Denim HQ – Our New Writer From Germany, beautiful_FrEak

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I’m sure that most people who frequent the major denim forums will familiar with beautiful_FrEak, he is a well known source of knowledge on denim, and particularly the Osaka 5 brands. His Samurai fit guide has proved an invaluable resource to Samurai wearers the world over and now he has agreed to come and write over at Denim HQ, which we are very pleased about. Over to the man himself to provide his own introduction…

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Hi everybody,

as you might see me more often around these parts of the internet, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself. If you are a typical visitor of the suspected denim-related forums, you already might have seen some of my smartass posts.

I started wearing dry denim in early 2007. My gateway drug was a pair of Nudie Jeans as it was for most guys back then. The alternative was APC. There wasn’t such a broad offer for “beginner rare denim jeans” like nowadays and also the availability left much to be desired…

It didn’t take long and in mid-2007 I joined MyNudies and a few months later Sufu. From that point I learned a lot about the whole “thing behind” raw denim: the wearing, washing and caring parts and to keep in mind, the Japanese brands!

In 2008 I took the big leap and ordered my first pair of Japanese jeans straight from Japan. A pair of DenimJunkie DJ-501XX directly from the source. This “brand” (it wasn’t a real brand but more a one-man project) is now long extinct but D/J’s eye for details is still among the best brands I handled.

From that point everything went quickly: my first contest in 2009 (Denime XX/66XX), my first world tour in 2010 (Ooe Yofukuten “The Traveling Pants”), building of my Samurai jeans collection, my hunt for deadstock Japanese jeans and on and on…

I can already tell you that my main focus is on Japanese jeans. Tops, boots, outerwear are on a lower priority for me. My big love goes to the repro brands from the Osaka5, Denime in particular, and also smaller and lesser known and/or available brands.

Hopefully you enjoy my writings and Gavin endures correcting my non-native speaker scribblings.

Cheers,

b_F

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Denim HQ – Review – Samurai 710OG

