On Japanese Denim

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I visited a thrift shop in the Lower Haight neighborhood. I purchased a few pieces, including a pair of Momotaro jeans. These jeans are a holy grail for me - normally, a pair of Momotaro jeans will cost $300-400. This pair set me back only $30. Momotaro Jeans is a Japanese denim brand based in Kojima, the capital of Japanese denim.

A Brief History of Japanese Denim

The Japanese were first introduced to denim post-WWII. The American servicemen stationed in Japan commonly wore denim. Hollywood further promoted denim jeans with movies like Rebel Without a Cause (1953) starring James Dean and The Wild One (1955) with Marlon Brando both wearing denim associating jeans with the bad boy look.

Japanese resellers would buy authentic jeans from the US: Levi’s, Wrangler, and Lee, and resell them in Japan. But there became a desire to create and replicate these jeans domestically. Japanese manufacturers reverse-engineered American denim to understand their construction and material. They purchased old-fashioned machines such as shuttle looms which created a denser, tightly woven fabric resulting in better texture and durability. They also incorporated advanced yet labor-intensive indigo dyeing techniques.

Traditional American manufacturers such as Levi’s began prioritizing mass production and cost-cutting measures by using cheaper materials, simpler construction, and outsourcing labor. The quality of American denim began to decline. And as American denim began to decline, Japanese denim manufacturers continued to improve and innovate. Hence Japanese denim is renowned for its quality, craftsmanship, and heritage.

Why I Love Japanese Denim

I never would’ve thought of spending $300 on a pair of jeans before summer, when my style was still evolving. But as I shifted my focus from buying fast fashion items to higher-quality pieces built to last, I realized the value of investing in quality items. I never ended up purchasing a pair of Japanese denim for retail but when I saw this pair of Momotaro jeans at the thrift store in mint condition, for a tenth of the price, I had to get them.

These jeans feature Japanese denim that’s crafted with precision and develops a unique patina over time. The signature selvedge, rivets, peach inseams, and sheepskin patch all contribute to the longevity and aesthetic value of the piece. With no compromise in quality, craftsmanship, or sustainability, these jeans will be a timeless staple in my wardrobe.

December 13, 2023

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