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.
Comments on “Wearing & Tearing”
Have you seen Todd Shelton jeans? I still haven’t bought a pair because I haven’t seen them in person, but they seem to be a pretty good pair of American made selvage denim jeans for a reasonable price.
Why no mention of the french label, just curious??
Does it have anything with a video that was enjoyable but no longer exists and never did?
Also: good to know the cheap options do have some merit. thanks for that.
I continue to be amused by people who think that such jeans are any better than those offered by Lands’ End.
Will have to check these out, although my pair of a certain french label jeans are doing fine at the moment, why no mention?
ABC only for me. But maybe I’ll give those a look.
I tore a few pairs of GAP jeans pretty easily (and not good tears). Maybe I abuse mine more, but I moved on. I do think there are plenty of good, cheaper jeans out there, but my experiments with them haven’t been so hot.
Wondering if you had sized down at all with these jeans.
Why the hate towards A.P.C.? I’m assuming that that’s the french brand.
How odd. I was examining my 2007 Gap Japanese denim jeans just yesterday. I never wore them with the frequency you did, so they look less worn. Gap seems to revamp their 1969 every 18 months or so, as the rear patch is different from yours, which is different from the current version. Also mine has a wide blue and white selvedge. I’m just happy that I got them for $13 in the clearance rack. I think I’ve brought the cost of wear down to a nickel in the almost 3 years I’ve had them.
@Jakob and David Guzman: An APC interview was on ACL for a day or so before the company demanded it be taken down. And thus it began…
Ahh thank you for the clarification!
Love the site
Great post, I love the ABC beef!
I love me some ABC jeans. I get great cost-per-wear out of them.
It’s rude that they’d be so priggish about what you post.
Also, if you’re in NYC, Uniqlo has some raw denim that’s worth checking out (though, sadly, I haven’t).
A piece of clothing appropriately priced turns out to be just as good as the ridiculously priced alternative that upcharges for name and image? I never would have guessed.
I love your blog, but this is the most pretentious post I’ve seen on here.
Well, but as the poster mentioned, he wants most denim to be made here. I’m not sure that’s worth $300, but it’s certainly a reason why the price would be a bit more…don’t you think?
Steve â€” you must not have been a reader long, because I am very obviously super-pretentious. Also, very greedy and overly capitalistic.
I want to throw a theory out there: the backlash and guilt associated with buying a $300 pair of jeans seems to come from a suburban mentality, or at least, a non-NYC mentality. Most people, once they have a little money, like to use materialism as a kind of release or therapy. In New York, the most expansive commodity is real estate. A pair of $300 jeans takes up a lot less real estate and costs a lot less than a suburban swimming pool (even if we’re talking above-ground.)
To be honest, I don’t think these jeans came out looking good at all. Especially compared to some higher end raw denim. A lot of denim out there is priced high because of the name. But brands like Iron Heart, Flathead, Sugarcane, make denim that is of a better quality, more durable, and better looking through wear among other things. Whether that warrants the price tag is up to the buyer I suppose.
What matters in the end is that you are happy with the look/fit/feel. If these Gap joints did it for you, then that’s what it is.
“I think it is safe to say that myth is busted.”
Superb post!! I’ve long since echoed the overall message within your findings. For one reason…being a conscientious consumer in my late 30’s, I’m simply old enough to know better!
Secondly, I too am a manufacturer. I know marketing quite well when I see it and I refuse to buy into it to the tune of $300 and up.
$220 is pretty much my upper limit; although I’d be willing to spend *a tad* more, if I were remarkably impressed for whatever reason. In any case, my point is simply that consumers can get just as much happiness from a pair of GAP 1969’s or even $40 Levi’s 501’s as you can get with more expensive brands (mine included). You’ve proven that fact quite well–>outstanding work done on those 1969’s, by the way!!
I don’t knock anyone for trying to make a living. But today’s society is very money hungry and profit driven. Believe it or not, there IZ such a thing as price gouging, and it IZ happening within the RAW denim industry!
What are those a 34-12? Wow, no inseam.
My 2 cents on $300 jeans. If one can afford them, go for it. It is your hard-earned money.
Also, it is all relative. Someone in rural china or Africa must think that a $7 happy meal is super expense.
I am impressed, I figured with your American list you’d
A- never have to actually pay for jeans
B- never wear Gap jeans
A buddy of mine has the same pair, and loved them. I think he passed them along to his little brother maybe. I’ll have to see how they are coming along.
Did you starch your combs? or is that just actual wear, they are quite pronounced .
