The pitch hit all the right notes: denim fabric sourced in the United States or Japan, made in San Francisco and a price that reflects selling direct to customers versus retail markup.
The Kickstarter was a massive success, but my one hangup on issuing a blanket recommendation about Gustin was that I’d not handled the product myself and I thought sizing could be a bit tricky along with exchanges. I also wondered what Gustin would do post-Kickstarter and how they would continue to offer their jeans to those who wanted them.
Gustin launched their new website this week and they were kind enough to provide me with a pair to examine and photograph for this review.
After having hand’s on with Gustin’s jeans, I’m giving them a recommendation.
One of the first things I noticed about Gustin’s jeans were the back pockets and their unique blue horizontal stitch. At first, I thought this was a decoration, but it turns out that it’s actually there to functionally attach an inner cloth liner to help prevent your back pockets from blowing out and forming holes.
Of course, you can look up a bit higher and see the leather patch. I’m not person who places a lot of value on the leather patch on denim, but it does feel more substantial than one that would appear on a pair of Levi’s. However, it feels thinner than the Tanner Good patch that comes on a pair of 3Sixteens. As someone who wears a belt over the patch anyway, I’m not too hung up on it, but I did appreciate that the patch is darker and subdued rather than outlandish.
The inside of the jeans is pretty standard. The left pocket has a patch sewn on with information about the jean’s fabric, fit, care instructions, etc., and the fly also features a selvedge edge.
What really impressed me, however, were the buttons. I love the buttons on this pair more than any other jeans I’ve worn or seen.
The tops of the buttons feel thick, unlike other pairs where the fly buttons are almost sharp along the edges. The result is a more knob-like feel that buttons smoother and rolls along your fingertips better. It’s hard to explain why I’m obsessed with these buttons, but Gustin sourced unique hardware.
The seam rivets are also interesting. Rather than having tiny studs that stand up and protrude, their rivets are recessed and smoother as you brush over them.
Gustin also uses some subtle stitching details with red thread, placing it along the inside hem, the crotch seam and at the outside opposite the selvedge. It’s a small detail that most won’t ever see, but it’s a nice way to distinguish their pairs from others without going over the top.
Of course, a large selling point of jeans comes down to fit.
I’m a natural 33” waist and typically take a 32” waist in most raw selvedge denim jeans I buy. Gustin didn’t have a 32” available to send me, but did provide me with a pair in size 33”.
If you know your actual measured waist size, I’d recommend definitely sizing down 1” and perhaps consider going down 2” to account for stretching in the denim over time.
Regardless, I felt the jeans offered a good fit that was flattering and looked slightly better than a pair of Levi’s 501s would give you. The seat area of the jeans were comfortable and I felt that going down a size or two would still be pretty good and only slightly tighter. The rise was about where I’d like a pair of jeans to be — not too low, just slightly above a mid-rise.
For those of you who don’t like a straight cut, Gustin is now offering a slim cut. I’d perhaps also consider going with a slim cut if you’d like a smaller leg opening. You can see their size chart here.
In their post-Kickstarter phase, Gustin is now doing something similar on their own website. You can “back” a pair of jeans for pre-order and if enough buyers back a particular fabric, then the jeans begin production. Prices range from the original $81 to $99 — both of which I think are a very fair price for these jeans.
The one thing I cannot comment on yet is how Gustin’s jeans will look over time after many wears and a wash, but that’s a risk you take with any new pair of jeans. What I can say is that I think Gustin is bringing a lot of value and thought into their jeans and if you’re on the fence, then consider trying a pair.
Working from home doesn’t exactly encourage you to do things normal working folks do — like “take a shower” and “wear pants”. However, once I make the effort to appear like a functional member of the outside world, I’ve found myself reaching for the same items from my wardrobe every day.
This isn’t a far departure from my uniform experiment from a while ago. The selvedge raw denim jeans and the blue OCBD shirt have reappeared. As far as I’m concerned, these items can be worn for three seasons of the year, taking time off for summer (during which I substitute in linen shirts and linen-cotton trousers).
But with the cooler weather, I’ve been grabbing one of five wool sweaters from a cedar chest my parents gave to me as a birthday gift. It’s a combination of two v-neck lambswool sweaters from Howard Yount, a shawl-collared chunky-knit cardigan and two L.L.Bean crewnecks that I’ve become fond of lately for their warmth and quality.
When I leave the apartment to grab lunch at the Italian grocer, I’ve thrown on my vintage Barbour Beaufort that I rewaxed myself at the beginning of the season (a tremendous pain in the ass if you’ve never done it before). The jacket’s pockets carry all the stuff I need with me and the game pocket in the back can stow stuff while you’re at a bar — like gloves, a knit hat and scarf. I’ve even put a portable umbrella in there once.
Footwear has been a pair of ranger moccasins with Vibram soles, which have been insanely comfortable to wear and perfect for slightly rainy days. Otherwise, I’m still reaching for the Clarks desert boots, but I imagine L.L.Bean Boots will be making an appearance once snow becomes an issue.
I suppose ”country” attire of both American and British influences inspired my desire to swing toward a more casual wardrobe — basically the kind of stuff that ends up on Thornproof. While I particularly like the look of tailored clothing in the spring and summer, I don’t have the same affection for it in the colder months.
