The ultimative Denim Trouser Thread?

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by CatsCan, Oct 31, 2020.

  1. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    Recently one member of TFL had a question about the self edges on certain pieces of his denim pants. Realizing that it was not easy to find a thread on TFL which entirely covers everything about Denim Trousers, I have the idea of starting one which can serve as a collection of
    • general real life experiences with denim trousers (dry denim, raw denim, raw and dry denim, sanforized, unsanforized, hot soaking, cold soaking, pre-washing, shrinkage, shortening, hemming, chain stitch, brake downs, crotch blowouts and all the other things) that can help people decide what to do and not to do with their new pair of pants of certain makes and batches.
    • sizing, fits, styles and personal preferences and how they change over years with experiences made (shrink to fit, boot cut, skinny fit, loose fit, relaxed fit, high rise, mid rise, low rise, suspender buttons or belt loops or both..)
    • storage (to fold or not to fold)
    • wear and tear (to cuff up or not, to kneel or not, differences in long term use like office jobs vs standing and walking jobs, garage workers, mending tips)
    • place to ask questions about the meaning of words like "raw", "sanforized", "shuttle loom" etc.
    • Collecting
    • ethics (labor conditions, environmental impact of denim fabrication)
    • history (stories, historic denim pants, mills, identification etc..)
    I think I start with my own experiences with my go to pants and leave out those I rarely used or never used until they did not fit anymore but can't sell for collector reasons.

    I truely believe that the way a jeans has to look is a very personel preference and this preference is built some day in our youth. The image we keep in our brains' underworld from that very day back then will probably influence every single jeans we buy. To me it was the cover image of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" album. In my early days, when I shopped for jeans in the usual malls I always turned my back to the mirror in the store to get a glimpse of how my - forgive me - arse looked in those jeans. The position of the rear pockets were the biggest concern. It could take a whole day until I found one that I liked. I did not have a preferred brand first, but when I found one of my taste, I soon realized, that even the fit of a proven brand and style changed over the years while my stature stayed the same for long periods. And when I finally had found a pair which did not change much, my stature changed, and it could be quite a task to follow the guidlines of my brains' template to still receive the look I wanted. In the 80s I found my style of jeans in my beloved Edwins. Some day there was no Edwin anymore in our usual stores. Fancy brands I wore thereafter could not convince me, that jeans are something for me any longer. I quit wearing jeans for a long time.
    I was intruduced in raw denim after I had seen the last three mall jeans I purchased ripping on me after only half a year of use. I wondered why jeans in my youth did hold up to the hard use by me wild guy for a long time, while my new pairs could not even stand bending to lift something that had fallen on the floor. During my research I learnt how much production had been shifted to places of cheap labor and bad labor conditions, lower cotton quality, thinner fabrics over time. I was especially shocked about the conditions those cheap jeans were produced in and the environmental impact their production had - and still has.
    Then I run into a store which had some of the first "raw" denim jeans availlable in my area and everything changed. The denim was made in Japan. It cost a fortune but I had my old denim quality back. But at the same time new problems arose. The pants were by far not as easy to handle as I remember my youth jeans were. I had a hard time to understand all the different qualities and how to treat these pants. I finally went with sanforized jeans, what I can now from my own experiences only recommend anybody who is entirely new to higher quality jeans to save them from first disapointments which could possibly hold them off buying another pair of higher quality jeans.

    To summarize my experiences: I went down the road not washing my jeans for at least half a year as is recommended in the care lable of the preferred jeans I wear. I initially cold soked another pair I bought. I hot soaked the next. Now I have abandoned all these recommended treatments and just throw every new pair into the washing machine before the first wear and run a soft cycle without spinning, wear them and wash them whenever I want to wash them or I feel it needs a wash. I can do this, because I know these jeans. I stick to them because I know them best. I can get two good years out of every pant when I wear them hard. They are still okay by then but I always sell them at about this time because they still are worth money to be spend by a new owner, have years of use left, but I don't like them to be too faded and to pale bleached. I choose to sell them when they are still blue jeans but with a lot of bright whiskers and creases. I never go for specific crease patterns. I like them to be not too extraordinary looking.