Also, Atelier de Production et de Creation needs to come down off of its high horse and let the bloggers blog, and the models model FFS!
I wear real Levis 501 shrink to fits. always have. I get them worn out looking by actually putting my feet down the leg holes and wearing the jeans in my real life. The wrinkles in my levis and on my face are real, I earned them. I have never had a tear in my levis that ran across the thigh, I believe that has to be done in a factory by designers. Usually my levis just wear real thin to the point where I fear I will be giving up the family secrets if I wear them in public again so, I throw them away. I started wearing levis in about 1956 when I was eleven years old, my older brother wore them so I copied him. I think new, they were four dollars. I can’t reason why anyone would pay for fake wrinkles in the pants. The interesting thing is that if you buy them new and wear them they mold to your body and fit better than any fake jeans ever can. I have seen Ralph Lauren a couple of times near Ridgeway, he was wearing levis, I don’t know if he got them old himself but they looked good on him. He’s short like me so the low rise on levis does him justice. Levis are the best garment in America for the price and they are not paying me to say it.
I also use the cost-per-wear measure. No matter what, you can’t go wrong.
I have two pair of GAP “selvage” jeans (made in China). I think they’re great and worth the price. And as everyone seems to be indicating, watch for the sales, because you can get them really cheap. I used to be an exclusive RRL wearer myself. I’ve since expanded to several labels. One inexpensive brand I would recommend is Martin & Osa. For me, their jeans fit incredibly well right off the rack. I must be shaped and sized exactly like one of their fit models (male). I buy their slim straight styles. Love them!
Look good! Great combs. Interesting that the whiskers are so mild but the combs are so pronounced. Amazing for the price and enjoy seeing ACL denim evo. F ABC.
Why did APC demand the interview to come down?
I have to say the Uniglo jeans are pretty good these days. Ive been wearing a pair for a few weeks straight now and I must say they fit great and are very comfortable.I tried on the Gap jeans prior to buying the Uniglo and I was much more impressed by Uniglo.
They’re worth checking out.
I have the same GAP jeans and love them. Much to my dismay my wife informed me I may need to stop wearing them soon. I’ve owned them for several years and they are quite thin in several areas, as well as all out ripping in others. To me, this is what denim should do. Jeans, like no other article of clothing, tell your story. My story involves a few rips behind the knee. I’ll deal with it and continue to shop at gap, rather than spend 300 for a name.
I’m wearing the same pair of jeans myself (Albeit in the skinny fit), and have worn them for the past year and a half. They’re still being worn in, but they’re nowhere near as goodnas yours. How many times have you washed them and was the crotch close to being blown?
Like Pat G, I wear mostly Levis, and mostly 501s. I’ve worn them since I was sixteen.
Lately though, I’ve given GAP jeans a try- these 1969s, a great year for me. Honestly, I think that’s the reason I bought my first pair – a standard fit- and really like them. But always go back to the old 501s-always loved a button fly.
Question for MW – how often did you wash those jeans. Not judgemental, I just think jeans should be minimally washed. My j***s don’t smell
I don’t think I ever washed those jeans. Maybe I gave them one soak in the sink, but that would be it.
I have the same Gap jeans as well and have recently bought a couple of the newer version. I love the way these fit and the way they fade. I get numerous complements on them each time I wear them. Fantastic jeans for what I paid for them. Definitely, something to think about especially for those who have a smaller budget.
I always find myself wondering how (and how frequently) I should wash my jeans. Any ideas out there?
thanks for the Zeppelin!
HST’s “Hell’s Angels” has a good “how to care for your jeans-Hell’s Angels style” paragraph or two…
Thanks for this post. I just bought a pair for myself and I must say I am impressed as well. Your post gives me hope that they will fade in nicely over time. I think they are a superb pair of jeans for the price. If you’re going to spend $80 (or less depending on when you pick these up on sale) on a pair of jeans, these are a good place to start.
If you’re looking to go American with even better material, construction and fit, try Roy Denim out of Oakland, CA. I just bought a pair (they’re shrink to fit) and they’re by far my favorite pair next to my PRPS Ramblers.
Wore a pair of RRL every frickin’ day for 16 months (save for the 3 weeks the ABC pair tried to find a home in my rotation to no avail). First pair that garnered compliments from friends and family. And, no, I did not buy the fading and whiskering. Then one day they just died. Holes. Fit went away. No longer my favorite pair. Seeing as how they cost $59….what’s the math on that – 16 months into $59.
Local farming supply store has STF 501 on sale for $26. A pair comes home tomorrow.
