Japanese denim is like the Ford Model T of denim; it comes in one shade, mostly, a deep indigo blue. If it isn’t deep and indigo, then it probably isn’t the real deal. A pair of Japanese jeans isn’t about the brand or the cloth or the stitching – it is all three. And then, it involves a fourth element – you, the wearer. How you use (and abuse) your pair shapes it for years to come, and this piece is about my last two months living in my pair of Japan Blue jeans.
Japan Blue is a relatively recent brand, but one that controls all its processes, from spinning the yarn in its mills to dyeing the fabric using its own dyes. Momotaro is the slightly upper end version of jeans from the same house – it means ‘peach boy’ in Japanese and is finished with a trademark pink stitch on the inseam. Japan Blue, by contrast, sports a bright, electric blue. I chose these because they are a bit more contemporary in their styling, and hence show a sharper taper than Momotaro, which is more straight-fitting. Also, with Japan Blue, I only had to sell one kidney; Momotaro would have needed a more serious commitment on my part.
Either way, what you get is a pair of jeans as stiff as they can be. In the shop, trying them on was like trying to see how sharp you look in a cardboard box. Buttoning them took up a good part of my strength, and I had to wait between pairs to recharge my fingers. Basically, these jeans come as rough as they can get. The idea is that as you wear them, they soften over time. Even in the shop, they encouraged me to keep them on for a few minutes, to sit and squat, to basically try and shape them a bit to me.
I tried on a fair few pairs, but remained unsure as to why someone would want such a stiff pair of trousers. To top it all, I was told that I wasn’t supposed to wash them for at least one year (if not two), and also advised to wear them as often as I could. After that, when washed, I was told that the jeans soften drastically and take the shape of the wearer – which explains the frequency of wear and the no-wash instructions, all to help mould them better.
For denim-geeks, these are all selvedge pairs, and the better ones are 16.5 ounces, which means a heavy duty fabric that won’t give way for many, many years. I am past 60 days of use with my pair, and so far, they remain resolutely stiff. Wearing them for hours on end does make me feel more used to them, but their sand-paper like grittiness never wears thin. The dream of the pair of jeans I may end up with in a year’s time keeps me going, however (mind you, by then my friends and girlfriend may have left me, on account of my ripe odour). All of it would be a mere sacrifice in the process of acquiring a good pair of jeans, for a lifetime’s worth of abuse; you just don’t get that kind of love with Italian or American denim – or so I tell myself for now. If you want to invest in a relationship with your wardrobe, start with a pair of Japanese denim.