    The picture below is showing one of my two year old jeans exactly at the moment after I had decided to sell them, but not before I had already received a new one of the same make and the same style (but sometimes in the actual size I need by then). This picture is old now but I did this again and again over the years. I always wash them inside out when new in 30°C and on the setting for delicate fabrics, reduce spinning to minimum, pull them out after wash, lay them flat on a towel over the rack, put them on when waistband still is a tiny bit damp, sit in it at my computer for some work to be done until they are dry, iron lentghwise folds out after tapping them with a cloth wetted with distilled water, lay them away until they are bone dry and then start to wear them for 4 to 8 weeks until I wash them like I wash any other cotton. I gave up soaking and all the other things recommended. If anything, the initial soak is done by the initial washing procedere. This is a pair of sanforized jeans. It shrinks nevertheless about 5 cm in lentgh. And my impression is, it shrinks a little over all with the initial washing and stretches on my body in the areas where it should. It also shrinks a tiny bit with every additional wash. So I buy them not tight fitting anymore. I am always able to sell those jeans after two years, because the buyer knows, he will have no hassle with shrinking any more on him. Luckily I have two guys who like them in this used look while I like them most when still quite dark. So we are kind of symbiotic.

    TFL2.jpg
    Now I will end my lengthy initial post in a thread which is hopefully accepted, meeting interest, sparking lively discussions, additions, contributions by as many denim trouser lovers as possible here on the Fedora Lounge! I hope this thread will explode with colorful pictures, not just text deserts like my post. If this theme is not wanted, and if it is desired to delete this crap, feel free to do so, Bartenders!

    If it is wanted, then come on with your story, pictures, experiences, knowledge, tips and everything concerning your denim pants!

    Have a nice lockdown time, folks! Stay healthy and take care!
    Cats
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
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  2. Bender

    Bender New in Town

    Messages:
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    As the starter of that thread you’re referencing, I whole-heartedly second this!

    I’m happy to pitch in as best I can... While I would never call myself a denim expert (working on that, but many guys out there know, like, everything) I have been reading a lot about it lately. The history of the industry is kind of a fascinating slice of Americana, actually.

    I think all true denim guys have a method of breaking in selvedge that works for them...

    My personal favorite is no washing machine, but a 3-5 hour soak in a warm (not hot) tub, then air dry for a bit, then wear until dry. Well, mostly dry. I find you can rarely wear them completely dry, they will still be damp in areas where the fabric is double or tripled up, like belt loops, parts of the pockets, etc.

    The next day, or the first time I put them on dry and then really wear them, I try to go do some work in them, or take a hike or something. Get a decent sweat going... Nothing crazy, not like a dripping workout sweat, but a decent sweat. Then wear the rest of the day. As the sweat dries, it seems to “set” the jeans to the body. From then on, I just wear the hell out of them every day.

    As far as keeping a pair of jeans fresh goes, I spot-clean any spills, and pretty regularly put them in a large ziplock bag (with the air pressed out) and freeze them for 24 hours. This seems to work very well.

    Like I said before, everybody will have a method, and not every method is for everybody. I don’t really get BO, so while the “sweat-set” and no washing machine thing works for me, it might yield disgusting results for someone else, ha ha. YMMV.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
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  3. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    I've worn jeans off and on for 50 years but I have no useful knowledge. I feel like I am maybe a bit old for jeans - I am not a hipster. Anyway it seems to me that the whole point of jeans is no fuss and a long life. When I buy a pair of jeans I want them to last for 5 years or so and they need to go into a washing machine regularly, along with everything else. Life is too short for special rituals or treatments.

    I generally wear Wrangler cowboys - the blue is a bit garish to my eye but they wear well and need zero fuss. I figure I can do better.

    Without entering the world of recondite jeans mysticism, is there a make of denim trousers that is easily and affordably obtained and that is not considered an aberration?