I wear $300 dollar jeans and they’re worth every penny. Lands End, Gap, even Levis shrink to fit don’t come close. Maybe in 1956 they would have, but now to get a pair of jeans like that you need to spend….. about $300.
Marketing and brand recognition has nothing to do with it as I’ve never seen an Iron Heart or KMW ad and 99.99% of the people I know or meet would have no idea what those brands even sold.
“I always find myself wondering how (and how frequently) I should wash my jeans. Any ideas out there?”
As little or as often as you like is the answer to that, it’s a purely personal thing.
I try to never wash my jeans because I like them to stay as dark as possible, but of course this isn’t practical and they get washed when I can no longer stop them smelling (when sticking them in the freezer for a couple of days no longer works that is) which is normally after a year – at which point I go out and buy another raw pair to start the process over again, so as a result I’ve got a scale of wear over about 5 pairs at the moment (all from Albam, my favorites of which are here: http://lineageofinfluence.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/the-time-has-come/).
As for spending $300 on jeans, who cares? It’s the mans money and he can spend it however he wants. I’ll happily spend that amount if I know I’m getting a superb quality item, I don’t see what the problem is.
These GAP jeans do look much better than I ever thought something like this would! I’ve got a couple of pairs of UniQlo raw’s that were great until they needed washing (cold wash in the bath) at which point they just turned to shit, the denim went weird, fit went, stitching discoloured. I do the gardening in them now.
I used to have two pairs of 1969s by Gap which I got on super clearance … where I paid about $3 per pair for them. I wore them for years (probably close to a decade) before I left them in the UK during my recent move back. They are pretty good jeans, but I much prefer the cut of my Levi 527s.
wow! Lots of talk just for a pair of Gap jeans! Well done! They look really good to Michael!
I used to refuse to spend more than $40 dollars on a pair of jeans, and was thus relegated to finding the best deal I could on 501 shrink-to-fits, but became unsatisfied with how quickly they fade and wear. Knee holes were a problem, as well as extra crotch wear being a bike rider.
My brother convinced me to drop a little more money by pointedly asking me, how much I would pay for a suite, and how often I would wear it vs. how much for jeans and how often would I wear.
I put my toe in the selvage water with Uniqlo’s 100% Japanese selvage. I’ve had them about a year and they are wearing beautifully. A great pair of jeans at less than $80.
I am also intrigued by Urban Outfitter’s new offering of “Unbranded” selvage at about the same price, in 3 different fits (though the slim straight seems like the only real option) http://bit.ly/99SZNG
I’d love to step up to some Selvage 501’s some day, but for a guy in his twenties $80 selvage jeans are pretty perfect.
I had those French jeans and wore then straight for 6 mnths and the crotch got blown out. Now I have to wash them in order to get them repaired. Any advice on how to avoid CBs on denim?
Wait? Why wouldn’t you wash your clothing? Stench must be untolerable, unless you don’t actually do anything in them.
1) Disclaimer #1- I helped get these jeans made while working for that company
2) Disclaimer #2 – I have since moved on to greener pastures
The reason for the post – the fabric was japanese fabric, shipped to China to be cut and sewn (and depending on the year, either rinsed or not rinsed). Hence, the ability to state “authentic japanese denim” at the same time the label says “made in china.” Ahhhh, marketing.
3) The time has come for serious but affordable jeans to be made in the US again.
4) Finally, a thank you from everyone that worked on these jeans for the compliments and criticism. A pair of well made jeans are a labor of love, and feedback is great. It makes you better. So what the heck was abc so peeved about?
I also was lucky enough to scoop up two pairs of these two years ago, and they are staples. If anything, my only complaint is they wore out on the bottom too quickly. FWIW, gap jeans this year are horrible, I have a old pair of 1969’s from 1999 that have to be 13oz, and are still great to wear, even though they have completely faded… and if you compare those to the kirkland-equse things they pass as jeans today at the Gap, its criminal.
Hands down, the best jeans are Stronghold jeans out of LA. ACL did a story on them: http://acontinuouslean.com/2008/07/14/the-stronghold/
I shelled out 300 bills for a pair. But you get lifetime tailoring and repair.
Wow. I would never pay $300 for jeans,
but I guess if you can, more power to you!
I wear Wranglers, either the classic 13MWZ or the 936. The tag says made in mexico of US fabric. I don’t really know all that entails. But at $19.99 each at Atwoods, they really can’t be beat in reputation and quality. I work in them and they last forever.
As a faithful wearer of Gap jeans, I’d echo their quality and fit.
They last constant daily wear and age well.
