A reader recently asked me about what jeans I wear. The answer is largely Albam; I’ve found the British company’s product to wear well, while the raw Japanese denim is good for getting a nice fit and a personal patina.
I’ve also tried a few high-end Japanese brands, such as Kapital and Full Count, both for the narrow-loom denim and the high-waisted fit. I’ve seen people comment that the problem with jeans is that they are all low rise, and so not great with tailored jackets. This is rubbish. All ready-made trousers are too low rise, it’s just that no one’s having bespoke jeans made, just bespoke flannels. And if you do want high-rise denim, you can find it among Japanese brands (try Son of a Stag in London).
The problem with all of this is that none of the jeans fit as well as bespoke. My Albams are the best, but I had them taken in at the waist (not taking off the whole waistband, as would otherwise be required on jeans, but cutting it at the back and hiding the cut under a belt loop).
Which leads us to Levi’s bespoke. Launched in 2012 in San Francisco and also available at the Meatpacking store in New York, it came to London’s Regent Street store in December last year. They call it made to measure, but this is being modest. Although a range of standard Levi’s are used as a starting point (in three rises and one-inch waist increments), the best pair is pinned and chalked, with a unique paper pattern being created as a result.
The best bit is that the London cutter, Lizzie Radcliffe (pictured), is a bespoke cutter by trade, having worked with Edward Sexton before going to train with Levi’s in San Francisco. And she makes the jeans herself, entirely in the basement area of the Regent Street store. You can see her cutting the patterns and making each pair individually (although there is no hand work involved, merely a range of sewing and riveting machines).
At £500, it is good value compared to some of the bespoke trouser options we have talked about on recent posts, particularly given the hardiness and versatility of denim. Making takes 5-6 weeks.
You can pick from both Cone Mills and Japanese (raw) denims, as well as a series of different leather patches, threads and rivets etc. Having decided pretty quickly to take the plunge myself, I went for the 13oz Japanese denim (darker than the Cone Mills) but with pretty standard copper rivets and thread. The only personalisation was a yellow arcuate stitch on the back pockets. It’s the fit I’m interested in, after all.
Report on the making next week.
Photos: Luke Carby
The problem is with the material. Denim is, quite frankly, pretty much the most awful material to make any item of clothing from: it has no drape.
The young can get away with it, just, whilst their bodies still have tone and shape, but any man over the age of forty should avoid it like the plague. The problem is its sheer ubiquity. To such an extent that a high proportion of the population have no idea of any alternative, such as the thinner cords or moleskin.
If it had never escaped from the ‘working’ clothing category, we would all be beter off.
I don’t agree I’m afraid Mark.
Denim is a beautiful material, more like leather than wool in terms of how it moulds to the body and develops a patina.
And it can easily work on older men as long as they’re in shape….
sorry but I don’t agree one bit ; my father ,his business partner , 80% of their and my family friends are well over 50 (my dad is 64 this year) and aside of not having hair since he was a kid he’s in a pretty decent shape , his partner just beated me bably in a half marathon a month ago and has 22 as BMI ; they wear suits all day long but they don’t look badly at all with a nice pair of jeans in the evening! off course you can’t put tshirt with written on “suck it” with it or sneakers , but if you wear some driving mocassin a shirt and a cachemire sweather or a odd jacket it does look pretty nice! Also regarding shape ,what you say was true once … now if you buy the likes of Jacob Cohen , Barba ,Borrelli ,Albam (which I don’t cause in italy they cost like what I imagine you pay a kidney on the black market) they all have pretty nice smooth denim coming from japan … notthing to do with those kind of jeans we were once used to
Never suspected that such pompous self-loving gits existed, who feel that unleashing an utter nonsense onto the unsuspecting world is their justification to co-exist with the decent, reasonable human beings like the most of us: ” … denim has no drape… no alternative… (!) ” What a self-aggrandizing tw*t, without any grounds to do so, judging by the nature of the utterance?! Maybe you should get out a bit more? Or at least expand the interests beyond the shallow world of ‘moleskin’! (I do like the “thinner cords” though… )
Ooh la la… £500!! I’ve never thought to have jeans altered as I only wear them to knock about in. Can anyone recommend a good tailor for adjustments in Berkshire, UK?