A tailored jacket in the cooler months means a tailored overcoat and every time you go out you have to find a place to stash that heavy thing if there’s no coat check (and we all know there’s no coat check at dive bars). Dress shoes are quickly rendered useless unless you choose to constantly wear overshoes or willing to buy at least two pairs of dress boots with Dainite soles for traction. Rock salt and sludge become enemies of flannel trousers.
I might be overthinking it all, of course, and I certainly keep some cold-weather tailored clothing on hand, but it’s the exception for my daily wardrobe — not the rule. I really do prefer to wear workwear at this time of year, especially since I don’t work in an office.
My one gripe would be that it doesn’t offer much of an opportunity to wear a necktie. I think ties look awkward under v-necks, are impractical under crewnecks and if I’m wearing a shawl-collared cardigan at home, there’s not much need for a tie.
It’s relatively simple and takes zero real thought in the morning (or early afternoon) when getting dressed. It will look rather appropriate for most instances and you can dress it up with a nicer pair of tweed trousers if you’d like. But let’s face it: In the sea of black North Face fleece zip-ups that seems to reappear each winter, you probably won’t need to go to such lengths.
Remember the pilot of “Put This On” and how it was kind of mindblowing that some people spend a couple hundred dollars on jeans? At the time, I thought, “Wow, that’s fucking expensive. I’ll never do that.” Fast forward two-and-a-half years later and I’m buying a pair of 3Sixteens at Self Edge in San Franscisco’s Mission District.
But let’s rewind a bit to just over two years ago when I decided to buy a pair of Levi’s 501s that happened to be selvedge and their “rigid” dark denim fabric. I did the whole thing of sizing down 2” in the waist, knowing it would stretch and began to break them in for a week. Then two weeks. Then almost three.
I never got them hemmed, even though my tailor gave me some shit about rolling the cuffs (“You look like a little boy!” he said, after only a few weeks earlier telling me I should start shaving regularly because I looked like an old man). I washed them the first time in a bathtub with Woolite Dark and let them hang dry after about six months.
It’s been about the same amount of time between washes since. It’s not that I can’t stand the smell, but every once in a while I’ll be at the grocery store or in a bar in Logan Square and some hipster just reeks really bad of body odor — like those kids in junior high gym class whose parents hadn’t had the deodorant talk yet with them — and I get a bit self conscious and smell my jeans to see if they are approaching ironic levels of freshness. I just hate the idea of smelling offensive to people when I actually have access to water and soap.
Still, the jeans are great. No crotch blowouts, no rips or serious damage. The fading has started to show up a bit, especially when I compare them to my newer jeans. But the real awesome thing is just how comfortable they are to wear. I love wearing them around the house, because they’re never not soft and worn. It’s like comfort food, that you wear on your legs.
Best of all, they weren’t that expensive. You can easily find pairs for under $100.
The cut isn’t the slimmest, but it’s not bordering on absurd, either. If you really want to slim them up, pay $15-30 to a tailor to have them tapered to your liking (something I did with a pair in white denim). Plus, I really like them for the fact they have a button fly and the rise on them is a little bit higher — something nice to have in the sea of low-rise denim out there (how people keep their shirts tucked in, I’ll never know).
But get a cheap pair of jeans and then you won’t be afraid to screw them up by wiping your dirty hands on them all the time — like when you’re prepping ingredients to make tacos or spilled some of your drink on your hands. They’re jeans, not rare silks. Wear them paintballing or while digging your car out from the largest blizzard in decades.
I’m not going to be that denimhead who tells you “My jeans, they tell a story,” because that’s not true and my life isn’t that interesting. But I have noticed that there’s a worn diagonal crease line along the left thigh to the knee where the fabric always bends from when I cross my leg while sitting. And there’s a white stain from my pet cockatiel who shit on them because I haven’t figured out how to housetrain her in the past dozen years I’ve had her — not that I’m angry or anything about that.
You’ll probably wear jeans a lot — even if you wear a suit all day, you’ll probably just want to come home and change into jeans at the end of it — and I can say for certain that a pair of Levi’s 501s should last you a good while. I feel like I got a lot of mileage out of mine and I still keep grabbing them off the door hook in the morning.
(“Investment Pieces" is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)
White denim is fantastic for summer — a favorite of mine last year. It pairs well with blues and tans, making it a great fit to either contrast with hopsack blazers or linen sport coats. For those looking to take a more colorful approach to summer in their tailored jackets — either preppy or Pitti inspired — the neutral tone of white works well to compliment them, too, be they a wild madras or vivid washed cotton.
If you’re unsure of where white denim might fit into what you already wear, treat them like you would khaki chinos or grey trousers in your wardrobe. I find white denim works best as a casual alternative to trousers and a warmer substitute for fabrics like linen on sunny weekend days.
Best of all, getting white denim isn’t that costly and fits right in for those of you on the ramen noodle budget.
Levi’s 501s in white denim are on sale for $33.60 with promo code FF2012, which knocks 30% off during their Friends & Family sale. (Sale ends May 7th.)
As far as sizing goes, I went down 2” from my waist size, as the denim will stretch out over time. Also, I took mine to the tailor to have them altered to a 7-inch leg opening and hemmed to no break. They look great with a pair of suede tassel loafers or chukka boots.