    Is it true that very thick denim is more prone to tearing?
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
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  4. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    Yes, you are the reason for this thread indeed. Thank you for inspiring me to it. I share the same fascination. And I can only guess, we are not alone here. I hope this will be proven by the community here.
    In my own experiments the freezer trick showed no useful benefit. I think bacterial contamination, which is often the cause for deterioration, especially in the crotch area, only benefits from the moisture the freezer adds. The temps are too low to actually "kill" the bugs anyway. They just stop reproduction until you pull the pants out of the freezer and with the conditions changing for the better their population explodes. I find washing with a mild liquid detergent more effective. This is removing grease, skin fats and human protein they breed on. However, if I was to store well worn jeans unwashed for a very long time, the freezer may be the better alternative to the drawer. To prevent the pants from stinking during the wear in period in my earlier days I sometimes directed a hair dryer on a hot setting directly to the said area from the inside. The air can reach a couple of hundred degrees C but does nothing to the fabric itself, if caution is taken. The population is radically reduced and the stink is widely gone. I used this trick against fungal spore contamination with success in some shoes as well.

    I hope we will indeed enter the spheres of jeans mysticism here on this very special forum regardless. It is one of those questions we can answer here. Why is one willing to pay 200 to 300 $ for a pair of jeans when one can buy one for less than 20 Bucks. What is so fascinating that some will happily spend that amount of money (some spent up to 1000$)? Are we indeed mystifying those jeans? Some even talk about those old school denims, produced on machines which are obsolete since decades as of having a "soul" compared to those high speed produced in high tech plants in the billions every month. Some say, they'd rather buy something made in a small shop for big money than a mass produced and cheaper item, even if it serves the exact same purpose. Is it really serving the same purpose? Or is there more to it? Something symbolic? Status? Knowing to live in a niche of specialty? Extravagance? Luxus? Or does it pay out? My example from above in my introduction has helped my decision. I buy for 150 wear two or three years (I am hard on jeans) and sell for 80. I call this good. The other guy next door buys for 70, wears it as hard as I for two years and tosses the pants in the garbage can or makes cleaning rags from it. Same money spent, same purpose. The second person has the rags as a plus, so more value. But I have the feeling of having not only used the jeans but loved 'em. I like the idea of the second life cycle on someone else who loves them the way they look after I had lived in them, with all the characteristics they show. The jeans had become something else than just jeans. There is a certain transformation going on during the wear in process, the long term use and it's afterlife. I hardly think the other guy would even consider to try to sell his jeans after all.

    And yes, at least my experience is, thick denim is under certain circumstances more prone to brake, when they contain very much starch, are little pliable and develop cracked fibres at creases as the only part which is bend so often, that it breakes. The stress is more concentrated on a small spot rather than on a wider area. And they literally grind themself down. Especially when salt cristals (from sweat) and particles like fine grains of sand gather in the fabric. The more questionable is the practice of not washing them regularely. At least I think so. Thin denim seems to soften up earlier and is more pliable in comparison thus bending in larger areas and spreading the stress to the neighboring fibres. Like a cord you bend back and forth compared to a steel wire. And now we are right in the middle of what this thread should be about.

    Cats
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
  5. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    Location:
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    To feed the fishes:

    White Oak Mill 1909.jpg
    Imagine, a few of these machines would still exist somewhere in a small shop and you could buy a pair of jeans which fabric was woven on them. Lower skill work - many employees with an income seen on the picture.

    ..instead of those produced here
    modern looms.jpg
    High skill work, one employee seen in this picture.

    Philosophical point of view.

    From here I will let this thread live it's life by the contributions of others, be it a short life or living for the months or years to come. I am curious.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
  6. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Largely thanks to the internet, here's no a subject on earth that doesn't have its share of fetish artists and cognoscenti - everything from wine to porn. Jeans are an obvious contender.

    I guess all I need is a few brief tips on good classic era style jeans that are cheap (ish), hard wearing and not produced by the crippling of children.
     
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  7. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    My habit is to give them a cold water soak with a little salt and vinegar to fix the color and get out any shrinkage before cuffing the hem.