Jayne’s Sew & Sew in Newbury has done good work for me before. She’s quite pricy, but always busy.
I’m a fan of http://www.roydenim.com/
Real jeans are made in the USA 😉 You could get bespoke but denim shrinks and denim is supposed to conform to you anyway. I guess if you’re getting dress jeans you go bespoke. I considered this a few years ago and it didn’t make sense for me.
Raw denim will conform, but never as consistently or uniformly as you need.
These will not be dress jeans.
Is there such a thing as dress jeans?
For me, no. Darker denim can work better with some jackets, but I wouldn’t call them dress jeans
Interesting – thanks. Timothy Everest also offers a bespoke option on jeans at about £700 (I have a pair being made as we speak).
Yes I’ve covered Tim’s in the past, though never had them made. Davide at Gieves also does very stylish versions
Five Hundred Pounds………………..Cripes!!!!!
I buy a pair of 501’s, 34” waist, 32” leg, for £60 ish, take them to my (bespoke trained) alterations guy, who pins a bit then stitches for £20, and they fit perfectly.
Are there really people out there who would pay so much for a pair of jeans?
Wow, I had no idea Levi’s offered this kind of service! To be honest, I’d always lumped them into the “trading on name not quality” bucket, with most of their products made in China on the cheap.
Can you tell us how the quality of the demin on offer compares to some of the more boutique brands like Jean Shop or Full Count?
It’s all selvedge, with the US denim from Cone Mills. The Japanese denim I picked compares very favourably with Full Count and Kapital, but then I haven’t worn them yet
I heard about this a month or two ago and was thinking of having a pair made. I’ve had plenty of bespoke made in the past, and whilst it is all lovely it languishes in my wardrobe, largely unworn.
I had a moment’s inspiration last summer: spend money on the clothes I actually wear.
I wear jeans almost all day everyday, so this makes a good deal of sense to me. I normally wear Levis, but the fit isn’t quite there. This might be the answer.
As you say £500 for bespoke is a bit of a bargain. Where else can you get bespoke trousers (in any material) at that price?
Someone like Graham Browne will do them for less than that, but you sacrifice a bit of make and fittings over a higher-end tailor
Sims & McDonald on Lamb’s Conduit St does bespoke trousers from £400.
Interesting info about Levi’s bespoke. I had no idea.
Re denim as a tailoring material, Richard Anderson was featuring some denim stuff a while ago. Some of the publicity is still kicking around here: http://www.richardandersonltd.com/pages/japanese-denim
Winot – “Sims & McDonald on Lamb’s Conduit St does bespoke trousers from £400.”.
That price is out of date. I called S&M just a few days ago as part of my quest to find a relatively affordable supplier for bespoke casual trousers and whoever I spoke to at Simms, when I mentioned that the starting price that he had just quoted me on the phone (about £500 I think, maybe even £550) was much higher than the “from £390” price quoted on their web site, admitted that the web site price list was out of date. They also confirmed that they don’t do a basted fitting on bespoke trouser-only orders, they go straight to finish, so I ruled them out for my particular quest.
Julian – thanks for the Sims info. I had a pair of trousers made there in the Autumn and they were about £450 iirc so the price jump is relatively recent.
On the fittings point, the tailors I have used most (Meyer & Mortimer and Stephen Hitchcock) both go straight to finished trousers now that they have nailed my pattern. I can’t remember whether they made this transition after the first suit or later.
Do Row tailors commonly have a basted trouser fitting with regular clients?
I’ve always had a fitting from them, yes. It’s not really a basted fitting, more a forward, but a fitting nonetheless.
