An Englishman in New York: Cardboard Jeans

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It’s not much fun wearing cardboard trousers. But it’s worth the pain.

This time last year I bought a pair of jeans from Jean Shop on West Broadway, New York. A friend had recommended the place to me, but to be honest I was largely taken in by the technical terms and stylish furnishing – piles of raw denim draped over rails around the shop, interspersed by various efforts in coloured leather: jackets, wallets etc.

As casual clothes are not my specialist subject, all the talk of Japanese denim, rinsing, raw wearing and dying oils went a little over my head. But the assistant claimed he wore one pair of these jeans every day of the year. That he had bought the pair he was wearing two years ago and never bought another. I think that might even have been the reason he decided to get a job there.

Most of the jeans sold are raw denim. This means that when you first wear them they will feel like cardboard – stiff, awkward and, well, crunchy. After a few days of wearing them in they will soften. After a few weeks they will feel comfortable and seem to fit really well. A year later they will be like a second skin.

The advantage of raw denim is that, unlike pretreated or prewashed jeans, the cotton adapts itself to your own particular shape and activities. It molds to you. This appeals to me as a fan of made-to-measure clothes generally – except that here the trousers adapt to you rather than being made for you.

An investment in a great pair of jeans also appeals to my thriftiness – one pair of classic, straight dark jeans can be worn with almost anything and won’t wear out for years. Jean Shop jeans aren’t that cheap – between $250 and $290. But then they’re not the most expensive either.

I’m wearing my pair today and have done half the time I’ve been in New York. Unlike some of my recommendations (I have yet to buy a suit from Suit Supply, as one reader pointed out. Though I am eager to hear anyone else’s experience) this one is fully tested. I went back to Jean Shop yesterday and it was just as cool – plus this time I knew a little more about the product, having done my own research. I bought exactly the same pair as mine (albeit an inch smaller on the waist) for my brother. I’m sure he’ll love them as much as me.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.