    I’ll hit the crotch area and behind the knee with spray starch every few weeks (but don’t iron!). The starch adds stiffness and makes natural creases sharper, leading to higher contrast fades. Additionally, it acts as a nice deodoriser!

    I keep washing to a minimum, but when they are starting to smell or look dirty they get a gentle wash!

    Iron Heart and Ciano Farmer are two of my favorite brands, but I mostly wear Gustin in a straight fit. Its slim in the top block but roomy enough in the leg to cover any boots.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
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  8. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    I guess from these three only two can easily be realized in the same pair of good classic era jeans.
    Hard wearing + cheap = chances are, these are not produced in a very fair and sustainable way.
    Hard wearing + produced in a fair and sustainable way = most likely not very cheap.
    Cheap and produced in a fair and sustainable way = most likeley not very hard wearing.

    Same can be said about leather jackets, hats, ties..

    Yes, more jeans porn here!
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
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  9. I wash these JC Penney 'Arizona' jeans when they get kind of dirty or I've worn them for a while ( denim blue and darker over dyed denim ) in a washing machine, then dry gently in a dryer. I don't get all the special treatment or going to such great expense for heavier or courser denim. Many Spiderweb fades seem over done to me. I like comfort and easy wear. These Penney's jeans are durable and last for years.

    20180420_133616.jpg 20181229_201232.jpg
     
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  10. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    Location:
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    Feeling that I could not let this thread stand on it's feet alone that early, I jump in again.

    I guess it's a question of priorities. Your priotities will most likely be on something else. I recall you as a true high quality leather jacket wearer. You would surely agree, that you would not give one of your beloved jackets away for a typical High Street fashion jacket produced in India from leather made in Pakistan these days (they are improving). And I am sure you would allow no one to wash your jacket and put it into a dryer (with typical High Street leather jackets you would not hesitate to do this when they stink. They are cheap enough to try). And I guess you would not find it too much fuss to give a hq leather jacket a good treatmend, love and care.

    HD, I was like you, I simply needed hassle free jeans for normal money for most of my life. But in my area all that was left after the good old denim stores went down were supermarket jeans and high street fashion store jeans selling cheaply produced jeans made in doubious factories in southern Asian poorhouses. They were sold for 80 -100 $ here just because there was a known brand name of some pretended heritage on them, but they were produced for under 2 $ in some of the asian or north african poorhouses. When those jeans started to fail on me I was angry. And after I saw pictures of how they were produced, and how the people have to live in the production areas in a terrible hell of waste, chemicals and factory dirt, I stopped buying them. I felt like I was cheated. Nothing against affordable and kind of cheap jeans when they are produced well and are sustainable. The change of the market was so subtle, that even today most people I know didn't realize, that nearly all clothing production - and especially the environmentally messy ones - was shifted to cheap labor countries where no one cares about wages, health risks, damage to nature. German or American brand names stayed. But there was nothing german or american to them anymore but an illusion. The last of the old US american Mills, White Oak Cone Denim Mill, ceased production in 2017 after more than 110 years of continuous production in Greensboro. But long before this happened you simply couldn't buy Levi's made in USA jeans here anymore, since the market had already turned it's face towards east in favor for the cheap Bangladesh and Pakistan made jeans. Production of goods under the Levi's brand name had already been shifted east, too to accomodate to this trend towards cheaper and cheaper products. At some point the historical development of the old companies with it's German-US heritage (Cone, Levi's) got my interest.

    I said to myself, when I am able and willing to pay good money for a jacket or a high quality pair of boots (and I own some), I'm also able and willing to spend good money for a good pair of jeans. But which route to go?

    I was tired of seeing fancy "spider web" fadings myself. Especially after it was kind of a fashion to buy new jeans that had them artificially applied under the greatest health risks in cheap labor factories. People got ill because of dust in their lungs.

