The Man Who Wore Bespoke Suits and Jeans

It’s said on a few places online that Jiro Shirasu was the first person in Japan to wear jeans, but that’s probably not true. Jeans came to Japan by way of American GIs, who imported second hand Lees and Levi’s and sold them to the fashionable youth. It’s more likely that the first person to wear jeans in Japan was some teenager obsessed with American movies.

Jiro Shirasu was probably the first public Japanese figure to be photographed in jeans though. He studied at Cambridge University in the early 1920s, where he picked up a love for many things English, and then returned to Japan in 1928 to work as a journalist. Within a decade, he became an advisor to the Japanese government, and after the war, was appointed by the Foreign Ministry to help the Central Liaison Officer negotiate with the Occupation forces. There’s actually a famous story about how he once delivered a Christmas gift in 1945, from Emperor Hirohito to US General Douglas MacArthur. Upon receiving the gift, MacArthur waved his hand towards some spot on the floor and asked Shirasu to put it down. Offended by the General’s cavalier attitude, Shirasu demanded that a table be brought out so that the Emperor’s gift could be shown some proper respect. He’s often remembered as a man of principle because of that story.

Shirasu wasn’t a simple nationalist, however. As mentioned, he loved many things Western. He drove Bentleys and Porches, and was a client of Henry Poole (a bespoke tailoring house in London, often credited with being the first tailors on Savile Row and having invented the tuxedo). His first purchase at Poole was in March of 1953, when he ordered:

  • A midnight blue double-breasted dinner jacket and trousers
  • A fawn and red check single-breasted jacket
  • A fawn dogtooth single-breasted jacket
  • A chalk stripe, brown worsted flannel, double-breasted suit
  • A chalk stripe, grey worsted flannel, double-breasted suit
  • A chalk stripe, brown flannel, double-breasted suit

The total bill was £203, which he settled in cash. 

He didn’t always wear suits, however. One day, he posed for a portrait wearing Levi’s and a white t-shirt. Those stripes on his cuffs? Given the time period (1950s), probably the finished edges of selvedge denim. 

"In 1951, when I was fourteen, I landed a job in an Oklahoma City laundromat. The pay was respectable—fifty cents and hour, up from forty-five. In a swampy, bunkerlike back room with a large concrete center drain, I had to mix bleach and water together in brown glass bottles for the customers to use. It was sweaty and dank, but I got to listen to a faraway radio, faint but distinct, playing music by the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, and Faron Young.
One day, I saw a news item about the murder of a nurse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A photograph of one of the teenage killers showed him in handcuffs, being escorted by police. He was wearing what looked to me like white Levi’s. White Levi’s! What style! I was overcome by an immediate urge to get a pair for myself, but after looking around I was told that no such product existed—at least, not in Oklahoma.
Then it came to me: I would make my own. I brought a pair of bluejeans from home, doused them in undiluted Clorox bleach, and placed them in a washing machine. I let them sit for half an hour, the mystery and suspense building. When I finally opened the door, I found, to my astonishment, a pair of pure-white, radiantly glowing Levi’s. A triumph.
Or so I thought. Reaching in to grab them, I felt my hand sweep through a puffy lump of dead white fibres, softer than cotton candy. The rivets and the buttons were the only parts that survived.
At the time, I was banking on white Levi’s coming into fashion. I had to wait twenty years to buy a pair off the rack.”
-Ed Ruscha in The New Yorker

"In 1951, when I was fourteen, I landed a job in an Oklahoma City laundromat. The pay was respectable—fifty cents and hour, up from forty-five. In a swampy, bunkerlike back room with a large concrete center drain, I had to mix bleach and water together in brown glass bottles for the customers to use. It was sweaty and dank, but I got to listen to a faraway radio, faint but distinct, playing music by the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, and Faron Young.

One day, I saw a news item about the murder of a nurse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A photograph of one of the teenage killers showed him in handcuffs, being escorted by police. He was wearing what looked to me like white Levi’s. White Levi’s! What style! I was overcome by an immediate urge to get a pair for myself, but after looking around I was told that no such product existed—at least, not in Oklahoma.

Then it came to me: I would make my own. I brought a pair of bluejeans from home, doused them in undiluted Clorox bleach, and placed them in a washing machine. I let them sit for half an hour, the mystery and suspense building. When I finally opened the door, I found, to my astonishment, a pair of pure-white, radiantly glowing Levi’s. A triumph.

Or so I thought. Reaching in to grab them, I felt my hand sweep through a puffy lump of dead white fibres, softer than cotton candy. The rivets and the buttons were the only parts that survived.

At the time, I was banking on white Levi’s coming into fashion. I had to wait twenty years to buy a pair off the rack.”