20140113_top IMG_8241 In recent times I have been spoilt by denim, for the last HWDC I was given a pair of the Mega Beatle Buster jeans by Iron Heart and since then I have mainly been wearing them and a couple of pairs of Trophy Clothing jeans which we stock at NoKipple. I have been more than happy with this little rotation for around 18 months now, but with thoughts starting to turn towards the DWC I began to cast an envious eye over much of the new denim on the market. I wanted something different, I wanted something that felt special to my inner denim nerd and I knew that I would have to actually pay for it using real money, so it wouldn’t be a snap decision. That’s when my thoughts, once again, turned to Osaka’s own Samurai Jeans. 20140113_10 20140113_12 Samurai Jeans were founded in in 1998 by Nogami – San, they have always been quite experimental with their denim alchemy and they riff off the traditional Japanese image extremely well with various patch designs showing Samurai warriors of various girth, depending on the weight of the denim. Other great examples of Samurai’s distinctly Japanese quirks are their ladies “Geisha” model and their sakura patterned pocket bags on special edition jeans. Speaking of special editions, Samurai always have some great ideas in this area, from their natural indigo dyed Ai denim to their “Leepro” Jin denim cuts, right down to the silver thread woven into their “sword selvedge”, there is always something a bit special about a pair of Samurai jeans. 20140113_9 And so it was that a Samurai special edition lured me back into paying big bucks for jeans and lured me back to the brand where it all began, my first pair of quality Japanese denim were a pair of 19oz Samurai S710XX, which makes my new purchase of the Samurai S710OG feel kind of like starting again for me. The OG part of the model name refers to the fact that the jeans are made from 16oz organic cotton, with some rather pretty “green grass” selvedge going on too, the patch is (in my opinion) the nicest Samurai patch that I have yet seen, this was always a minor weak point of Samurai for me as even though the images were great, the patches themselves felt flimsy and the print was barely visible after some consistent heavy wear. I actually took a look at a pair of these jeans in the flesh at their London retailer before taking the plunge to buy them, based upon that viewing I almost decided against buying them as the denim did not feel quite as special as I had hoped, too flat, not enough character, a little boring compared to the Trophy Dirt denim that I have been wearing. Then I remembered the magic of Samurai, the denim comes alive with water and wear, and so my mind was set. IMG_8251 Upon first inspection it is clear that this is a special pair of jeans, the organic cotton denim is stiff and course with surface slubs and runs which should make the denim age beautifully. The denim has a wonderfully dark warp, with a trademark feature of Samurai denim of the clearly visible white weft in evidence, it is stitched with 100% organic copper coloured cotton in a flawless manner and complimented by the aforementioned green selvedge being in evidence on the out seam, inside the coin pocket and hidden on the inside of the button fly. The 16oz denim has a substantial feel to it’s weight and thickness and like most Samurai denims could be easily described as “crispy”, this feeling usually takes a good couple of months of wear to totally vanish. IMG_8245 IMG_8243 IMG_8242 The pre soak fit was similar to the fit on my old Samurai S5000VX jeans post soak, this was exactly as I had hoped as I wanted something just a little slimmer, with a slight taper, but definitely not a skinny or overly slim pair of jeans at my age and with my heroic build. Something I really enjoy about the 710 cut is the height of the rise, which is high enough not lead to embarrassment when leaning over, yet low enough not to give discomfort when sitting for long periods, this along with the incredibly deep pockets are nice little features, whether the pocket bags hold up is another matter. I still maintain that the best pocket bags in the industry are done by Trophy, who double layer the vulnerable points on the bag as a matter of course. IMG_8246 IMG_8247 IMG_8248 IMG_8249 To soak the jeans I went old skool, with a hot as I could stand to touch tub soak for 20 minutes with some agitation, after which I towel dried them and draped them over a large radiator for an hour, the last part of the drying I took care of in the tumble drier. I recall that Samurai denim is usually particularly difficult to get all the shrink out of, requiring either two or three soaks and drip dries or a good machine wash and a long turn in the tumble drier if you’re feeling brave. I do not think that all of the shrink potential has been removed from these jeans, but I am sufficiently pleased with the fit to wear them in for a few days and see what I feel about them afterwards. The waist shrank from 40″ down to the tagged 38″ and the inseam came up about 1.5″, all other areas slightly but noticeably tightened and the surface slubs in the denim became much more evident after a soak. Something I have been told anecdotally is that the denim stretches quite a bit, which is a little concerning as the waist is currently spot on. The inseam length is currently 36″, which is about 3″ too long for how I like them, I have considered whether to hem them but I want to let the denim settle for a while first and I do like to rock a monster thick cuff when I can. IMG_8250 IMG_8252 Overall I am super impressed with these jeans, they feel like a special pair should with all the excitement of trying a new denim, seeing how it shrinks and shapes and enjoying all those special little details. Now all that remains to do is wear them, people keep asking me if they will be my contest pair for the DWC and honestly that is not why I got them, doesn’t mean that I won’t wear them for the contest and they will be worn sparingly until that decision is made. These jeans will certainly see wear though, they almost will me to wear them forsaking all others every time I find myself absent mindedly feeling the roughness of the denim with my finger tips, it is time set in motion the Kanji script written on the back of the buttons…..all earthly things fade.

Denim HQ – Product Review Iron Heart Heavy Flannel IHSH-102

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Here in the northern hemisphere we are firmly on the downward path to winter, it’s getting darker in the mornings when we get up for work and the nights are taking on the kind of pitch black reserved for the colder months and I love it. Winter is great, it improves my wardrobe choice exponentially and allows me to wear things which I have been staring at wistfully since the previous March including that most favoured of garments in my eyes, the winter flannel. My winter flannel of choice last year was a green buffalo checked heavyweight flannel by Iron Heart, but much as I loved it there was a problem (though not with the shirt), it was a western cut with snap fastenings and as I tend to put a few pounds on in winter the result was not flattering. So it was sold and this winter requires a new heavy flannel and I was very happy to see that this year Iron Heart had brought back an old classic, the purple buffalo check heavy flannel, and better than this it was available as a work shirt. With the choice so seemingly obvious it’s now time to take a close look at the shirt which will bear much responsibility for my warmth over the next 3 – 4 months, to find out why (in my opinion), Iron Heart are the pinnacle in heavy flannel shirts.

