Welcome to Worth the Price, a recurring series exploring some of menswear’s most covetable and expensive products. This week: bespoke jeans.
For many people, the perfect pair of jeans are seemingly elusive. Countless brands offer a myriad of silhouettes in an endless variety of denim. The perfect pair might be the first ones you pick up at the store — but the odds are stacked against you. It’s for this reason that there are now more custom jeansmakers and bespoke denim programs than ever. From the big players like Levi’s and 3×1 to local denim obsessives, a pair of jeans cut and sewn just for you promises to take the guesswork out of denim shopping.
But with price tags that can go into four figures, does it make sense to spring for a pair of custom jeans? With the help of Glenn’s Denim, I went through the process and here’s what you need to know when considering a pair for yourself.
Why You Should
Off-the-rack jeans just don’t fit. We’ve rapped about tailoring your jeans and how you can get off-the-rack pairs to fit like they were bespoke. But there are just some things you cannot fix. By now, if you haven’t found a pair that hits all the right notes, you might want to consider bespoke blue jeans.
You’d rather not take your jeans to a tailor. Jeans from the store might require a second outing to get them tailored. Though the point of ready-to-wear garments is to fit the masses, the added burden of tailoring can be time-consuming. For bespoke jeans, the initial time investment allows the tailor to lock down the fit, so they’ll have your patterns on file for future pairs you want to have made.
You’re very particular. Most people looking for a pair of custom-made jeans tend to know what they want and they aren’t satisfied by what’s served to them on store shelves. The level of control in the custom jean process can vary, but a range of fabrics, hardware and even pocket styles are par for the course. Beyond that, a custom jean service may offer hand-stitched details, nerdy denim production methods and more. If you’re a lover of denim and you want your hands all over the process, especially the minute details, go for it.
Why You Shouldn’t
It’s expensive. Bespoke jeans ain’t cheap. Depending on where you go, tailor-made five-pockets can run you upwards of $800. With custom details, they can get you up into a rack. If you’re able to find jeans that fit you well enough, you can have them tailored for much less.
You already have jeans that fit well. The biggest reason to go bespoke is to get jeans that fit perfectly. Jeans aren’t traditionally a tailored garment like a suit or a pair of dress trousers which are highly scrutinized in formal meetings. The casual essence of the blue jean makes it easy to get away with a pair that fits closely enough. Taking the humble workwear garment to tailoring heights like this has potential to be incongruous.
You’re not super particular. The bespoke jean process involves a lot of details that you choose yourself. The level of customization varies between makers but if you’re not detail-oriented when it comes to clothing, then bespoke jeans are likely not for you.
It’s inconvenient. Annoying as it is to peruse shop after shop, donning and doffing one jean after another in cramped fitting rooms, bespoke jeansmakers are fewer and further between. Levi’s has its own bespoke program, called Lot 501, but you’ll only find those at certain locations.
What to Consider If You Do
Fabric. Fit is the number one objective with bespoke jeans. Achieving that becomes more complicated if you opt for raw denim which will shrink after its washed. Unless you plan on never washing your jeans — please don’t do that — or you’re a denim purist who knows their way around shrinkage, save yourself the headache and go for pre-washed fabric.
Lead time. Jeans aren’t built in a day, unless you want to pay extra. Bespoke jeans can take weeks to make, so if you’re in a time crunch, it’s best to avoid getting custom jeans for a deadline. If you’re a patient consumer, willing to wait six-to-eight weeks, then go for it. Really, you’ve been waiting your whole life for the perfect pair, so what’re another few weeks?
Is it your first time? If it’s your first time buying a pair of bespoke jeans, you might be tempted to go with a crazy fabric or, putting it nicely, “unique” details. But it’s a safer bet to get a pair that’s straightforward so you don’t end up regretting your decision a few months down the road. Sure, your bespoke jeans fit you great, but maybe turmeric denim with buttoned pockets was a bad move. At Glenn’s Denim, Daniel Lewis stresses, “The main point is to get a perfect fit. Keep it simple.” If you’ve successfully navigated your first pair of bespoke jeans and you’re on to a second pair, maybe get the same thing in a different fabric. Or, the same fabric in a slightly different fit.
Why I Love Mine
For my custom jeans, I went to Brooklyn Tailors. Among British dress shoes, Japanese socks and locally-made button-ups, they’re adept at custom suiting and recently launched an in-house denim brand called Glenn’s Denim. With over 30 years of experience behind the sewing machine, crafting jeans for the world’s biggest blue jeans brands, Glenn Liburd’s namesake label is worth investing in for the off-the-rack garments alone. But the artisanal brand can also make fully custom jeans.
I’d call myself a denim nerd, as lame as that sounds. But it makes me just the sort of guy who’d consider getting a pair of jeans made just for my body.
Collaborating with Liburd and business partner Lewis on the jeans was both enjoyable and educational. I’d come into the initial fitting with a clear idea in mind — a high-rise wide-fitting jean reminiscent of a 1930s silhouette, but with 1950s details. What I had in mind, thankfully, would ultimately be scrapped. I wasn’t so much talked out of my dream jean as I was thoroughly and gently convinced that there was a better option for my first pair.
Glenn and Daniel know exactly what they’re talking about and are as much consultants as they are artisans. In the end, we decided on a straight fit, mid-rise jean. Basically, a 501 that actually fits my tree trunk calves and knock knees. We waffled between a few readymade pairs on the first consultation and made notes and adjustments where necessary. The toile fitting (a first draft of the jeans) was 80 percent there.
By the end, we’d nailed the perfect pair and I’m ecstatic. It’s difficult for me to find jeans that have a straight fit without it buckling at my concave knees before tapering at my calves, but Liburd solved those issues. It’s hard for me to imagine finding a better-fitting jean straight from the store. Plus, the personal touches and attention to detail make this pair even more special.
If you’re considering a pair of custom jeans and you’re able to go through the process, there’s almost no reason not to.
Glenn’s Denim provided this product for review.