Thanks. I guess the line between a forward fitting and a finished product is a bit blurred for trousers, in that the changes which might need to be made could be made at any time (in contrast to buttonholes on a jacket cuff, for example).
True. It’s more a willingness to change than an ability!
I agree that most changes can be made to trousers at a forward stage so maybe a true basted fitting isn’t the right term. For me it’s more important that a proper paper pattern is cut rather than ending up with an MTM service. I wonder here whether a customer who starts out with a suit might get a better cut on subsequent casual trousers because the pattern will have been cut as part of the suit, assuming that the customer has the same shape for suit and casual trousers, whereas someone walking into a new tailor and asking for trousers only might be in danger of getting measurements taken and then used to tweak a block pattern.
One tip I have learned from my experiences in bespoke casual so far is that in future I would specify my first pair with a new tailor with no back pockets because that makes it easier to alter the rise at the fitting stage. If there is a back pocket then the relationship between where it is and the waistband can become an issue if the rise is way off initially and needs to be adjusted.
Assuming that I can find someone where I am confident that they have made a pattern for me and kept it on file then I will have no issue with them going straight to finish once the pattern is nailed but I prefer at least one intermediate fitting while the fit is being determined.
Thanks Julian. I don’t think you need to worry about your first point though. The reason some tailors like Graham Browne don’t bring back trousers for fittings is simply because it doubles the logistics involved, as well as increasing cost and time. That’s not going to change between a suit trouser and a regular one.
I have used Graham Browne and Sims for bespoke casual trousers. Both have also made me suits, although Sims made my trousers first and the suit later. My experience is that:
1. The fit is best on bracetop trousers. I have never managed to get a good fit otherwise – the trousers slip down my hips. This is true of Row quality bespoke too.
2. I am not good at choosing ‘fashionable’ fabrics. The best trousers have been the classics – moleskin, corduroy, flannels.
3. I am tending therefore to move to RTW for summer/spring trousers and keep bespoke for winter (when I get bracetop even on casual pairs).
4. I am trying Anderson & Shepherd’s RTW from Clifford St to see how that turns out.
5. I may try Elia Caliendo next for summer trousers, depending on the price (he is making me a sports jacket).
Julian – let me know if you find a maker you are happy with.
As a young man I live in my raw denim jeans, though unfortunately recently(through lots of wear) the denim fabric itself has split underneath the crotch. Can this be sewn up, does it need to be patched or the jeans abandoned altogether!
Should be able to be patched. That’s one of the great things about denim. The older and more patched/stitched they are, the better they look
Sounds like an interesting service, but not entirely sure at this price level the service will be sustainable as it will only appeal to a very select few, and I am not talking about the usual Savile Row customer set.
Most of those men probably don’t wear jeans much and certainly probably aren’t going to pay £500 for Levis I would imagine.
So that leaves the school kids and trainer aficionados who are into Selvedge denim, the more obscure the better…. But would they pay £500 for something Levi’s branded, or would they buy 2 pairs of Japanese jeans for their collection?
Would be better pricing at £250-£300 to appeal to wider custom base and ensure the service can continue.
I know what you mean about the price, though I do find it interesting that the previous week we were looking at the value of £350 RTW trousers.
I’m sure a cheaper price would be more attractive for jeans, but you couldn’t make them bespoke, in London, in that denim, for that kind of price
Just thought it worth a mention, I’ve just collected a couple of pairs of ‘gaberdine ‘ casual trousers from Crowe’s. Mark there recommended the fabric as a change. Simon have you used gaberdine ? Any thoughts.
Wool or cotton?
The US price is approx $550.
Ah, so the US guys have nothing to complain about!
Wool. ‘Royal Gaberdine’. Mark says it’s woven by Scabals. Very useful addition to my Friday wardrobe.
