Several readers asked how my bespoke jeans, made by Levi’s in London, have aged in the four years I’ve had them.

To answer, I decided to do a shoot at the new Levi’s bespoke workshop on Great Marlborough Street, showing in detail the ageing of the two pairs.

 

 

When Levi’s introduced its service – known as Lot No.1 – in 2014, I had a first pair made in Japanese Kaihara 14.25oz denim (above).

These were high waisted and quite tapered in the leg.

A few months later I added a second pair, this time in Cone Mills 13.5oz denim – below.

I had found the leg of the first pair a little too slim, and widened them slightly (18cm at the bottom, rather than 17.5cm). These were a mid-rise.

 

 

Over the past four years, as I’ve worn the denims in different temperatures, I’ve never really noticed much of a difference between the two weights.

But their colours are certainly different.

As with many Japanese denims, the Kaihara ones were a slightly deeper shade of indigo, and this has become much more noticeable as they have been washed and worn.

(Each pair has been washed five or six times in those four years, with around six months of initial wear before they were washed – helping create those personal whiskers and creases.)

 

 

Above you can see the Japanese pair as they are today, laid on top of the original raw denim.

The blue has certainly come through strongly on the back of the knees, the seat and the cuffs, but there are also parts that remain a deep indigo (as ever, click on the image to enlarge).

A honeycomb pattern is clearly visible across the back of the knees, but it is not that pronounced.

 

 

The US Cone Mills pair, on the other hand, is noticeably bluer and the fading has been more extreme.

These have probably been worn more than the high-waisted pair, but nowhere near enough to account for the difference in fading.

 

 

However, these too are laid on top of the denim they were made in, and you can see that there was very little difference in the original raw denim.

This is hopefully useful for anyone looking to commission jeans in either – so much of the appeal of denim is how it fades over time, and this gives a rough idea of what they will look like.

But I’d also say it’s worth heeding the advice of Lizzie (Radcliffe, above) and the rest of her team at Lot No.1.

They’ve made a lot of these now (the 1000th pair was last weekend!) and they’ve seen how all the denims wear and fade.

 

 

Those two flat-lay pictures weren’t really direct comparisons of course, as the Kaihara showed the backs of legs, and the Cone Mills the front.

Below are some more direct ones. First, the top half, where you can see a lot of whiskering on both pairs, but far more on the Cone Mills.

Perhaps most noticeable is the way the rivets have faded the fly on the Cone Mills pair.

 

 

In terms of style, by the way, I’ve found that the Kaihara are slightly smarter by virtue of the their darker colour, and the higher rise means they leave less of a shirting gap when worn with a jacket.

The bluer denim of the Cone Mills is more casual, but is also nicer with navy, such as a navy crewneck sweater, worn above.

Below is another comparison, this time of the honeycombing on the back of the knees.

 

 

I had the belt loops taken off my jeans, by the way, soon after having them made.

I don’t need to wear a belt to keep them up of course – you rarely do with jeans, and particularly not with these.

I also generally prefer the look of jeans without a belt, and rarely wear one.

So it seemed silly to have the loops, and perhaps a subtle, idiosyncratic style point to go without.

I’m sure some denim heads would say this ruins the style of the classic five-pocket jean, but I like it and have never regretted the choice.

 

 

I’ve also found over the years that the high-rise cut fits me very well at the back, but is a little too high in the front.

Readers will know that I generally need a slight slope from back to front to be comfortable with a high-rise design, and my next pair (a canvas-like flecked cream) will be cut that way.

Lizzie didn’t have that much flexibility at the start of Lot No.1 to experiment with different designs or cuts, but that has slowly changed.

A straight cut across the top was very much the Levi’s house style, but it is now possible to vary some of these small points.

 

 

The range of materials available has also increased substantially over the years.

There are organic cottons now, a range of weights of denim from 8oz to 22oz, and a natural-indigo dyed cotton is coming soon.

Lizzie is fond of a ‘space weft’ denim that has a multicoloured back to the cloth, which comes through as the jeans fade.