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Members of the Iron Heart forum and fans of the brand will tell you that the release of the winter flannels is always a cause of much excitement. They are eagerly anticipated and tend to sell out fast, with good reason, no body does a warmer more comfortable winter flannel than Iron Heart. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the brand, they never overcomplicate and you can pretty much rely on the fact that what you get from them will be bomb proof. Should the earth ever be shrouded in a nuclear winter the only things left alive will be cockroaches and people wearing Iron Heart, and it is precisely this armour like carapace which makes their winter flannels so special. I have heard them described as akin to wearing a carpet, and there is certainly an element of rigidity to them when new, but the warmth and almost total wind resistance they provide is totally unparalleled in shirts by any other brand.

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The purple heavyweight buffalo check flannel, more snappily known as the IHSH-102 in Iron Heart nomenclature, is a continuation of the glorious tradition of super warm, tightly woven, gloriously comfortable flannels. It is quite stiff and on first wear really doesn’t feel like flannel at all, I am reminded of the carpet comment as there is definitely an element of that about it. This is most definitely the bastard child of a winter shirt, and body armour…in a good way. Something which Iron Heart have going for them, probably more so than any other denim and work wear brand, is that you don’t so much wear their clothes as you become encased in them, in an envelope of comfort, quality and safety. Simply by holding this shirt in your hands you know that your money has been well spent as Iron Heart do not cut corners, the ludicrously thick flannel is held together at the seams by twin rows of incredibly neat polycotton stitching, the buttons feel like they are held on with still wire rather than thread and the chain stitch run offs speak to the shirts detailing and work wear past.

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What makes not only the heavyweight flannels, but Iron Heart shirts in general so special and successful is that they are perhaps the only Japanese manufacturer who really understands western sizing. I have been involved in many conversations with other denim enthusiasts where we have reached agreement that Iron Heart clothes simply fit better than just about anyone else’s, even western based brands, so good is the fit of the majority of everything which they produce that when something does inevitably go astray (as happens to all manufacturers) it is a huge deal to their customers, akin to a late train in Japan, it is simply regarded as something so rare that it’s actual existence is an abomination. This shirt is certainly no exception, the fit is perfect in every sense of the word with absolutely zero cause for complaint.

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I have heard good things said about heavy flannels by Flathead, but their shirts are cut so slim as to rule out most of their western custom, I have heard good things about heavy flannels by Strike Gold but they can’t come close to matching the almost total wind resistance of an Iron Heart flannel. As an alternative to sweatshirts and hoodies though winter there is nothing quite so comforting and versatile as a winter flannel. Simply put, if you want to buy the best winter flannel available anywhere, by anyone, this is it right here and I would place a bet with anyone that the upcoming IHSH-107 winter flannel will be just as good.

DHQxHWDC – The DWC is NOT the HWDC3

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Last weekend saw us announce what will be the biggest denim contest ever, the Denim World Championship (DWC). We got a feeling for the level of popularity we are looking at when the Facebook page got over 600 likes in less than 48 hours, and this is really exciting as we believe that this contest is fantastic way to bring together all elements of the denim community to enjoy denim (and boots) in their most pure form, being worn by real people. It’s going to be a busy few months as sponsors announce their special products and offers for the contest in the coming weeks, and contestants make their all important decisions about jeans, jackets, shirts and boots. The build up to the contest is hugely exciting for me and understandably since the announcement I have been innundated with questions about the contest, many of which have expressed excitement and interest in the HWDC3 so I have to let the cat out of the bag here and tell you that the HWDC3 is only one part of the DWC, far from the whole thing.

