Raw denim is a new old trend in men’s fashion, so to speak. They’ve been around for a while but they seem to be gaining more and more notoriety as people understand the point of owning a $200 pair of jeans. It sounds like a lot for a classic piece of denim but the price tag comes with a lifetime guarantee. Ok, maybe it’s not lifetime but 15 years gives you a lot of time to get bored with the design and save for a new pair. Also, if you like to be attuned to the times and do your bit to protect the environment and the health of the workers, raw denim might appeal to you since it doesn’t involve harmful sandblasting techniques and has less environmental impact since it needs to be washed less.
Raw denim is mainly a piece of fabric that hasn’t been washed or treated in any way during its production. It’s mainly made of cotton (100% for most brands but there are variations on the market), with USA and Japan some of the biggest producers. Unsurprisingly, they are also the best represented in our top of Raw Denim Jeans brands.
The story started more than a century ago, when the resistance and versatility of raw denim made the jeans a popular choice among American workers and miners. Once the textile industry evolved, the US helped the Japanese industry by supplying them with their old machinery. This quickly led to the emergence of a specialized market and a subsequent ‘raw denim’ mania.
Now you don’t have to work the fields to benefit from having raw jeans; with the careful made-to-measure stitches and crafty detailing, raw jeans have become an artisan style statement and a basic item for the popular rugged style. So which are the most authentic raw denim brands you can find on the market?
Levi’s Vintage Clothing
There’s no way of escaping Levi’s dominance in the world of jeans and with over 150 years of experience it was about time they went back to the roots and paid homage to their most basic designs. Levi’s archive becomes inspiration for old designs blended with new manufacturing techniques. No favourite model here, just take your pick!
With a very suggestive name there’s no surprise where this brand has its roots. Their jeans have a distinctive vintage Japanese feel but still combining modern American styling elements. They mostly use heavy denim in their production and experiment with textures and techniques to obtain various types of fade effects. Not only the denim but also the engravings, the buttons and leather patches are changed to personalize each model. For example, the S5000vx have red and silver lamé intertwined in the selvage line to symbolize the red passion and the gleam of a samurai’s sword. Oh well, a bit of history and tradition didn’t hurt anyone.
The Real McCoy’s
It sounds American, it looks American, so it must be Japanese! And it is. The clothing company draws inspiration from US military wear from the 40s and 50s and that is taken to extremes, one might say. The jeans display laurel leaf buttons and bar tacks replacing metal rivets on a rigid and heavy fabric.
A mix of Japan-sourced denim and American skill, Brown, Deim is a true representative of artisan manufacturing. The brand uses more than quality denim, but is also invested in offering authentic detailing. For example, their jeans feature silk, patterned pocket linings, vintage copper rivets and used bullet casings as studs. Also, a pair is made from start to finish by one person so no two pairs are perfectly alike; it doesn’t get more personalized than that.
A rather pretentious brand, in the way that it’s very detail-oriented and have a certain direction for their products. Their jeans are renowned for being quite heavy and fast-fading; if you’re a fan of that, Flat Head is the brand for you. Also, they took the decision of using an “outrageous” slim fit cut, for people who want to be extra-fashionable.
Another Japanese brand, this time belonging to clothing company FabFour. They seem to be a rather exclusivist label, with their products quite difficult to find. But once you do, they’re worth it! Pure indigo with extra-long staple cotton sourced from Arizona and California, for added durability. Their selection offers both classic designs and modern ones with a few embellishments.
Forget the sugary name, this is a brand for real men. If you consider cowboys to be real men, and who doesn’t? Sugarcane selvage denim is made out of double ring-spun Zimbabwe cotton, which is considered to be the finest available in the world, and results in premium looks, feels and prices. It’s expensive to be a cowboy these days!
Japanese brands seem to be heavily inclined towards all the little details they feature on a pair of jeans. Eternal have a simple style statement of quality fabric, sewing and processing; for a fashion brand, 15 years isn’t a long time, but in this case, it’s a worthy achievement complimented by a reputation of unrivalled level of craftsmanship.
No connection to Darwin but the name is quite suggestive for their aim of “constant evolution in a highly competitive world”. Raw denim is not as complex as evolution but it is an ever-increasing industry with more and more competitors joining the market. While this British brand is one of the newbies, it certainly rises to the challenge with a diverse range of products. The No Evil collection features 360 pairs of jeans made from rare 14 Oz. organic cotton selvedge from North Carolina.
If it’s straightforward, minimalistic and durable, there’s no way to keep the Swedes away. With a reputation for trendy and practical style and plenty of know-how in the field of jeans design, their products use soft Turkish denim, 100% organic of course, in classic and timeless designs. And that’s what you need in a pair of pants that might literally last forever!