That might be too much for me, but I am a fan of the canvas and chino-cottons, with my cream one a very natural-looking new addition. (Bottom, with a choice of rivets.)

 

 

The Lot No.1 team (recently increased to four) is now based on the first floor of a new Levi’s building on Great Marlborough Street, just next to Liberty’s.

It’s a really lovely space, with floor-to-ceiling windows and all the work being done on-site, next to the customer patterns and fitting rooms.

The previous area in the basement of the Oxford Street store was nice, but always a bit of an add-on to the main shop.

This is definitely a dedicated Lot No.1 area, as the sign on the wall proudly proclaims.

 

 

The bespoke service recently launched in the Champs Elysées Levi’s store in Paris, by the way, to add to London, New York (Meatpacking District) and San Francisco (Market Street).

I can’t speak personally for the other locations, but based on how good my experience has been in London, I’d say they’re definitely worth checking out.

The wait time for finished jeans in London is now around 14 weeks (including one fitting) and the price is the same as four years ago – £500, with every subsequent pair in the same style £450.

The only difference today is there are more expensive denims available, which increase the price.

 

 

In the pictures I am wearing a bespoke shirt by Luca Avitabile in our PS Oxford fabric, which as I said in that post, I think is the perfect companion to denim.

There are a couple of dozen lengths of that left (we made a lot!) on the shop site.

The desert boots (above) are Shanklins from Edward Green. There are socks hiding in there, just below the top of the boots.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

 

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Joseph

It’s such a joy to see indigo denim fade into something more personal than its raw state. I hope these pairs continue to give you much pleasure in the wearing, Simon!

It’s intriguing to see you wearing a somewhat pale pair of footwear with (relatively) darker jeans. Has your preference for wearing shoes darker than trousers – a guideline which makes a lot of sense, by the way – undergone an evolution?

Joseph

Ah, good point. More than anything, that’s a testament to how versatile jeans can be when used right.

The cream ones you have on the way are probably versatile in subtly different ways to indigo. Great choice, hope they turn out perfect!

Arthur

Hello Simon, Thank you for your very useful feedback. On the pictures, both jeans seem pretty tight on the waist. Is this correct? Are they comfortable, especially when sitting down? Thank you! Arthur

colin

Simon….when you say you rarely need a belt to keep up jeans, I guess that assumes the jeans fit correctly on waist/seat, as clearly bespoke one’s will. Of all ‘trouser’ materials I find jeans need the most help in this department as they rarely fit perfectly and stretch out more than other trouser material, hence a belt proves useful and clearly side adjusters don’t suit jeans.

Anonymous

Interesting, I don’t think I have ever ever worn a belt with jeans (despite always buying off the shelf with no alterations). Luckily I am an extremely text book slimmish build with 31/2 inch waist, so lots of off the peg trousers are v easy

Anonymous

Sorry to spoil the party but these jeans fit you very poorly on the back of your thighs.

To fit well , they probably will need a short back rise adjustment of an inch or so. This should have been done at a fitting, given they are bespoke. Doing it now will ruin the position of the patch pockets.

At £500, that is a major oversight. Are the folks running this show really adept at bespoke?

Anonymous

Thanks, but my point was that they are a fairly snug fit all round except the back of the thigh, where they look loose and puckered. This doesn’t look right at all, and would have been cleaned up by a short back rise adjustment at fitting.

Stuart

I agree! I wouldn’t want to spend £500 on jeans that don’t fit well!

H

If the jeans were to have belt loops – what type of belt would you wear?

Dave Carter

Sadly the Cone Mills denim plant – the last selvedge denim mill in the United States – closed at the end of last year.

Mark

I’ve got the same denims; they’re brilliant jeans and they’ve replaced all others in my wardrobe.

Only tip I’d add is that the Cone can shrink a fair bit in the wash. After my first wash I had to get the waistband changed because of shrinkage – so also good for people to know that significant shrinkage isn’t the end of the world. You can still get them altered.

