Generally, I buy about two pairs of jeans a year and price is usually not an issue. I don’t have a problem spending up to $300+ per pair. I justify that sort of expenditure by the ridiculous measure of cost-per-wear. The way I figure, I’m going to wear these jeans at least 300 times. So I don’t mind spending $1 per wear on them. Denim is the workhorse of my wardrobe and accounts for 95% of my daily attire (pants). For the past 5 years I have mostly stuck to wearing jeans from Jean Shop, RRL, and previously, jeans from a french brand who’s name sounds like ABC (a company who will remain nameless on ACL from now until eternity). Spending that kind of money on jeans is just something I do and something I can justify and afford. It is certainly not for everyone.
Around the time of October 2008, I was asked by the editors of Men.Style.com (RIP) to refresh their denim Upgrader. This task involved a tedious investigation of denim in the market. Along the way I came across a pair of jeans from GAP that were made from “Japanese Selvage Denim” and priced at $78. I filed the story (which is now lost in the aether of Conde Nast digital or I would link to it), and almost immediately walked over to the GAP on Broadway near Astor Place to get another look at those jeans. As it turned out, GAP had my size and the jeans were on sale for $54. I bought them and went home to try them on (I figured if they didn’t fit I would exchange because I refuse to try things on at a store, save shoes).
GAP says the denim is “Japanese” which I suspect to mean Japanese inspired, but made in China. Not that it really matters in this case, nor do I care. This was an experiment. Besides, those French jeans are made in Macao and cost $140. The point was: “Were the $300 jeans I am buying that much better? Could a $54 pair from a huge chain wear-in and look good?” I brought the jeans home, tried them on and then proceeded to wear them everyday for about 11 months straight. Those GAP jeans wore in amazingly. The fading and whiskering was so nice. I was pleasantly surprised, and it seems so was everyone else. People would stop and ask me where my jeans were from 3 or 4 times a week, and would be surprised when I told them my jeans were from GAP. I actually enjoyed saying that more than I ever did dropping Jean Shop on them or RRL (though I still love both of those brands). The photos you see here are how they looked after that period of use. They started with a raw rinse, so they weren’t completely dry and rigid, but it didn’t really matter. I think it is safe to say that myth is busted.
My GAP jeans are still in my rotation and are worn occasionally. For the most part I have moved on to wearing a pair of RRL jeans. I have a few other pairs on-deck that I am excited to get in to eventually. I strongly prefer my jeans to be made in America, because nothing is more American than jeans. But if you can’t swing the cash to get U.S. made denim, there are some other options out there. GAP has a new version of those selvage jeans out now that are slightly more expensive than what I paid. Regardless, they definitely hold their own and prove that you don’t have to break the bank and look good. Consider that myth busted.