Samurai Armour

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There is something a bit special about Samurai jeans, for me personally it is where I first jumped into quality Japanese denim with a pair of 710XX and continued into the first Heavyweight Denim Championship with some 21oz S5000VX. Samurai always seem to go the extra mile with detailing that makes receiving a new pair of their jeans something of an event for a denim nerd, so when I received an unexpected little bonus in my wages a few weeks ago I decided that it might be time to revisit my first love for something a little special.

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I have spent much of the last few years wearing Iron Heart jeans almost exclusively, and my affection for that brand is extremely well documented, but Iron Heart and Samurai have (at least in the mind of many denim fans) been diametrically opposed in terms of what they offer and what they represent, they are the yin and yang of denim and many are fiercely loyal to one or the other, it shouldn’t be this way. So great are the differences between the brands that there is easily room for both in every denim heads wardrobe, it is true that both brands operate mainly at the heavier end of the denim curve but that is where similarities end. One is famed for its ridiculously over engineered and durable construction and materials, whilst the other is fondly loved for the detail and variety of its denim, though it is only fair to point out that Iron Heart have now closed this gap somewhat with some fascinating denim alchemy of their own.

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Back on track and it seemed high time to me that I go back to Samurai and rekindle the feeling which first brought me into this scene, by ordering a new pair of Samurai jeans, but not just any pair. A phrase I use often is “if you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly” (taken from 80’s race movie “The Cannonball Run”), so my reunification with Samurai could not come through a pair of their more regular jeans, it had to be something extra ordinary. At first I bought the S710OG, organic cotton jeans, but the sizing didn’t work as I expected and I moved them on, so I decided to look for my “white whale” in terms of Samurai jeans, which had eluded me when first released in 2013 but of which I now found the last remaining pair sitting in the stock room of Japanese retailer 2nd, the 15th Anniversary 25oz S5000VX, and quite a pair of jeans they are.

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The S5000 cut is one with which I am intimately familiar and one which I think works very well for me, it is a midrise, slightly slimmed straight cut with a slight and gradual taper (13” thigh, 10” knee, 9” hem), I had worn the 21oz almost exclusively for 2 years but the 25oz looked like a whole different challenge, and so it proved to be. I will go deeper into this in a future article comparing the 25oz denim of Samurai and Iron Heart, suffice to say that this is the first denim I have worn which actually hurt me due to its rough texture, luckily that feeling passed in little over a week, and apart from this minor pain and discomfort everything else is rather good.

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Beginning at the top and working our way to the bottom of the jeans let’s take a look at the details of the jeans. The top block of these jeans is where much of the action is, from the specially carved extremely thick anniversary leather patch, different to the normal printed deerskin patch of standard Samurai jeans, to the gold lettered back pocket tag, to the 15th anniversary pocket lining tag and ending with the almost ridiculous gold buttons, this jean feels like something totally special and has the features to look the part too.

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Moving onto the denim it is necessary that I point out that its raw weight is 25oz, it’s soaked weight (and therefore its worn weight) is actually somewhere around 27oz, making this a pair of seriously heavy jeans. The denim certainly has heft and weight to it, but it somehow doesn’t feel as meaty as the Iron Heart 25oz, which is definitely softer and more immediately comfortable, but it is surprisingly very breathable even after a soak which makes it quite a versatile denim when it has softened up. The colour begins as a very dark shade of indigo which is common to most Samurai jeans, this is achieved by forcing the maximum amount of dye into each fibre, without penetrating the core so the material will still fade quite easily and, theoretically, with high contrast. Mine are beginning to show flashes of electric blue is high friction areas after only 10 days, which is certainly encouraging. Other details of note include the silver woven selvedge, the pure white bleached cotton weft and the two colour constructional stitching meaning the inseam is sewn with an orange/ copper thread, whilst the hem is finished with a muted gold colour.

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I make no bones about the fact that these jeans were a vanity purchase, bought specifically because their details and special nature appealed to me in a cut which I find flattering and comfortable. As many who know me will attest I am a confirmed “cuffer” of jeans, but some pronounced is the puckering effect on these that I have felt inspired to do something a different, so for these jeans I will wear them uncuffed to their full 35” inseam in order to see if I can stack a denim this heavy, just a little inspiration which can be derived from buying jeans which make to feel “special”.

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