Adam jones

They are ageing wonderfully. I have met Lizzie a couple of times and it is something I definitely will be trying at some point on the future. You think £500 is expensive but when you take into account how many pairs I have had to buy and try and the amount I have spent on alterations it actually makes sense. I am still surprised by the number of commenters who don’t wear belts with jeans. To me it just doesn’t look right (loops or not) For me a belt is needed to balance and finish and outfit. Regardless if it is needed for tightening the waist or not.

Rik

5 or 6 washes in 4 years! Crikey. How do you stop them getting too funky?

Oliver

Does putting them in the freezer actually work? I’ve read a number of articles and comments saying that it doesn’t make any difference, which would seem to make sense.

On a slight tangent (and without wanting to get too personal!) I would be interested to know how often people wash their knitwear. It often feels strange not to wash something that I have been wearing on and off in rotation for quite a long time – but if it’s not dirty it seems unnecessary. Are there any benefits (other than cleanliness) to washing knitwear more regularly? I’ve noticed it does help stop pilling to some extent.

Anonymous

Great update. From an aesthetic point of view the jeans don’t look quite right without the belt loops – belt or no belt. Indeed at different times sans belt was the fashionable look. I think it tends to feminise them in some sense as the 5 pocket style doesn’t quite chime with the flat, no loop waistband. Personal view only – I appreciate that you prefer without loops.

lives in Suffolk

I’m just breaking in my third pair of Lot 1s. They’re all brilliant.

Sure £500 seems like a lot, but I live in them, wear them everyday, and only take them off in the summer to wear shorts. Pound per wear they’re easily the best value for money I’ve ever spent on clothes, let alone bespoke clothes.

It’s also worth mentioning that they do a fabulous repair service for when you inevitably wear through the knees or blow a hole in the crotch.

GONZAGUE

I like jeans made of plain canvas (beige, red,…) rather than blue denim. I am desperate to find a brand (bespoke or rtw) with a rich and rather permanent choice of colored canvas jeans. Alternatively a weaver (Solbiati offers a few). Any idea?

Anonymous

Luxire.

G.

500 Pounds for a pair jeans is a bit over the top when considering their history of mining workwear. It’s almost like commissioning bespoke coveralls.

JB

I’ve never had a pair of jeans that didn’t get huge holes in the inner thighs/crotch area within 1-2 years of usage 2-3 times per week. Makes me think twice before putting down so much money. It’s very tempting though..

Mark

You can get them patched up at the workshop

Scott

Well, another guy here, who always wears jeans without a belt.

I’d say you made a mistake removing the loops. From front vew they resemble a style jeans with elastic in the back made for infant. Historically, Levi’s jeans didn’t have belt loops until 1922, but did have suspenders buttons sewn into the waistband and a cinch strap and buckle in the back. Seems that with no loops or buttons they fall into a visually weird no nomansland.

I keep shirt tucked in, so deem visible empty loops a necessity to flaunt beltless look. Without them, seems doubtful you’ll get interrogated, “Forget to wear a belt?” Thus, missing chanve to brag, “These jeans fit fine!”

Mac

Hi Simon

How many days of wear did you have before the first wash for each pair?

David

Normally, I’m the defender of the realm when it comes to pricing but £500 for jeans is just crazy.
How do these compare for cut, quality and service with Black Horse Lane Ateliers at half the price ?

David

Of course but you’d have to be a very strange shape indeed not to find a fit in their range of styles and they will alter them for you there and then if you visit their Atelier.
I’ll take the better quality at half the price.

Dan G

Hi Simon,

Grateful if you could share what process you use to wash your jeans (the few times you actually do wash them). Thanks! Dan

Peter K

Any advice on the first wash Simon? I have a pair that I’ve been wearing for 7 months since purchase.