More importantly, for those of us vertically challenged, they are the only company that sells inseams are short as 28″. This is crucial when you want to retain a jean’s proper fray.
How did you care and feed these? How often did you wash them? With what? Tips please!
Don’t take this the wrong way but I always thought you were a true denim snob so this post is really impressive.
I never owned a pair of $300 jeans and this year I switched from Levis to Gap and am so happy I did. They really can take a serious ass kicking.
Sadly (and I really mean that), this will be the last time I visit this site. I started coming here because I thought it’s creator shared my beliefs in conscious consumerism and supporting American industry, and not because Americana is the latest trend. Now with all the fawning over J.Crew and a made in India Gant shirt in the shop I no longer feel that’s the case.
See ya later â€” The other Pat D â€” like to say I was going to miss you.
how often to wash your jeans? how often do you want your girl to wash her drawers?
ans. every time she takes them off.
Wrangler 13MWZ rigid ‘cowboy’ jeans.
$20 bucks at sheplers.com The word ‘bargain’ doesn’t even come close…
I work for GAP, and your jeans wore exactly as a good pair of denim is supposed to. The fading and tears look amazing, I have to say.
The current denim we have out fits even better now too.
This posting motivated me to stop by the Gap yesterday, where I learned my recent gym efforts have me looking fly in a pair of skinny fit selvage jeans, size 31, so cheers to you Michael Williams!
I’ve been curious about Gap’s recent updates to their denim line. And to The Other Pat D., Gap is still an American brand.
How exactly did APC justify the business reason behind having you take down their content? That seems a bit self-destructive. I imagine that was a strange conversation.
@ Mark (about the inseam), I thought the same thing. These make me wonder if Michael is only 4’2″.
@MW, I too own a pair of the Gap selvedge and I would get asked all the time what make they were. A really great jean for a great price.
Speaking of well-worn jeans, I always have to plug my Kapitals.
I have this same pair of jeans (also found on sale!) and they are incredible. I was equally surprised that a pair of Gap jeans could hold up so well. Disappointed the new design doesn’t fit the same nor look as good.
Michael, didn’t know you were a lefty. Your secret’s out.
Columbo â€” like LeBron, I’m ambidextrous. (I just wanted to compare myself to LBJ.)
Great read… It’s good to hear a little “truth” to the denim myth every now and then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m breaking in a pair of $300+ Samurai’s at the moment, but I’m also on my 2nd pair of Gap selvedge.
The fit is cool, the denim is light, but I would size up from a 36 to a 38 next time, because the shrinkage is crazy!
The jean IS made in China though… Comments?
As a middle range between made-in-China GAP jeans and $300 made in US jeans, I can’t recommend Naked & Famous enough. By a guy in Canada working with Japanese denim. I bought mine in NYC for $150. Wore 300 times, washed twice, complimented often.
And my favorite roundup on tips for denim care: http://putthison.com/post/231001982/episode-1-denim
I have never spent more than $40.00 on jeans- Levis, since I was ten.
Can someone fill me in on why the ones in the pics are so much better than 501’s? They look like knock-offs from Levis. Seriously. I once had a pair of selvedges that I simply found in a pile of 501’s at a country shop. Same price as the others.
I just bought my first $70+ pair of jeans and they’re the GAP 1969 skinny selvedge. Now between those and my Levi’s 514’s I’m good for at least two years as long as I don’t skateboard in them. That’s really the only issue I’ve ever faced, skateboarding tears the crotch in a lot of cheaper jeans quite often. Sometimes it’s when one is skating the streets of Boston and all the sudden feels a nice cool breeze down under. Lucky I was close to Newbury street and Karmaloop.
Everything seems to be a marketing ploy these day. A lot of people are blinded by the company’s name and would rather disregard the truth that even your favorite high end European jeans are made in China. Certain brands state Macau as the country the jeans are manufactured in, however a quick trick of the trade is to make the denims in China, Truck them across the boarder to Macau and perhaps pay less in Duties when shipping to the country intended. All because we all know that anything made in China could not be of quality. Do yourself a favor and don’t by into the hype. Good denim can be made anywhere as long as knowledgeable people behind the scenes know what they are doing.
I dont know if I could bring myself to buy $300 jeans. I do a lot of shop work and to get a little oil or grease stain on a pair of 501’s will piss me off. I have coveralls, yes. but sometimes am a bit in too much of a hurry to put them on.
I was shopping for a new Carhartt jacket the other day at the hardware store, and was surprised to find there is only one style (Detroit, black) that is made in the USA and it is of imported materials, AND, you have to dig through the Detroit’s to find the one that is made in the USA, many are hencho in Mexico.