    But here is some misconception when we talk fades: The old process of dying the warp yarns was different from the process used in modern fabrication. The old denim developed creases and colour fadings by wearing alone without being damaged at the same time. This gave jeans it's characteristic appearance with time. Think Marlon Brando, James Dean... The youngsters here during the Fiftees wore their new jeans for a while to preserve the starch from production as long as possible to help these fades develop. Sometimes they even applied more starch. They waited with the first wash until good wear traces were visible. Because of the shinkage that came with the first wash, they did not cut them to their needed leg length in this unwashed period. They had to cuff them up. After they had washed them and they were shrunk, they could have cut them to length and hemmed them. But it soon became a style in itself to wear jeans cuffed up. Jeans were sold extra long because of all this. The style of the post war era in US history became iconic here in Europe among young people along with Rock 'n Roll music.

    When people see me in my jeans with it's creases and fades, they most likely think, that I had bought the jeans already looking this way. They are used to see brand new jeans coming faded, even sometimes with holes and patched and cracked. They are totally accustomed with the illusion of good old worn and well loved jeans already from day one. It's called "used look". But these artificial fades come for a prize. Because of modern dying processes, these fades are not color bleedings like with the old denims, but in fact damages to the fibres. These jeans don't hold up very long. There is a fashion of "wear for some outings and then toss".

    But my jeans fades are real life fadings. It takes time to develop. When they show, the jeans is just broken in. It lives for years after that.

    Some go for artistic creases, honeycomb fades and so on with their raw dry denims. This is not for me either. I let my jeans develop fadings naturally. And when they are too worn for my taste I sell them to somebody who like to have them exactly like this.

    But this thread is not to convince someone to switch to raw selvedge denim.
    It is for the lovers of old school denims with self edge, indigo rope dyed, produced on historical looms from traditional and iconic mills, who largely don't exist anymore, but live an afterlife in some small shops where they are still run and where they still produce the "old school" denim fabrics again for denim lovers all over the world. And looking at their production gives at least me a better feeling, because there is less water and less dye needed, less dirt produced due to slower weave speed on these old shuttle looms, high prices mirror well payed workers, more and more organic cotton is sourced.

    HD, your style was always impressing me. But I confess, I would love to see you in your fantastic leather jackets with a wonderful old school Denim trouser. And imagine you could buy Cone Mills Selvage Jeans made in USA since over 100 years until 2017, then it closed. Now you would depend on people in Japan, who bought the old looms and produce these jeans instead. The cotton travels a long way to Japan, and the products travel a long way to the buyers all over the world. The carbone footprint is not too good. I agree it can be repellent to hear stories about shrinkage, ill fadings and difficult handlings of old world denims. But there are easy to care ones around there.. jeans produced on old looms, with the old dying process but sanforized or dry denims pre-washed for less fuss. Also Jeans produced in the US from stock fabrics made in the US before production ceased are still out there. I know Tellason could produce a while from Cone Mills stock, but eventually had to source their denim in Japan to get their products continued.

    Now I really think I shall let this thread go it's way.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
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  11. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    I’m poking around looking for a new pair of black jeans. Whereas with indigo I like a heavier weight and enjoy seeing the fades over time, I like a black denim that holds its color and it needn’t be beast weight.

    I’ll probably end up backing another pair of black Gustins, but I’ve been thinking about going cheap and no-wait with Wrangler’s slim cowboy cut for a change.

    As for entry level denim in the question above: I’m a big fan of Gustin’s straight fit and don’t think they can be beat for value. But you’ll need to know your measurements and be willing to wait. Ciano Farmer’s miners cut is also excellent but the wait is even longer! Tellason Stock are pretty nice - I’ve handled them but don’t own a pair. But my suggestion for a first dip into the world of good denim would be Naked and Famous’ Weird Guy cut in their left hand selvedge.
     
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  12. Mich486

    Mich486 One Too Many

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    1,225
    If the purpose is to get a denim with a vintage feel imho un-sanforised is the way to go. Many brands sell one-washed versions so all the shrink and uncertainty that comes with it is out of the game.