Harry of Monmouth

As already mentioned, the balance of these jeans are wrong, hanging under ball of seat, need picking up 1 inch (should have been done at fitting) Simon, excuse the dry humour, but you really should get out of the ” London Bubble” ( without an international flight )
Explore, huitdenim.co.UK. – based in Cardigan West Wales (you turn right at the end of the M4)

george blumfield

I
I’m 85 years old; when I was a kid, most kids wore LEE jeans; in the 50’s and 60’s most young people wore Levis, but now, Levis are much too expensive and I and my friends wear Wranglers. Wranglers cost about half as much as Levis, which have become sort of a fashion statement. I feel that Wranglers are a much better deal if you wear them every day.

Martin

OTP Levi are only overpriced in Europe. In the USA they are a commodity item priced the same as competing brands (around $40 a pair)

Anonymous

Mark my words, the cone mills are going to start developing holes soon. Well, well before the Kaihara.

Gus Walbolt

I’m impressed by how well these turned out. Very nice! I’m also with you when it comes to rarely wearing a belt with jeans.

I’ve had bespoke jeans made and personally, I prefer to get one of several classic models of favorite brands that come in a “one wash” so that the fit doesn’t change after the initial washing. There are also tailors who specialize in denim so that I can get a pair adjusted if I want a slightly shorter chain stitch hem or more of a tapered fit.

JPG

Hi Simon-

Would you say the “high rise” pair is closer to 11”+ rise and the lower rise around 10”? I know relative Rise depends on an individuals height but I thought you may have a ballpark. Thanks.

Jonas

Hi, how do I book an appointment? I have tried Google without luck. Could someone please point me in the right direction.

Friedensengel

Simon,
The jeans look great. Is shrinking an issue? I don’t have any personal experience of Levi’s standard shrink-to-fit jeans, but most commentators on the internet suggest buying one to two sizes larger, so that after shrinking the jeans will be the right size. I assume – possibly mistakenly – that the raw denim used in your bespoke jeans is broadly similar to that used in the standard shrink-to-fit product, but I don’t recall you saying anything about shrinkage after washing. If that’s true, how do they manage that?

Justin

Simon- I had a pair of these made by Lizzie ans they are indeed amazing. Makes me wonder why I found it so easy to justify bespoke suits but not jeans, the latter being worn much more frequently. Quick question- how much did you drop the front rise on your new pair, 1”? Less? Mine are also high rise and the back fit is great but the front does tend to rise a touch high. Thanks.

Anonymous

Simon, outside of blue jeans and light gray flannels, what do you think are good trouser colors to go with tan shoes like the desert boots in this post?

JG

Simon- I am having Liz make me a second pair of LOT 1 jeans, this time in that cream denim that I believe you also used. She has suggested the option of having the fabric washed/pre-shrunk at 60 degrees prior to making them up so that the jeans can be washed at a higher temperature in the future to maintain the light color (under that option Liz would slightly trim the white jean pattern to remove a ‘shrinkage allotment’ typically included in a dark jean pattern). A second option is just use raw fabric with my normal pattern but the jeans could not later be washed at higher temperature.

I was curious which direction you took on your new cream-colored jeans. I was a little nervous the shrunk fabric/different pattern may not make up exactly like my existing pair, which are perfect (and to be honest I never wash jeans in hot water anyway but I see the rationale with the light colored fabric). Thanks as always, Simon!

Naeem

Simon, your series of articles on this have made me very keen to try it out. Do you know how much in advance one has to book to get an appointment? I’m going to be visiting London in October and didn’t want to miss out in case there are waiting lists etc. Am I right to understand that there are no fittings as such and everything is done on the first visit and then mailed to you?

Chancellor

To Naeem’s questions, I recently went through the process of having a commission done while visiting London, and I can share some answers to the questions.

The workshop recommends at least 2 weeks advance booking of an appointment. I, personally, had no trouble getting my preferred time calling about 2.5 weeks in advance. It sounds as though appointments fill up close to the date, and calling to make an appointment is recommended.