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With the DWC we really want to up the scope and remove limitations so as you have probably decifered from the imagery we have published thus far there will be weight classes for each and every denim you can think of, including heavyweight and super heavyweight, but HWDC3 will be something different entirely (the clue is in the name). It was important to me that as the contest evolves into something much more immersive and accessible to denim fans from all over the world, and of all budgets, that we didn’t simply kill off the HWDC, I felt that we needed to say goodbye properly and I think that we can do this in a very focussed way.

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The remainder of the DWC will have its details revealed very soon, the website will open on Novemeber 1st but there will still be some details missing as we are still discussing the full judging panel and prizes with our sponsors. The early opening for registration is done for a variety of reasons, chief amongst which is preparation for everyone, sponsors, retailers and contestants alike, special products have to be pre ordered and made by brands, stocks have to be arranged and for average Joe’s like me we have to put some funds aside to figure out what will be covering our legs, arm and feet for the next couple of years in the name of pure and simple evolution.

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Denim HQ – Purity

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Apart from the picture post for the new DWC contest there hasn’t been much content added to DHQ in the last few days, this isn’t because I have been busy with the contest set up (although I have), it isn’t because I have become devoid of things to write about, it is because I re-read everything I had prepared to share in the last few days and decided that I hated it. I had written a piece about the mechanics of a denim brand, another about marketing groups within the denim scene and a last one about what the brand line up of your wardrobe suggests about you, and then I realised that I wasn’t writing about denim any more, I was writing about marketing and economics and this isn’t a business studies site, this is a denim and work wear site and I needed to check myself.

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I have studied marketing and economics to one degree or another, dry subjects masquerading as black arts in understanding people, they have no place here. The business of denim can be an interesting subject, and I do recommend that everyone questions exactly where their money is going before simply buying a pair of Nudies (for example) because Flathead (for example) are too expensive, there are reasons. After discovering that I was in danger of boring this web site out of existence I took the time to look at the emails I get sent through LinkedIn and other similar sites about branding and licensing, I read some posts on my social media feed by people who’s specialist subject and living is branding, creating buzz and interest in products under the assumption that they will sell you a better lifestyle….I shuddered a little…this is not why I love denim. I do not want to be sold a lifestyle, I have a lifestyle, it began to irk me that I was constantly being shown what cool and hip people were doing with their denim and how “totally awesome” their lives were because of it. This is not my idea of the denim community. I felt guilty that I had so easily been drawn into this world, I have developed my own brand concept even (although it sells no lifestyle, it’s actually pretty fun and ridiculous), and it is time to take a step back.

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It was working on the DWC which brought me to the thought that I need to get back to some denim purity, the fabric, the thrill of ownership, the fit, the cut, the wear, the details. I thought back to the idea which became the first HWDC and it was simply that I wanted to see more well worn heavy denim, I wanted to see it evolve and enjoy that process with a group of like minded individuals. What we’re doing today with the DWC is a much evolved extension of that with much more time , effort and money spent on it but essentially it is the very same idea. To take a world wide community and enjoy the shared experience of watching our denim evolve as a group, to share our love of denim from beginning to end. From agonising over which should be your “contest” jeans, to finally selecting them, the excitement of awaiting their arrival, the fit, the soak, the cuff, the hem, those early stages of evolution, watching the fit settle and sharing your denim adventures for two years. For me the experience does not get much more pure than that.

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From here on in I want to immerse myself in what really matters, I want to spend more time here on DHQ talking about great things made by great companies run by people who don’t spend their time sat around in meeting rooms, looking at flip charts filled with photographs of chiselled models sat on motorbikes (hello Mr Beckham). I am a simple man, I like nice denim which has been made with character, quality and the occasional quirk to make it interesting, I do not appreciate denim from a marketing perspective, I like it because it’s fucking cool and it fits my lifestyle. In fact, it doesn’t matter why I like it, it only matters that I do and not because some suit wearing douche is being told by an army of art school graduates wearing plimsolls and ironic t shirts what he should do to sell me denim. I call upon anyone reading this to see through the marketing of everything, not just jeans, don’t be lied to, don’t be sold someone else’s vision of your dream. Wear what you want because you want to, have a good time doing it and lets get excited about this stuff because we want to.

