…But Were Afraid to Ask.
Denim is a funny thing. On the one hand, it’s easily the most ubiquitous fabric in the United States, if not the whole of the western world. On the other, the vast majority of people who buy and wear the stuff know very little about it. Especially, when it comes to what separates good from bad. For that reason, I’ve asked a man who breathes, eats and sleeps denim, 3sixteen co-founder Andrew Chen, to show us what makes one pair of jeans, like those from his label, better than another, in this case, ones from a certain three-letter-named French brand. Though the differences may seem slight, it’s precisely those small variations that’ll keep one pair chugging along, long after another’s been reduced to shreds. Take it away Andrew.
Ever since we launched our jean collection in the fall of 2008, we’ve gotten inquiries from customers who are curious as to why they should choose our jeans over a certain popular French brand’s. We respect said brand’s jeans for their minimal aesthetic and modern fits, but, feel that the jeans themselves leave much to be desired from both a fabric and construction standpoint. Here are some key differences:
1. Fabric Details / Origin
Ours: 14.5oz raw indigo selvedge denim custom woven in Okayama, Japan
Theirs: 12.5 oz raw indigo selvedge denim woven in China
We have the privilege of working with Okayama-based Kuroki Mills – one of the most famous denim mills in Japan – to produce our own custom fabric. This is a major challenge for small companies like ours as costs and yardage minimums become preventative factors, but, it was important that we offer a textile that is completely unique to our jeans, something that no one else can buy. We put a lot of thought into our denim and ended up with a fabric that’s not too light, but heavy enough to offer significant durability over time. We also opted for open-ended weft yarns (most denim utilizes ring-spun weft yarns) which results in a much softer hand on the inside than your typical crunchy, painful raw denim. The denim is the most expensive part of manufacturing our jean, and has gotten even more expensive over the years due to the weakening dollar against the yen, but we’re still committed to keeping our jeans at a reasonable cost even though our fabric is far superior to other jeans in our price range.
2. Location of Manufacture
Ours: San Francisco, CA
Theirs: Macau, China
The country of origin doesn’t always determine the quality of construction. I do, however, think it’s important to be able to visit the place where your products are being made easily so that you can ensure that your goods are being ethically and properly produced. For us, it was important to make our jeans in the USA because that’s where our company is based. We wanted to be able to monitor production and make adjustments and improvements along the way without having to travel far. That, and the factory we work with is amazing. They’ve been making jeans for decades now, so we are in good hands.
3. Leather Patches
Ours: Heavyweight natural tan leather patch made by Tanner Goods in Portland, OR
About five years ago, I came across a small Portland-based company making leather goods out of natural tan English Bridle leather. I ordered a belt and a lanyard for myself and loved the quality, so I reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in making leather patches for our jeans. They told me that this would be a first for them, but that they’d love to give it a shot. We released our first run of jeans in 2008 with Tanner Goods leather patches on them, and they still make them for us to this day. We’ve become great friends with them over the years, as their company values fall right in line with what we do. What I love most about the patches is that they age alongside the jeans: as the denim wears out and lightens up over time, the leather patch darkens beautifully and softens up.
Ours: Chainstitched hem
Theirs: Previously chainstitched; now topstitched
Chainstitched hems aren’t stronger than topstitched hems, but we like using them because that’s the way all jeans used to be hemmed. It’s a nice vintage detail that lets the customer know that there was thought put into all the different stitch types and stitch counts.
5. Additional details
Ours: Selvedge fly and hidden selvedge coin pocket detail
We don’t like flashy details, which is why we chose to keep the coin pocket selvedge hidden. That being said, we do enjoy small touches that only the wearer sees, things that let our customer know that their jeans were thoughtfully put together.
To see the full 3sixteen denim collection, visit 3sixteen.com.