Japan love their Japanese Denim. Japanese “raw” denim is a trend that is gaining popularity around the world. This type of denim omits the final washing processes after they are dyed, which gives it that intense blue indigo color that is Japanese Raw Denim. Japanese Denim are of heavier weight, giving it that unique cardboard like feel, unlike the Lucky Jeans and 7 For Mankind Jeans popular in the US in the US. With wear, the jeans age, fade, and become uniquely yours. None of this spandex stuff is added into the cotton, which makes it much more durable.
On the manufacturing side, the jeans are made using old school looms and selvedge the jeans in classic fashion. The selvedge (self-edge) is one of the key distinguishers of Japanese Denim. The article here goes into great detail about Selvage jeans.
How to Wash Japanese Denim
People ask me, how do I wash raw denim? Japanese Denim is like a hobby and an art combined into one. You can get a pair that is more confortable to start or easy to are for, but that wouldn’t be fun right? People ask me how to care and wash for Japanese denim. Below is a quick guide I follow:
When to Wash Your Jeans
This is a hot topic as it can be quite confusing with some jeans being prewashed / preshrunk, others are complete raw and untreated. Jean companies like UES recommends that you not wash your jeans for about 6 months, to get the best faded look possible.
The purpose of the first wash is to shrink the jeans back to normal size. This is the “preshrunk” term that is used in the industry. Second, for raw denim, it’s to wash things such as starch off. Some people say you shouldn’t wash your jeans, but other’s say that moderate washing is necessary to prevent the fabric from becoming weak.
- Make sure you zip up the fly or button all the buttons up and turn the jeans inside out.
- Soak the jeans in a bathtub for 1 hour with approximately 60 degree C / 140 F water. Water that is too hot mis-forms the leather patch. To give you a reference point, maximum hot shower water is usually about 120-140 degrees F. If you don’t use hot enough water, the jeans won’t shrink, but if you use too hot of water, the leather patch will get mis-formed.
- Use a washing machine to wash the denim. Do NOT use bleach or whitener. I use it on full auto, water level high, normal tumbling.
- Sun dry the denim and make sure the outseam selvedge is neatly unfolded to keep it’s shake
Follow Steps 1,3,4 in that specific order
Where to Buy
Many of the Japanese Denim boutiques are located around the Ebisu / Daikonyama region. Daikonyama is a nice change from the buzz of Shibuya. This area is less crowded and has a lot more charm and is home to many boutiques, vintage stores, and coffee shops. It also is the home to many popular Japanese denim stores such as Evisu, UES, Okura (BLUE BLUE),
Top Pick – UES
GTE’s favorite was UES, which has much more of a smaller boutique feel, and a store that specializes in Japanese work wear denim. They have plenty of sizes and cuts from Regular Straight, Slim Straight, Boot-Cut, and Slim-Tapered. Prices are also reasonable at about $200 for a pair. Other brands are up to $500, which is pretty ridiculous for a pair of a jeans. UES’s headquarters is on Osaka, but I actually preferred the store in Tokyo in terms of design.
Jean Selection and fitting
The staff walks you through what cut and sizes you would like to try on. One unique aspect that makes it easier for time Japanese Denim buyers is that the staff are extremely knowledgeable about their jeans. They have preshrunk samples for you to try, as they know exactly how their jeans will shrink upon first wash. This was one of my top reasons why I never bought Japanese Denim back in the US, as I wasn’t sure what the sizing was going to end up it.
Once you pick the right jeans for you, they will actually measure and do the alteration for you for free. It takes only 1-2 hours depending on how they are. Keep this in mind if you are traveling a short time in Tokyo. You can go to a local café to wait, or come back another day. Read below to see why you don’t want to just grab your jeans and leave!
The Birth Of Your Jeans
One of the cool things that they do during the alteration process is that they stamp your jeans, to commemorate the birth of your jeans. Mine says SU-20171124, which means that it was bought on 11/24/2017 at the Shibuya Store (They have a store in Osaka also). They also gave us a limited edition Denim coaster to commemorate Christmas.
Get the Canadian Tuxedo
Without going to a boutique denim store, it’s very difficult to find both a denim top and bottom with the exact same wash and denim material. Now, Team GTE isn’t telling you to wear both at the same time, but how awesome is it for you to have a Canadian Tuxedo 🙂
Remember to carry your passport
One of the benefits of being a tourist in Japan is that you get a tax exemption on your purchases (usually over 5000 Yen). This is huge as the exchange rate from USD -> Yuen is about $118->1 Yen, and many times the prices on the tag is inclusive of tax, so you get an 8% “discount”. You have to carry your physical passport, as just the number is not enough. The process is quite comprehensive where they check your details, landing stamp, and staple and stamp a sales receipt to your passport, Although it is tedious, the extra 5 minutes is well worth the effort.
Honorable Mention – Evisu
If you remember, Evisu gained popularity back in the days with American rappers in the 2000s using the jean brand in their songs. It was used in songs such as Mase’s Harlem Lullaby, Jay-Z’s “Show You How” and “Jigga That Nigga”, in Young Jeezy’s track “Bury Me a G”, The Game’s “Down for My Niggaz”, T.I.’s “ASAP”, and Lil Wayne’s “Lock & Load” . The store store gives you a feel like you are in a Tarantino movie. No music, no noise, a man behind the counter that doesn’t really say anything, and a dark store, filled with jeans. Awesome vibe and you are able to customize the logos on the back pockets to your liking if you buy a pair from an official store(highly recommended!)
Until Next Time,