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Coming up I’m going to be talking about winter flannels, my new jeans (incoming), selecting a new pair of boots, breaking in new boots and talking a whole lot about the fun we have planned for the DWC. No bullshit, no marketing, just a guy shooting the breeze about the things he loves.

Denim HQ – Levels Of Perfection, Or a Lesson In Subjectivity?

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Whilst idling the hours away in cyber space yesterday I happened to come across an article on a well known denim web site concerning a certain successful kickstarter denim brand. The article presenting some interesting points, but the comments section and subsequent research to which they lead, were the real eye opener.

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The gist of the comments amounted to little more than an argument between two camps, camp A had a contention that the kickstarter brand represented unbelievable value by offering the same fabrics as more expensive and well regarded Japanese brands for relatively little money (comparatively), camp B contended that the kickstarter brand used stock rather than the proprietary fabrics developed by the higher end brands, lacked the details of the higher end brands and even the intangible mythos or mystique of (particularly), Japanese denim. The argument went something like this (I am paraphrasing).

A) All you guys buying your $350 jeans are mugs and poseurs, these jeans rock hard.

B) But they lack the details and use stock fabrics so you can’t really compare.

A) What details? You need to take your head out of your ass, they’re jeans.

B) Vintage machines, proprietary fabrics, different threads and a good story about the brand.

A) A story? Really? You need your jeans to have a narrative to justify the purchase.

And on and on it went…..

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I’m going to pitch my stake in the sand here and say that this is just a case of complete and utter subjectivity. A case of different people having different expectations, needs and wants and then reacting quite badly to other people who don’t share their rigid view of how denim should be. I could speculate on the reasons behind this, I could surmise that if a person has backed a crowd fund with hard cash that they are less than eager to admit disappointment as they may feel like they are saying that they fell for the con, I could go the other way and say that people who have paid more for their jeans could feel the need to justify that spend by focussing on details and lording the perceived superiority. It is probably all true but does not change the point that none of it actually matters, like two goldfish in bowl arguing over which one is the most wet.

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The fact is, and not only when it comes to denim, we all have different levels of expectation and we all place more value on certain details, characteristics or points of purchase than others. Does this make anyone wrong? Does this make one person better than another? Does it matter who’s jeans are better or more expensive if the wearer is happy with them? If you answered yes to any of those then you need to turn your computer off and go for a walk, the internet has become too much for you.

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To take it a step further, the details which I look for in a pair of jeans are as follows…

– Interesting fabric with character.
– Flattering cut.
– Ethical production and supply chain.
– Good quality hardware.
– Hard wearing pocket bags.
– Subtle detailing in terms of the stitching, patch and other features.

I have determined that if all these details are in place and to a sufficient level then I will pay what the cost is, if these details are not in place then the jeans wouldn’t interest me anyway. I know that some of the guys commenting there would regard me as a jeans snob, they would laugh at me paying $350 for Japanese jeans rather than $150 for the kickstarter because to them the jeans have too little variance to make the $200 a consideration, that fine but to me they do, and no one can really tell you that your wrong when it is completely a matter of personal opinion, taste and subjectivity.

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Unfortunately the comments did lead me to look at some of the marketing from this kickstarter brand and it seems that their own words may well fan the flames, they claim to be “redefining quality menswear, starting with denim”, and “using materials which are equal of any other jeans on the market”. Of course they are just words, of course it is simply marketing but if you take those words, believe them and use them as a club to beat anyone who does not agree with you then it will certainly lead to the kind of aggressive debate I saw yesterday.

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Your jeans are better for you, not anyone else, you jeans are worth what you paid for them (whatever that is) if you think they were, not anyone else. Don’t use someone else’s ideal to beat down people who don’t favour “your brand”, does it really matter? Buy jeans, wear jeans, enjoy jeans, job done.