If you are like me, you may not have been aware of selvedge denim and raw denim jeans before 2010. At some point between the 60s and 2000s raw selvedge denim jeans for all practical purposes disappeared from the awareness of most guys. Most guys born between 1970 and 2000 probably never owned a pair. It seems kind of funny because they were the standard from the time Levi Strauss produced the first pair of 501s. Guys would buy their jeans raw and have to soak them to get the perfect fit. So how did I become aware of this world?
As I began to work on defining my personal style and rebuild my closet, I was reading sites like Put This On. It just so happens that at the time I had been asked to dress more casually at work (I was wearing a suit and tie at least four days a week which my supervisor thought was intimidating) and was in the market for new jeans that fit. On of the articles that popped up on Put This On was about a new model for selling jeans by a company called Gustin. Gustin had been producing raw selvedge jeans and selling them in select retail locations and was now launching a direct-to-consumer model. In Gustin’s model they treat the manufacture of the product like a funding campaign. If the jeans are not funded at least a certain level then they are not produced. If they are funded 100% then Gustin knows they will sell every pair they produce. In this way Gustin does not have to carry inventory and is able to sell their jeans at about 50% of the typical retail price. So I decided to take a look.
I began following Gustin’s drops, which typically happened on Tuesday an Thursday with special drops some Saturdays. I also began following the forum that Gustin had at the time and was introduced to a group of guys that was extremely knowledgeable about denim. One day Gustin dropped the #107 The Zimbabwe. The guys on the forum were very excited and could not say enough good things about the Zimbabwe denim. So I took the plunge and backed my first pair of raw selvedge denim jeans.
I waited patiently for the jeans to arrive as the Gustin model does mean that there is about a two or three month gap between when you back the jeans (and are charged for the jeans) and when the jeans arrive. When the jeans arrived I tried to put them on and learned first hand what the members of the forum had been talking about with the break-in process. I had ordered a 33 Slim which should have a 33.5 waist according to the measurement guide and should stretch to 34.5-35 after repeated wears without sting or soaking. I will not lie. It was a struggle to get the jeans on and buttoned, but the advice from the forum had been that if they buttoned without being strained too much then they should stretch to a perfect fit after 3-6 months. I was discovering that owning a pair of raw selvedge was a wonderful project to mold them to your body and create fades that reflected how you wore them. I was hooked.
A few months later things began to get heated in the Gustin forums and a group of the most knowledgeable members left to start their on forum at Selvedge & Style Forum. I migrated with the group and continued learning about the different denim manufacturers, brands like Momotaro, Pure Blue Japan, Japan Blue, Big John, Roy’s, and many more. (This is a great place to learn about raw selvedge, leather jackets and accessories, and a number of other menswear items.) As I continued to follow discussions, I began to create a list of denims that I wanted to own because of their coloring, weave, construction, etc. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had become a denim head. As you can see from the image above, I have a lot more than one pair of jeans. In fact, I think I have twenty two pairs of jeans in various shades of indigo, red, green, gray, brown, and black. As for the pair of Zims that got me started, here is what they look like after about two years and four months with two soaks and one wash
Here is a before and after with an unworn pair that hangs in my closet waiting for the day the first pair get worn through.