    I’ve tried a lot of brands from across the globe and if you want to get that vintage feel you need to go Japanese. They have the right machines! My suggestions for starters are “orSlow” in their 105 cut, widely available in Europe and US and “Warehouse co” also available in the west but perhaps a bit more niche.

    Otherwise if cheap is what one wants I see no way to improve over the classic Levi’s 501xx shrink-to-fit in rigid blue. They are still good jeans!
     
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  13. I was born in '47, graduated in '65 and wore jeans ever since I was a young lad in the '50s. Never knew anyone back then who had the slightest concern for certain 'fades'. James Dean came to my Grandma's house for many Sunday dinners as he and my Uncle rode motorcycles together in our hometown and later when Dean returned for visits. They wore department store jeans just like all of us did at the time. It is true that my grade school jeans were bought to roll up allowing for the gradual shrinkage and were of a courser denim. However, I think much of this denim detailing is imagined history mainly reconstructed for modern denim aficionados to romance.

    Leather jackets are in a different category. Big diff between an off the rack mall jacket and a top tier custom. Leather wise, construction, style and most importantly...fit. I won't go into a long diatribe since IMO it should be quite obvious.
     
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  14. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    Great first hand piece of history, HD!
    Sure, things get a romantic paint-over when long enough ago. I am not saying that youngsters were after certain fades, just that their pants faded in a way modern department store jeans would not fade, at least not those we could buy over here. And the way their jeans looked was something that certainly had a great impact on Europeans and Japanese. There was for sure no jeans availlable in your youth, that was already "faded" brand new like today. The stuff you could buy in any department store in your youth would be highly welcome among todays denim aficionados as you call them, I guess.

    What you said about Leather Jackets can be said about denim pants, too. There is a big difference between off the rack jeans and those we are talking here. Material wise, style, construction... at least to me and a few others.

    See, some of us buy good replicas of war time Flight Jackets or Deck Jackets for example and try to get them made in the quality of the originals or higher. In their original days they were just utility wear for most who wore them and nothing special about it. Now they have a certain aura for some.
    But I begin to understand, why there is so little about denim here on the lounge. They simply seem to get not much love.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
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  15. Sonero

    Sonero Practically Family

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    677
    Location:
    San Diego / Tijuana
    For the past year or so I have "cleaned" my denim by putting my jeans in the freezer for a few days. It keeps them looking new and kills the bacteria.

    Currently breaking in a pair of 25oz Iron Heart 666xhs jeans....My thumb is raw from working buttons into the button holes. Been wearing them exclusively now for 2 weeks. Been sweating up a storm in them and doing squats.

    Selvedge becomes addicting . I love the rugged cardboard feel of the fabric. 25oz denim feels like leather pants.....worth the bruised thumb.
     
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  16. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    ^
    Love the 666 fit!
     
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  17. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    The 666 are truely fantastic pants!

    IH25oz new.jpg
    Image courtesy: Heddels

    IH25oz worn.jpg
    Image courtesy: Heddels

    The last image illustrades well what was said above, how heavy weight denims can brake at the creases. Does it make sense to not wear them so heavily starched as they come brand new, but soften them up by washing instead? Will they last longer for the prize of less crazy fades?
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
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  18. Sonero

    Sonero Practically Family

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    Similar to Wranglers 936 slim fit cowboy cut but even lower rise and an extremely unforgiving waist.
    A labor of love.

    20201101_114047.jpg 20201101_114117.jpg
     
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  19. CatsCan

    CatsCan One of the Regulars

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    well said! Cool jeans, cool fit on you!
     
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  20. JustinW

    JustinW One of the Regulars

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    Looking good!

    I prefer a higher rise, but it is so rare that I tuck a shirt into my jeans that it’s not a dealbreaker.

    I like a fairly slim top block (but not thigh huggers), yet need at least 8.25” at the cuff to cover my engineer boots.

    Gustin have a 23oz black x black funding now, but their recommendation to size up due to the stiffness and lack of normal stretch is concerning. I’ve work the same size in at least 10 of their jeans, ranging from 9oz to 18oz.
     
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