For something lower-end, Luxire offer MTM Japanese selvedge jeans for £60 with unlimited customisation. However, the finished product will obviously never compare to bespoke.
I’ll look out with interest for the results. I used Elizabeth Radcliffe last summer when she was trading under her own name out of a unit in Holborn – offering bespoke tailoring and shirts. At that point she was not a cutter, having spent, I believe, only a couple of years at Sexton’s, then setting up on her own. Alas it showed through in the deliverable – I was disappointed with both fit, quality and service. Hopefully this Levi gig will give her the structure she needs to prosper.
Simon – on the subject of raw denim, I wondered if you would mind sharing how (and how often) you are washing your jeans?
I recently bought a pair from Albam, and the thing I’m most nervous about is the care aspect! I’m expecting the jeans to really develop a nice feel and patina, but I’m not too keen on any “mad fades” that streetwear aficionados might want. Are you aiming for something similar?
I’d be really interested in seeing some pictures with your older pairs of Albam jeans.
Hi David – I tend to wear my raw jeans to the point of being a bit smelly, basically needing wash, but not to the months and months extremes of some. Sure, I’ll post pictures of my Albams some time
Hi Simon, just curious – did you get any “crocking” / bleeding – onto your shoes / trainers / shirts, or furniture?
Simon, what watch is that? It looks great, particularly with that strap!
That’s my 80s JLC Reverso, on a tan ostrich strap
I’ve been looking into (eventually) getting a Reverso, and it looked familiar. Despite its origins, it feels like a very dressy watch. Surprising how the choice of strap can change that so much.
Any chance you’ll do a post on watches at some point? I know you’ve mentioned your choices in passing before (Portuguese, Tank, etc), but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in more detail.
Sure Faraz, will do
Im looking for jeans like the classic levi’s.problem is I need them front rise to be 39cm.waist 107cm.inside leg76cm.seat 113cm can anyone help me the reason I need such a high front rise is im a stoma sufferer and need the belt line to come over the stoma .#desperate male 65
How do you wash your Levi’s? I have a pair of Lot. 1 in the cone mills denim and my son spit up on them so don’t think spot cleaning will do. The Levi’s store said I could dry clean but that seems extreme. I’m thinking machine wash cold on gentle cycle. Thanks
You can machine wash just fine, but you lose some of the rawness and as a result the way the jeans wrinkle and break in. Depends how much you care about that
Thanks Simon. Would dry cleaning preserve that? Or should I try to spot clean with maybe some woolite dark and cold water? I guess I would prefer to maintain their character to the extent possible.
It’s better, yes. I’d try a light spot clean, and if it doesn’t work try dry cleaning
Thanks Simon. One final question – if I dry clean should I request that they don’t iron them? Thanks for all your help.
Probably a good idea, yes
Many thanks Simon. You’re a font of knowledge. Dan
Hi Simon – hope you’re well. I’m trying to make an appointment to see Lizzie for a pair of bespoke jeans – what number should I use? And did you go to the Regent Street branch for your appointment? Many thanks.
I don’t have the current contact details – hopefully should be on the website. And no, they’re now in a dedicated space round the corner next to Liberty’s
Going to have my first pair of Levi bespoke jeans made this week thanks to you!
In your opinion, what is the most versatile color/shade that matches the most types of tailoring? And what mill would that be, thanks!
If they’re to be worn with tailoring, I’d go with a dark indigo from one of the Japanese mills
Thanks for the tip – excited to finally feel good about tucking in my clothes while wearing jeans!
What color/mill is best combined with fine knitwear such as cashmere and sometimes rough wool sweaters? The fine sweaters (e.g. cashmere and merino wool) are deep burgundy, camel, navy shawl collar, and oyster; rougher ones are med brown and navy blue, not worn as often. Cone mills or Japanese? This is my first pair. Thanks Simon.
With that range of colour, I don’t think it’s going to matter that much which one you go with. I’d pick based on which look of jeans you like more