Popular denim wisdom will tell you that the true wonder of denim is in how it evolves, how it fades and how it becomes unique to the wearer, carrying the scars, triumphs and tragedies of your individual life. This is a wisdom which I fully subscribe to, indeed it is the core foundation to my love of denim in which I obsess on a daily basis, poring every new hint of blue or loss of indigo from whatever is occupying my legs on any given day. Not only my legs either but also the legs of the countless masses of the internet. Every single day I spend a large portion of time looking through forums and blogs at pictures of worn denim, some of the jeans I see through the HWDC2 are so familiar that I know who’s they are before I see the name of the person who has posted them, they have become almost as familiar to me as my own. So a denim which does not fade at all, a denim which is black as midnight and is probably the hardest denim of the planet to yield to your own will, a denim which totally goes against this received wisdom should be completely against everything I love about denim right, I mean it doesn’t even have a selvedge out seam?
The SB (Super Black) denim from Iron Heart has a certain uncompromising reputation amongst followers of the brand which is extremely valid. I have seen many types of denim described as “armour” for its weight and rigidity but when it is said about SB it is not simple hyperbole, this is real, genuine denim armour. The base denim is a projectile loomed version of Iron Hearts signature 21oz sanforised denim, a true classic of the quality denim scene, it is then reactive dyed on both warp and weft which ensures virtually no fade at all and a texture more common to chain mail than cotton fabric, a mere touch of the SB denim is all you need to tell you that it is something totally different. The jeans which I have to review, made from the SB denim, are Iron Hearts most popular slim cut jean, the 666 Devils cut. The very fact that they are a slim cut made from a material as uncompromising as SB makes the prospect of putting them on my legs well… intimidating, I have worn Samurai’s 23oz, I have worn Iron Hearts 25oz, but the 21oz Super Black makes these jeans seem like linen summer trousers, but in the interests of denim journalism I will put my legs on the line and give them a wear test.
As with all of Iron Heart’s heavy jeans buttoning them is a thumb bruising experience, it is when the last button crunches into place though that I finally understand that my fear is not warranted, the devil is my friend and his armour is not to be feared. The cut of the 666 is slim, but not oppressively so, it has more than enough room for comfort whilst maintaining an extremely flattering silhouette with a slimmed down thigh leading into a gradual taper below the knee, it feels like a cut made for rock stars. The SB denim feels substantial and reassuring wrapped around your legs, without a hint of the roughness or abrasion which I had feared, it is most definitely armour, but a comforting armour rather than an unwieldy and awkward experience. The jeans feel great, they look great and they make me feel like I should be heading out for a night out with Keith Richards and Lemmy, not that I would probably return from such an experience.
It would be pointless for me to espouse the virtue of Iron Hearts quality, their reputation for this is well deserved and established, so instead let’s talk about the elephants in the room, the major reasons why these jeans, and this denim, possibly won’t make it onto most denimheads Christmas or Birthday lists and once again it is all down to that “popular wisdom”. Firstly and most obviously the denim doesn’t fade, you can literally hot wash a plain white tee with these jeans with impunity. I have seen examples of SB denim which is 4 or 5 years old and could pass for new, for most things we buy this would be considered as nothing short of incredible, but as so many like and expect their denim to evolve there may be a perception that SB has no purpose. I would argue that it has the perfect purpose, it is the constant in a world of variation, it is permanence in a field of transience, and let’s be honest and say that there are social settings where your ripped and faded denim is just not acceptable, wouldn’t you like to have that same quality of jeans in a denim which will always look just as good as the day you bought them? I think that has a definite appeal. The Iron Heart SB denim is their equivalent of Willy Wonka’s “everlasting gob stopper” , an immortal jean for grown ups and the fact that it doesn’t fade is its strength, not its weakness.
The second and probably more esoteric reason that these jeans perhaps won’t feel the same love as their stable mates is the omission of the two red lines on the out seam, and it is a fact that selvedge matters to most. I believe that many see selvedge as a major part of their differentiation, it is what sets our jeans apart from the high street, from the masses, and to a certain extent I do understand this. The facts of the matter though are that the “self edge” of the denim serves no real purpose on modern denim, and does not speak as to the quality of the material. It may well mean that the denim was woven on projectile looms rather than shuttle looms, but the thread is the same, the construction is the same and there is absolutely no variation in quality at all. Therefore the difference between selvedge or not is perhaps one of human particularity, of a certain snobbish association with vintage detailing, but as selvedge is also so common now (even on the high street), surely for a high end Japanese denim jean to NOT have selvedge is a real mark of anarchy, SB denim is original, it is the anarchist and it doesn’t care what you think of it.
Where Iron Heart succeed with these jeans is in making them from a denim manufactured for practicality, the denim is a huge favourite with Japanese bikers for its toughness and lack of fade, in a cut which simply screams rock and roll. With the 666-SB the devil is truly in the details, such as the super black arcs, the red W mark on the back pocket and the use of red stitching to turn a fairly standard out seam into a feature worthy of attention should you favour a cuff (I do). If you care solely about things like setting creases, roping, honey combs and selvedge, and you are not prepared to open up your mind a little then these jeans are more than likely not for you. If, however, you find yourself staring at your wardrobe full of sick fades and contemplating buying yet more denim to wear to the office or dinner party or night out as your regular pairs have gone past the point of being socially permissible then you really should take a look at these jeans. If having a constant in your wardrobe appeals to you or even if you simply feel like rebelling against everything that you have ever learned or read about denim then these are the jeans for you. It is time to unlearn what you have learned, put away your security in knowledge and embrace anarchy, be a wolf amongst the sheep and do it dressed in black. The Devil needs you to embrace the dark side, and it feels good.