I really try not to buy anything made in China, just because I think there is a trade imbalance there, that perpetuates the downward spiral of the American economy.
only ever Levi’s for me… the original
in 1969, the gap was selling Levi’s
“Good denim can be made anywhere as long as knowledgeable people behind the scenes know what they are doing.”
… Could that also mean good denim could be made in… China/Macau?
It’s one thing to say NOTHING of quality ever comes out of China, and another to say SOME things of quality come out of China. Levi’s manufactures most of their jeans in Mexico. And yet it’s something else to say, I’d rather spend my money on American-made goods.
Good denim can be made in China; I think this post has established that. I’ve a pair of Marc Jacobs that were made in China as well, and the quality (construction, material, and fit) are excellent. Would I RATHER spend my money on denim or feel more justified in spending more on a pair of well-made, well-fitting jeans made in the USA? You bet. But you’re not going to find them in the $40-80 range.
Great post. I have three pairs of RRL (bought brand new for $39, $29, and $26 respectively), a pair of Rag&Bones, several Levi’s, and various Japanese denim. But surprise, surprise, the pair I’ve been wearing every other day has been my raw selvedge Gap 1969s bought six months ago Straight fit. $24, so the cost is about $0.25 per wear….?
I soaked them once so far to clean them. Otherwise, to kill any smell I actually spray Lysol inside them (and sometimes outside) and air them out. This technique works better than anything I’ve tried before.
When to wash your jeans? When you get cowshit and dirt on them of course. Because you’re wearing them to do work right? What? I can’t hear you over the din of you recontextualizing your gentrified working class clothes. Which your parents already recontextualized in the 1960’s. Look up the history of Doc Marten’s, lederhosen or Marie Antoinette’s silver butter churns for historical precedents.
Regardless of price or whether or not they are used for “real” work, all of the afformentioned jeans are better than Lands End jeans. I can’t think of much that isn’t better than Lands End jeans.
I don’t know you guys but I totally love Diesel Jeans, those lovely jeans are made with every kind of denim for anyone, and the design are really good for less than 100 bucks. Hello from Mexico
one thing that is under discussed with regards to artisan raw denim [the likes of eternal, flathead] is the number of dips of indigo that the denim has had, and what this means as the jean fades.
if one were to compare the photos in this article with a grail pair of denim such as the eternal 811
that was responsible for fueling much of the love for the japanese domestic denim the huge difference is in the complexity of fade.
there are layers and layers of different blues that are only made available through multiple dips in the indigo in the first place. on the other hand the pictures of the gap jeans above the colour is flat basically blue and white, and even the blue is not a particularly interesting shade, suggesting that the dying procedure was less involved [perhaps 4 dips as opposed to the double figures or the more interesting japanese jeans].
the unattractive flat babv blue of these gap jeans reminds me of why vintage big E levis became so collectible, when they changed the tag the also changed the recipe of indigo and suddenly the fades were not as interesting anymore.
i suppose we should all thank levis for cutting corners back in ’74, if it wasn’t for this kind of cooperate corner cutting leading to inferior product, studio d ‘artisan would never had started making the jeans that led to all of that rich and wonderful contrast that is available out of japan today.
The fabric is Japanese.It can be made anywhere. Gap and other companies when say Japanese denim, they are refering to the fabric only.
Cool post man. My friend just told me about your website. I definitely appreciate the nice high res photos you use for each post.
I wear Levi 514’s Slim Straight. Check out a recent post I did on them here: http://fashiondad.com/2010/04/facebook-levis-and-like-buttons-open-graph/
Stoked I have a new blog to add to my list!
The new Gap selvage jeans will not face nearly as much as the ones you reviewed. In fact, they’re treated to fade as little as possible. I recommend buying a cheap pair of $30 Levis 501 STF for starters.
I wear Uniqlo jeans, although thats because I live in NYC.
I bought a pair of Gap 1969 jeans for my husband a few years ago. He wore them a lot, they stretched out too much and wore quite quickly. I remember I foolishly paid well over $100 for them at the time.
I am surprised no one on here has mentioned simon miller jeans.
I am from Toronto and found them at Holt Renfrew. they are priced at about $260 or so. To me, they are THE MOST sexiest men’s jeans….masculine, loose but not baggy, slim but not tight….the perfect shade of blue and they wear great!
I always admire APC jeans for men, I think that will be the next pair I buy him. It’s too bad their women’s cuts are so tiny no room for hips or booty!
correct web address this time.
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