-Ed Ruscha in The New Yorker

White Denim Season
I have one pair of white blue jeans - some 501s not unlike the ones above - and this is the time of year they come out. Despite their weight, they actually wear reasonably cool, and end up being a great option on days when the sun’s out and it feels like summer, but it’s not quite hot outside.
Our friend CBenjamin’s in the picture above, and his outfit has a lot going on. He pulls it off well, but I find that I have good luck pairing my jeans with very simple compliments. Even as simple as a plain navy t-shirt and canvas sneakers. (I avoid white tops; white-on-white is a little too Andrew WK, though Andrew always looks great.)
White jeans also make a nice compliment to a summer blazer. With tan bucks, like CB is wearing, and a pale blue shirt, you have a relaxed look that’s surprisingly pull-off-able.
One note: CB’s white 501s, and mine, are tapered slightly by a tailor. This will cost you about $20, but I find that a trendier, slimmer fit is more appropriate with a jean like this. It helps drive home the point that you’re wearing white denim on purpose.

White Denim Season

I have one pair of white blue jeans - some 501s not unlike the ones above - and this is the time of year they come out. Despite their weight, they actually wear reasonably cool, and end up being a great option on days when the sun’s out and it feels like summer, but it’s not quite hot outside.

Our friend CBenjamin’s in the picture above, and his outfit has a lot going on. He pulls it off well, but I find that I have good luck pairing my jeans with very simple compliments. Even as simple as a plain navy t-shirt and canvas sneakers. (I avoid white tops; white-on-white is a little too Andrew WK, though Andrew always looks great.)

White jeans also make a nice compliment to a summer blazer. With tan bucks, like CB is wearing, and a pale blue shirt, you have a relaxed look that’s surprisingly pull-off-able.

One note: CB’s white 501s, and mine, are tapered slightly by a tailor. This will cost you about $20, but I find that a trendier, slimmer fit is more appropriate with a jean like this. It helps drive home the point that you’re wearing white denim on purpose.

Levi’s Vintage Clothing on Vente Privee
One of my favorite casual brands, LVC (or Levi’s Vintage Clothing) is on sale with some hefty discounts at the flash sale site Vente Privee. Their jeans, which usually go for a few hundred dollars a pair, are as low as $55. There’s lots of other cool stuff, too. Scoot on over - and if you don’t have an account, use our link to sign up for one.

Levi’s Vintage Clothing on Vente Privee

One of my favorite casual brands, LVC (or Levi’s Vintage Clothing) is on sale with some hefty discounts at the flash sale site Vente Privee. Their jeans, which usually go for a few hundred dollars a pair, are as low as $55. There’s lots of other cool stuff, too. Scoot on over - and if you don’t have an account, use our link to sign up for one.

It’s On Sale: Levi’s and Club Monaco storewide

Two notable sales going on today. The first is Club Monaco, where you can take 30% off any order over $150 . That includes stuff already on sale, as well as third party brands, such as Barbour, Ray Ban, Persol, and Rancourt (click around their site to see more). Use the discount code SAVE30 at checkout.

The other is Levi’s, who is offering 40% off everything storewide, and giving free shipping to boot, today only. Use the coupon code MONDAY. If you’re looking for basic jeans, consider their 501s and 514s.

It’s on Sale: Best of Black Friday Deals on Wardrobe Basics

Our list of Thanksgiving holiday sales and discount codes continues to grow and be updated. Black Friday deals are hard to judge if they’re the best best price you’ll see on an item, however, it’s usually a good time to purchase items that fall under the umbrella of wardrobe basics that don’t go on end-of-season clearance. 

The 30% off sale at Lands’ End produces several great deals, especially if you stack it with their clearance section, but it’s a good time to get a deal on basics, too. Their Hyde Park OCBDs come to $34.30 — just use code WONDERLAND with PIN 2126

3sixteen has their raw selvedge denim on sale. Offering 10% off might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s rare they ever discount their jeans — in fact, they often sell out and the price keeps going up for a pair at retail ever year. I’m a huge fan of their SL-100x and Derek’s also praised his pair as well, too. Price comes to $198 with code BF2012 and sale ends tonight.

And if you need a cheaper pair of jeans, Levi’s 501s are 40% off with code BLKFRI, bringing their dark-rinse pair to $46.80. 

If you live in a place that snows and don’t have winter boots yet, then I’d recommend picking up a pair of L.L.Bean Boots, which are on sale for $89.10 with code THANKS10, which knocks 10% off and you get free shipping. They’ve lasted me through two Chicago winters and will probably last many more. 

If you need neckwear, The Knottery’s 25% off (code: GOBBLE) sale gives you silk knit ties for $18.75 and silk grenadines for $41.25 — both are an incredible deal. Derek’s reviewed both previously. 

