my spiritual home on the internet, is 5 years old in September. To celebrate IHUK have come up with an image contest with a difference for their forum members, a contest where photographic skill and professional grade equipment come second to the subject at hand, the most important aspects being creativity, sentiment, humour and originality. The thinking behind this inventive and fun contest is what made me think about this piece for DHQ, the important role which the image plays in denim.

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The eyes are the gateway to our hearts desires, as the saying goes and the millions of images which fill the forums, blogs and retailers web sites certainly add fuel to our denim dreams but more than that they allow us to develop an idea of the kind of self image we want to promote. Through brand look books and magazine features we are shown an image of a lifestyle which we may find appealing, the clothing represents the tools which we will need to achieve this particular lifestyle, and the other props (motorcycles, garage, camping etc..) representing the substance. We all choose an identity for ourselves consciously or not and these images can certainly influence that decision.

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Over on the other side from the professional photograph is the personal picture, the image which allows the viewer a snapshot into the personal life of the photographer. These images are, in my opinion, the defining substance of the denim community, the absolute manner in which we live through the shared experience of people sharing a singular passion and interest. Oddly the images I favour most of this type are the most candid and often the lowest quality as they tend to give the greatest insight into the lives of the photographer or subject, and convey personality better than any professional picture ever could. I enjoy the raw reality of a moment captured in time by a rank amateur who clearly has not worried about framing, lighting, depth of field or perspective, they simply point and shoot with wild and reckless abandon and that is completely valid.

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Whichever style of image you prefer there is no doubting their impact on the immersive experience which the denim community is, words can be dry whereas a picture will always do a far better job of showing the essence of its subject without inferred bias or subjective interference. Going back to the Iron Heart contest for a minute to say that I really like this idea, it’s creative without the need for expertise and it’s something that you can have real fun with. I have already submitted a couple of images and I still one more in mind which requires me to get a little creative but more than this I’m really looking forward to seeing how other people view this. Images are a matter of perspective, and that is what makes each persons view totally unique.

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Denim HQ – Wabi Sabi

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Like most Japanese concepts Wabi Sabi is deceptively simple, yet complex in a way which ensures that the full understanding is left almost ambiguous. By simply Googling the term you will find many definitive descriptions of the concept, each with subtle variations and discrepancies which are hotly contested by those who care enough to debate it. I have read actual essays on the finer points of wabi sabi and had it explained to me by respected Japanese designers and brand owners and I am still not sure that I fully grasp it, but I’ll try to explain it simply and put it in a denim context.

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As I understand it wabi sabi is finding beauty in imperfection and impermanence, both of which are closely linked with both Buddhism and the Japanese national animistic religion Shinto, whereby the worship of Kami, or the spirit of “things” is the core principle. The appreciation of imperfection, or what we in the west would perhaps refer to as character is central to appreciating denim, as it evolves through wear it could be said to share the spirit of the owner and become truly unique piece of clothing. Every loss of indigo, every loose stitch, pulled thread, blown crotch or ripped pocket bag is wabi sabi in action, some examples are more blatant, some more subtle, some are widely accepted and actively pursued by denim enthusiasts world wide to achieve the desired aesthetic, some are avoided like the plague and some are appreciated only by those with an eye for details.

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What set my mind to this subject something I observed whilst having a beer in my garden last weekend, and it was as simple as the inseam of my Trophy Clothing Dirt Denim Narrow. You see Trophy do something quite clever here, the inseam is double stitched with one row of traditional gold/ orange poly cotton stitching and one row of indigo dyed natural cotton stitching which fades and ages at the same rate as the denim, hence maintaining invisibility. We like to refer to this as ghost stitching, and I find the subtle effect quite amazing.

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Possibly the most divisive example of denim wabi sabi is the phone fade. I have read absolute tirades of abuse from people decrying the phone fade, whilst proudly stating that they carry their phone in a leather pouch attached to their belt or put it in their back pocket and remove it every time that they sit down, both of which seem like a lot of artificial effort to avoid natural wear in my opinion. The point of the evolution of jeans is that they take on unique characteristics by being worn daily exactly as you want to wear them, I carry my phone in my front left pocket, always have and always will, and I love the phone fade because it is part of my unique wear pattern.