When Lot 1 began, they had no fittings (which is how Simon’s original two jeans were made, based on his previous posts), but now one fitting is included. For most denims, they are fine with skipping the fitting and going straight to the finished product. For a few of their denims, particularly ones that have stretch, they do need to do the fitting, and won’t let you pick from those if you aren’t able to return for a fitting. Usually a fitting won’t be ready until ~14 weeks after order, so a fitting really won’t work for those of us who travel one-off.

One other recommendation for those who are travelling internationally, ask for the VAT refund paperwork. Unfortunately, Levi’s won’t exclude the VAT, even though they are sending the jeans internationally. However, they will provide the paperwork to seek a VAT refund. Unfortunately, there’s a processing cost by the agencies that administer VAT refunds so you’re only looking at recouping about 70% of the VAT ultimately. But that’s still a good 60-70 GBP.

Hope the above helps!

Anonymous

Do you think turning the cuffs up makes it look smarter or neater, Simon? Did you request a top stitch seam or felled seam?

There’s also an option for I think bound edges? – the strip of fabric that covers the raw edges of the side seam up top and the raw edges of the fly?

Anonymous

What should the break at the bottom be? Does it look odd with no break?

Anonymous

Would you consider yours a half break or full?

Anonymous

A slight indentation = half break, I guess. A full break is a deeper indentation.

Anonymous

Simon, what’s the lightest weight you would go for a pair of jeans? I just went to Levis Lot 1, and it seems that most of the cloths are either too heavy (15 oz) or slightly under 12 oz. For California weather is right under 12 ok? Or would you go for at least 12-13?

Anonymous

Great, thank you. How has the waist fit stayed for you? Lot 1 has a 2-year warranty on waist replacements/adjustments in case your jean waist stretches. A cinch back could be customized on the waist to keep it taut, like side adjusters. But that pushes it to $950, instead of $750.

Anonymous

Great, so no issue with too much expanding.

Anonymous

Were any tape measurements taken of you? In my Lot 1 fitting I tried a series of high waisted and mid-rise jeans to determine which fit was most comfortable. The tailor would then take this information to make a custom pair. Body measurements weren’t taken in my case. This is in the San Francisco Levis. I was a bit worried about not having specific measurements taken.

Anonymous

After trying on and finding a pair that felt comfortable for my hip area, pins were placed.

TM

Looking froward to seeing the cream colored ones, any update on when you will publish your review? Have you been finding them more useful than say your cream cavalry twill trousers?

Anonymous

I’ve never worn raw denim before, but I received my jeans and they are very stiff, like a board. When I bend the jeans it’s makes kind of a floppy noise (like hard plastic does as it resists bending). How can the jeans be softened without having to put them in the dryer?

Stanley

Hi Simon,

I just have couple of fitting with different cut of japanese jeans recently

i found that some people like to wear the jeans in wider cut (thigh, knee), which those jeans have the same cutting with old Levis cutting (back yo 194x, 196x)

and some like tapper cutting

i dun know which cut to pick, especially i dont have strong body build, or i should say im skinny

J

Both look good! Any recommendations for off the rack good quality jeans that would go well with tailoring? In my experience many jeans are a bit too low rise to look smart with shirts and jackets

Joel

Excellent review and beautiful denim, Simon. I am on my second pair of raw denim and I have noticed some more dye transfer than my previous pair. Specifically, I have seen some marks on the tops of my shoes. With certain shoes I think it adds character, but I do not like when my smarter shoes or my white sneakers develop indigo marks. Also, I am also afraid to wear light colored shirts tucked in because I fear they might get dye on them as well. Do you have any remedies to avoid dye transfer?

anonymous

How do you find the mushroom suede? it looks like it might be easier to wear than some of the brighter tan suedes. I have the dovers in mink, the shanklin in mocha and a sagan in bark grey. I was thinking about trying mushroom in a duke or luccombe for a change of pace.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, do you have recommendations for high-rise (~13 inch front rise) jeans? There’s Drake’s jeans. Do you know of any other jeans that are around that price or cheaper? Thanks!

