Jeans. Denim. Dry, washed, rinsed, raw. Destroyed. Distressed. Selvaggge.
I just learned what selvage means: self-edge. As in, the denim fabric is loomed in such a way such that it forms its own seam, no additional overlock necessary. The process renders the denim particularly sturdy. And from my experience, stiff.
If you hadn’t noticed, denim comes in myriad flavors and formats. Sifting through the brands, fits, and colors can be a hearty undertaking, not one I am interested in rehashing each time I need new jeans, hence my reliance on Diesel denim for the past five years.
Problem is, Diesel changed, as brands tend to do. Its legacy denim was made in Italy. In fact, its entire brand image and philosophy was built around premium denim, in a time long before denim was particularly chic. Today, it has lost much of its standard of quality and cool which made it so unique in the first place.
Enter an increasingly sophisticated male buyer, and a collection of boutique denim lines, made in the U.S., Italy, or elsewhere, and competition is suddenly stiff as a dry selvedge.
I also attribute a sliver of fault to myself, for spending more time on my legs in the gym, doing squats and leg presses. The booty has done nothing but expand, much to my suitors’ delight.
My last pairs of Diesel jeans were made in Romania and Tunisia, held up relatively well. Pilling of the fabric, a signal of low quality, afflicted one of them. Both became outdated cuts, with too wide a leg and too tight a seat. Nobody likes being stuffed into sausage casing with bell-bottom legs. Me most of all.
After a poignant cocktail party in which my straight male friend was better-dressed than I was, with slick jeans as a focal point, I knew I had to reevaluate my denim situation.
I was drawn to the 11-year wash of the Grim Tim Nudie pair I eventually took home, because it was a dark, smoky color somewhere between indigo, gray, and black. And no contrast stitching, a newfangled feature found on clothing to car interiors I can’t stand. Selvage and raw denims tend to have a lot of bright yellow or orange contrasting threads.
Within two weeks, I’d procured my second pair of Nudie Grim Tims, only in a lighter, more casual hue. Both had to be hemmed from 34″ inseams, a small price to pay for the otherwise right pair.
I’m well aware that a jean brand’s appeal is hardly applicable across body types. Like wine, cologne, or hairdressers, everyone has their favorite(s), and how one arrives at one they like is, in part, happenstance. I’m too pessimistic to assume there was a brand made for me.
Disclaimers aside, I must express my positive experience with Nudie. I wanted to check a few boxes in the new denim search: tapered leg (not skinny!), ample seat for the ample tush, made somewhere other than in a factory in China (I’m still an old-world holdout, however illogical that may be), and not $500.
Nudie prices in the $150-$250 range. All jeans are made in Italy, with secondary items (tees, jackets, accessories) made in Italy, Tunisia, and parts of Eastern Europe. Their production process is, at least in brand collateral, based around organic, recyclable jeans, and they tout their full life-cycle process of repairing and reusing old, worn-out jeans.
I can’t speak for the other fits Nudie makes, but the Grim Tim creates a slim, straight leg with room enough for athletic thighs and butts. The fabric is part elastane, allowing for stretch and give where others feel straightjacket tight.
I’d like to explore other adolescent denim brands, like 3×1 and PRPS, as part of this wave of sexy jeans for athletic boys. Gone are the days when you wore either skintight jeans on the verge of leggings (jeggings), or baggy, floppy jeans, a la dad. There was virtually nothing in between.
If you’re like me and know very little about upscale denim brands, but need to upgrade…my advice: head to a department store with lots of options, and if you can, find someone who can objectively access your shape and recommend some likely winners. Without that sort of guidance, your best bet is to just try pairs on, and be prepared for the long haul.
As with most things, but maybe even more with denim, I am picky. Every detail makes a difference, though you can’t spot the nuances from far away. Stretch vs. no stretch? Washed or rinsed, vs. dry? Button fly or zip?
Jean shopping is frustrating, and can feel endless. It can also be exciting, if you consider that with so many options, once you find the one you love, you probably won’t see anyone else with the same pair.
For what my $0.02 is worth, check out Nudie for some high-quality, Scandinavian-via-Italy denim. Locally at Nordstrom International Plaza, or online at Amazon, Revolve, Saks, Neiman Marcus, MR PORTER, and Barney’s.
If you need to get things altered locally, see Angel Custom Tailor. He is wonderful.