Why Japanese Denim?
Japan, more specifically, Okayama is said to be the denim capital of the world today. So what makes Okayama denim so special?
Okayama has a long and storied history in the workwear manufacturing industry, but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that they entered into the denim business. In post WWII Japan, jeans were first introduced by American soldiers and quickly became a fashionable item. As imported American jeans gained in popularity, manufacturers in Okayama decided to try their hand at producing jeans locally, thus giving birth to the Japanese denim industry.
Today, there is a limited amount of machinery and skilled craftsman who can still make denim the traditional way, most of which are concentrated in the Okayama region. The knowledge and skill to make high-quality denim combined with a passion and attention to detail truly make Japanese craftsmen the masters of denim.
Raw Japanese Denim
Raw Denim Jeans have the unique ability to conform to you, the wearer. As you wear your jeans, they will crease and mold to your body, fade at points of strain, and wear and tear according to how you live your life... making your jeans that much more personal and unique. Some denim enthusiasts wear their jeans for months (and sometimes years!) on end without washing in order to engrave their lifestyle into the jeans.
Selvedge Denim is made using vintage low-speed looms called shuttle looms. A small wooden shuttle containing the weft yarns weaves the fabric as it is “shuttled” back and forth along the loom. On each pass, the shuttle seals the edge of the fabric creating a “self edge”, earning the name selvedge denim. Shuttle looms are slower, narrower, and require the skill of master artisans to operate. The end result is a denim with a hand-woven feel that cannot be mass produced.
Rope Dying is the core reason why Japanese raw denim is so highly praised for its fading properties. The process is done on impressively tall machines that extend up to the 2nd floor of the factory. Warp yarns are suspended from the top of the machine and sent down to be dipped in a bath of indigo waiting below. After each dip, the yarn travels all the way back up, allowing the dye to oxidize and adhere to the cotton yarn. This process is repeated along the machine multiple times to obtain the desired shade of indigo. What’s key is that because the yarns continuously travel up and down this long machine, and are never simply left in a large vat, the dye does not completely saturate the core of the yarn. Instead, only the outer layer is dyed, and the core remains white.
Know Your Weights
Denim weight is the weight of the fabric per square yard measured in ounce. The thickness of warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) yarns, and the density of weave determine the fabric weight.
The lightest weight denim available. Thin and comfortable, the perfect weight denim for hot climates and summer weather.
Light enough for the spring and summer, yet heavy enough for the fall. Multi season jeans that are comfortable right off the bat.
10-13oz: Standard Weight
The most common weight used to make jeans. Perfect for all seasons with a proper balance of durability and comfort.
Heavier than your average denim, and quite rigid to start. These jeans usually require a few weeks to break in.
Made for hardwearing, these jeans can handle just about anything you throw at them. These jeans will produce distinct high contrast wear patterns.
22oz +: Super Heavyweight
It’s like wearing a cardboard box shaped like pants. You must be willing to go through pain and suffering to conquer these jeans.
32oz: World’s Heaviest Jeans
Guaranteed uncomfortable. Courtesy of Naked & Famous Denim. You’re welcome!
Wearing & Caring For Raw Denim
While we believe there are no rules to wearing raw denim, here are a few handy suggestions on how to get the most life out of your jeans.
Knowing when is the right time to wash your jeans isn’t dependent on how many months old your jeans are, but rather on the frequency of wear, and on how dirty they have become from your personal lifestyle. Some people prefer to wait as long as they can before the first wash because this allows the denim to crease and fold to the contours of your body. Then, after the first wash, you will be rewarded with higher-contrast fades at those points of strain. Washing your jeans after a shorter period of time will produce a fade with a more uniform color.
The easiest way to wash your jeans is in cold water, inside-out and hung to dry.
Some more finicky fans prefer the soak method:
1. Turn the jeans inside out, fasten the front buttons or zipper (this is to avoid abrasion to the denim while washing).
2. Soak the jeans in a tub using cold water to minimize indigo loss (if the jeans are very dirty, you can use a small amount of detergent).
3. Gently scrub the jeans and let them soak for about an hour.
4. Remove the jeans from the tub and rinse with water to remove any leftover dirt, dye or detergent. Ring out any excess water, and finally hang to dry.
The jeans may feel a bit tight after washing; they will soon stretch back out to normal with wear.
Jeans are not indestructible; no other garment is worn as frequently or as hard as a pair of raw denim jeans. Longer wears between washes can cause an accumulation of sweat, oil and dirt, which will weaken the cotton fibers and allow holes to form. It’s important to do maintenance from time to time; not only will it prolong the life of your jeans, but repairs add a great deal of character.
Patch up any small holes that form using a small piece of denim (patch the jeans from the inside for a cleaner look, patch the jeans from the outside for a more vintage look) or try using a contrasting patterned fabric for more personality.