Joe

Hi Simon, If it’s not too strange a question on this old article, I wondered: do you find that colour of desert/chukka particularly useful? If the general guidance is that shoes should be darker than the trousers, they’d in theory be quite hard to wear with very much. Does the suede and more casual nature of the shape offset that? They look (to my eye) terrific with the jeans. Would you wear them with chinos? Soft tailoring of any kind (I can imagine them in a Drake’s shoot)?

Joe

Sorry, ignore me! I see you literally answered this question from someone else above!

Flynn

Hi Simon. I like the look that having the hems turned up gives the jeans. You mentioned in response to an earlier comment that it gives it a slightly more casual look – I actually think it looks quite elegant…

With that said, how much do you cuff them and did you get them stitched into place to make it permanent? I find when I cuff my jeans up by less than an inch they tend to become uncuffed whilst walking.

Thanks.

Jay

Hi Simon,

Would you mind sharing a little on how you washed these jeans? Apologies if you covered this somewhere and I’ve missed it.

Did you use a washing machine? Temp?
Or did you soak in the bath, hand wash?
Wear wet etc?
Any other tips for washing…

Most appreciated.

Chris

Dear Simon,
I have an appointment in at lot 1, based on how consistently great I think you always look in these jeans through the posts, and have a couple of questions based on this post and the comments.
1. I am curious as to why you’ve worn the low rise more than high? I was planning on going for a high rise so was surprised you said this, especially given I see you wearing most often with jackets.
2. The biggest mistakes I’ve made with bespoke so far has been going in not knowing quite what to ask, is there anything you would really recommend I know going in there, or suggest I have fully considered? Perhaps an area that you know its easy to go wrong with (such as when I got the pockets totally wrong on my first bespoke jacket).

Very best.

Chris

Dear Simon,
My appointment was cancelled at lot1 sadly due to the covid restrictions, so this pair yet to be commissioned. However, have been thinking about another question relating to this for when I manage to get back in there (or perhaps for buying a pair of RTW that I alter) – To what extent do you try and copy the fit and measurements on your jeans, from your tailored trousers? And at what points would you deviate?
I know exactly my favourite pair of tailored trousers, where I feel both the rise and hem are correct so am curious. I feel like your jeans are considerably slimmer than your trousers.
I am very curious as to what extent the measurements of say jeans, chinos and trousers are relevant to their innate properties or are something simply to replicate with the ideal proportions you discover you like.
Thankyou, as ever.

Noel

Hi Simon,

Would you ever wear these unlined shanklin boots when it gets a bit colder in autumn / early winter? Perhaps with thicker socks? I have the same model (in dark brown) which I like quite a bit. It seems a bit unnecessary to get another suede chukka that’s lined just for the colder months.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,I’ve recently come across the name Candiani in relation to high quality denim.Do you know of them?Good as Japanese raw denim?

Dennis

Simon – how do you recommend washing raw denim jeans?

Pat

hi simon,
do you know that contact details for lot1?

Marvin

What is the rear rise size of you two jeans in this article. In addition, what would be front rise? Thanks

Enzo

Hi Simon,

Just curious but what cut of jeans do you wear? Is it more towards to tapered side or are you more of the straight wide cut reminiscent of the early 501’s during the 50s?

Best!

M L S

Hi Simon,

How are your bespoke Levi’s 501s?

All my suits, jackets and blazer are bespoke but I never thought about having jeans made.

I have started looking around since reading your articles about jeans. I have only wore Levi’s 501’s which are baggy in the rear and thighs. Your excellent articles on bespoke jeans sold me on the idea of having a pair made. Thanks.

M L S

Have you had other jeans made for you? If so, how do they compare?

What is the difference between Japanese and Turkish denim? Pros and cons?

I have been emailing back and forth with Franc at BlackHorse Lane. He is very informative and quick with his response. I am looking at his jeans. (I wouldn’t have know about his company if it wasn’t for you and Permanent Stlye.)

Thank you in advance, Simon.

ML Santorsola

Thank you