If you’re looking for affordable chinos, Ralph Lauren’s “Preston” chinos are on sale for $44.99 and come with free shipping. Four colors and a whole bunch of sizes still in stock. 

Finally, if you’ve been thinking of getting a Barbour waxed cotton jacket, check out End Clothing’s selection. They’re offering 25% off your entire order and they deduct VAT for U.S. customers. That brings a jacket like the Ashby to $198.75. 

The Silentist on the value of plain old Levi’s 501s.
It’s On Sale: Levi’s Jeans
Levi’s has a one-day sale today. Take 20% off orders over $100, or 30% off orders over $150. Shipping is also free. Use the code APRSAVE at checkout. 
This applies to sale items, such as these 501s, some of which can be had for as little as $33, depending on what else you order. 

It’s On Sale: Levi’s Jeans

Levi’s has a one-day sale today. Take 20% off orders over $100, or 30% off orders over $150. Shipping is also free. Use the code APRSAVE at checkout. 

This applies to sale items, such as these 501s, some of which can be had for as little as $33, depending on what else you order. 

It’s On Sale
From 12-4pm Eastern Time today, Levi’s will take 40% off your entire order (excluding collaboration products). There’s also free shipping on any order over $50. Enter the promo code SAVING40 at checkout.

It’s On Sale

From 12-4pm Eastern Time today, Levi’s will take 40% off your entire order (excluding collaboration products). There’s also free shipping on any order over $50. Enter the promo code SAVING40 at checkout.

Q and Answer
Sam writes:
Having (relatively) recently graduated high school, I have decided that I have crossed the threshold into adulthood, and I would like to dress the part. However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been wearing graphic t-shirts and the same five or six pairs of jeans which are covered in god-knows-what of irremovable stains.
 During what I want to say was August, a French Connection retailer was having an end of summer sale, so I grabbed a white oxford and some pinstripe slacks which I have fallen in love with and want every excuse to wear.  Now, I am at a point where I don’t know what my next purchase should be. I can’t buy an entire ensemble due to my lack of funds, but I want to make one solid purchase. Something that will be that one bridge from my adolescence pile of clothes to a gentleman’s wardrobe.
First of all, you’re still college aged.  There’s no need to be Alex P. Keaton and wear a suit to class.
I’d focus on upgrading your casual wardrobe.  Don’t wear stained clothes.  Whatever clothes you have that have stains, give them to the goodwill or use them as rags.  Get yourself something plain that fits, even if it’s some t-shirts from Target.  Get yourself a decent pair of blue jeans - Levi’s 514s or 501 shrink-to-fits are a good starting point.  Maybe a pair of slim-fitting J. Crew or Canvas chinos.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Pinstripe pants are incredibly difficult to wear.  For one thing, pinstripes are traditionally a business pattern.  For another, they’re traditionally limited to suits.  So pinstripe odd trousers are very limiting.
Focus your money on flexible basics.  Oxfords are great.  So are solid color t-shirts.  Good blue jeans.  Converse Jack Purcells.  Get to the other stuff once you have a foundation.

Q and Answer

Sam writes:

Having (relatively) recently graduated high school, I have decided that I have crossed the threshold into adulthood, and I would like to dress the part. However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been wearing graphic t-shirts and the same five or six pairs of jeans which are covered in god-knows-what of irremovable stains.

During what I want to say was August, a French Connection retailer was having an end of summer sale, so I grabbed a white oxford and some pinstripe slacks which I have fallen in love with and want every excuse to wear.  Now, I am at a point where I don’t know what my next purchase should be. I can’t buy an entire ensemble due to my lack of funds, but I want to make one solid purchase. Something that will be that one bridge from my adolescence pile of clothes to a gentleman’s wardrobe.

First of all, you’re still college aged.  There’s no need to be Alex P. Keaton and wear a suit to class.

I’d focus on upgrading your casual wardrobe.  Don’t wear stained clothes.  Whatever clothes you have that have stains, give them to the goodwill or use them as rags.  Get yourself something plain that fits, even if it’s some t-shirts from Target.  Get yourself a decent pair of blue jeans - Levi’s 514s or 501 shrink-to-fits are a good starting point.  Maybe a pair of slim-fitting J. Crew or Canvas chinos.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pinstripe pants are incredibly difficult to wear.  For one thing, pinstripes are traditionally a business pattern.  For another, they’re traditionally limited to suits.  So pinstripe odd trousers are very limiting.

Focus your money on flexible basics.  Oxfords are great.  So are solid color t-shirts.  Good blue jeans.  Converse Jack Purcells.  Get to the other stuff once you have a foundation.