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The leather patch is an oasis of skin in a sea of thread and yarn, it stands out because it evolves so differently from everything else around it and perhaps even more than denim the way in which it is treated will effect its condition. The leather patches on my Trophy jeans are all made from deer skin, one is untreated, one is treated with Huberds Boot Grease and the other is dyed black by the manufacturer. I take great pleasure from looking at the difference which treating leather makes to its aging process both on my boots and on patches.

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Slubs and runs in denim, or loom chatter if you prefer gives new denim unique texture, but it is after wear and washes that the true value of these cotton peaks becomes apparent. They serve to add depth of colour and variance to the denim, they wear and break down adding a hairy texture to the surface of the denim which simply cannot be replicated using modern looms.

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It is amazing what can be noticed when you really take the time to study your worn denim, if you have a passion for denim then you are doubtless to see quite a few examples of wabi sabi which may make you view your jeans in an entirely different light. I only own four pars of jeans and still find myself spending a disproportionate amount of time gazing at every seam, stitch, crease and rivet to find the hidden beauty in the continuing development of this simple garment.

Denim HQ – MYDENIM FADE 14: CELEBRATING THE 3rd YEARS OF LOCAL FADE CONTEST

Post written by Amir

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Mydenim Fade started out as a friendly fade contest in 2012, just four people showed interest but only two managed to keep updating the evolution until the final date. No sponsor, no hype. Just a friend to friend type of contest and most importantly, this was organized on the basis of fun.

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In the next year, with the help from local denim company Cheese Denim Works, Mydenim Fade 13 contest managed to gather 13 contestants with 13 different cut of the jeans to battle for the best fade in 2013. There was not a standard pair of jeans to use, all contestants received custom made jeans!! Yes, the 13 people had to measure by themselves to get the right fit and Cheese Denim Works did the rest. Luckily, after 13 months of battle, nearly most of the contestant made it to the final stage of uploading their fade to the forum’s wall.

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This year Mydenim Fade 14 is expanding. Lots of local people have shown their interest to participate and finally we managed to get nearly 30 people who wired their money as a contest fee. Ultra big thanks to all the hardworking fellow denim heads from http://www.mydenim.org forum that help to make this thing happen and keep it organized.

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Promotion is viral everywhere, especially through the social media, various mobile apps and hashtagging. Sponsorship is coming one by one after the word about the contest spread and we finally managed to have nearly 13 companies to support the contest. Small or big is not a problem, everything was fine enough for our scale. Fade 14 also had its own official artwork designed specifically for the event and right after that, the official contest Tee Shirts were printed and a leather bracelet were also cut. This was huge, at least for our small but growing denim community.

 

The range of jeans also varied from the famous Japanese brands to the American made and also not forgetting our lovely homegrown denim brands. Since we are going to push the local denim brands to the next level, it was a good sign to see Cheese Denim Works, Ceremony Fine Wear and RoyaleWorks Limited make an exclusive appearance in this contest. A set of standards had been implied to make it fair for everyone, meaning that only 13 oz and above are eligible to participate. Fade 14 got the ball rolling on July 1st, 2014 and it takes 13 months for all the contestants to regularly paste their jeans progress at the forum’s wall. It seems to be a long journey, but it’s worth it to finally see how you have shaped your jeans.

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Even though this is a competition, it is not about finding who is better and who is not. It just gets back to the basic idea of friend to friend type of contest. The contest was more about friendship, to know each other and to share the knowledge which is new from one to another. Not to forget, to have fun doing the thing that you love. If there is no fun, then there is no point of doing it.

Denim HQ – Introducing Amir

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It’s my great pleasure to introduce Amir of Harrah Leathers who will be joining us as our “in the field” expert on the ever expanding denim scene in Malaysia. Amir owns and operates his own leather accessories brand and is assisting with the promotion, sale and distribution of more local brands in Malaysia as well as his involvement in the growing Malaysian online denim community from http://www.mydenim.com.

Amir will be posting about, and commenting on the development of the Malaysian denim scene, talking about some of the exciting new domestic brands which we can expect to see, and sharing his views what makes denim such a popular interest in such a warm country. Welcome Amir, we’re looking forward to reading you.