Most Common Types of Denim Damage (and How to Avoid Them)

Coincidentally, shortly after Jesse’s post last week on patching jeans, I received my 3sixteens back from Denim Therapy — one of the many shops nowadays that specializes in denim repairs. Like Jesse, I’ve had my jeans for about five years now — and although they’ve already seen a trip to Self Edge’s Darn It (another speciality repair place) — they’ve experienced some more wear-and-tear in the last year and needed fixing. So, I thought I’d do a post on the most common types of denim damage and how they can be repaired, as well as avoided altogether.  

Crotch Blowouts

Crotch blowouts refer to when you get holes in the place where you least want holes. To fix them, you can use any of the methods listed in Jesse’s post, although for this specific issue, I recommend darning. That’s when a specialist “reweaves” new threads into the material, using threads that most closely match your pants. This not only makes the repair nearly invisible (which is nice since this is, um, at your crotch), but it’s also much sturdier than patching. The downside? It’s also more expensive. 

How to avoid: Wash your jeans more often. It doesn’t have to be after every wear, but it’s the combination of dirt accumulating and the fabric rubbing against itself that causes blowouts. Those dirt particles act like tiny little razors, first thinning the material, and then finally breaking it open.

Other Holes 

Areas around the thighs and knees can also wear thin and eventually break. For these repairs, you can again refer to Jesse’s post. I personally like the slightly more ad hoc method of just patching thighs and knees with a piece of cloth. Jesse’s LVC jeans look great here. A local tailor should be able to do that for you for not too much money. And if the holes aren’t too big, you can also just leave them in, like I’ve done above. Personally, I think a hole or two can give a pair of jeans some character. 

How to avoid: Again, wash your jeans more often.

Stretched Buttonholes

Whether because you’ve gained weight or initially sized too far down, the buttonholes on your jeans can stretch with time. If the damage isn’t too bad, a local tailor can reinforce the area with new stitching. If it’s really stretched out, however, then you’ll need to get the area darned. I had the second done, and you can see the results above. 

How to avoid: Raw jeans are often a bit tight at first in the waist, but you don’t have to size so far down that things feel skin tight. Doing so will just put unnecessary stress on the buttonholes. 

Damage at the Cuffs

If you wash your jeans infrequently and leave them cuffed, you’ll find that the dirt that accumulates will eventually wear through at the crease. Unfortunately, the solutions here are less than ideal. You can get the cuffs darned, but the material will be stiff and hard to fold again (you use an iron to help them along). Otherwise, you can ride them out until the cuffs fall off, at which point, a tailor can put in a new hem (which is what I’d recommend).

How to avoid: Uncuff your pants every once in a while and brush out the dirt. You can use your hand (obviously), or a clothes brush. Having a clothes brush is handy if you have tailored clothes (suits, sport coats, the like), as that’s how they should be regularly cleaned

If you’re looking for a darning service, check out Self Edge’s Darn ItDenim Therapy, and Denim Surgeon. For more suggestions, check this SuperFuture thread dedicated to denim repairs.

LVC 1947s, Four (Nearly Five) Years In
Since my mom got them for me as a Christmas gift in 2009, these LVCs have been my go-to jeans, worn a few times a week. Once upon a time, they looked like this - raw and unwashed. For the first few years they were washed very rarely. For the last year or two, they go in the wash when they’re smelly, but still on cold with dark-clothes-specific detergent.
You can see in this photo that the crotch as worn thin and been patched, as has the right knee. At one point one of the buttonholes started to give way and had to be sewn back up. A month or so ago, the right thigh gave out, and I decided to throw some old Japanese cotton on top that I’d been saving for pocket squares. I did the same for the pocket, which was on its last legs.
As you can see from the stretching in the waistband, I may or may not have gained ten pounds since I bought them. The natural result of fatherhood, I suppose. Still, reinforced as they’ve been, I think they’ll last another few years.

LVC 1947s, Four (Nearly Five) Years In

Since my mom got them for me as a Christmas gift in 2009, these LVCs have been my go-to jeans, worn a few times a week. Once upon a time, they looked like this - raw and unwashed. For the first few years they were washed very rarely. For the last year or two, they go in the wash when they’re smelly, but still on cold with dark-clothes-specific detergent.

You can see in this photo that the crotch as worn thin and been patched, as has the right knee. At one point one of the buttonholes started to give way and had to be sewn back up. A month or so ago, the right thigh gave out, and I decided to throw some old Japanese cotton on top that I’d been saving for pocket squares. I did the same for the pocket, which was on its last legs.

As you can see from the stretching in the waistband, I may or may not have gained ten pounds since I bought them. The natural result of fatherhood, I suppose. Still, reinforced as they’ve been, I think they’ll last another few years.

Where is Bing Crosby’s Denim Tux?
There’s a great tale in the San Francisco Chronicle today about Bing Crosby’s denim tuxedo. The story is as follows: in the early 1950s, Bing Crosby and a friend went fishing. At the end of the day, they tried to book rooms in a local hotel, but were turned away by the clerk, because Crosby was wearing a beat-up denim jacket. A hotel manager recognized Crosby and corrected the error, but the story went the equivalent of viral.
Back in San Francisco, the folks at Levi’s heard the story, and so they made Crosby a custom denim tuxedo, with a boutonniere of Levi’s labels. Crosby liked it so much, he wore it while promoting his new movie, and it became something of a legend.
Crosby’s niece has been searching for the tux for years. Complicating matters are the many replicas Levi’s made for shop windows at the time. In fact, Levi’s Vintage Clothing recently made a new set of reproductions in a very limited quantity.
She says she knows the difference, and Levi’s has given her a letter that attests to her knowledge, but she won’t tell anyone, because one of the imposters might be altered.
Will she find her “holy grail”? Only time will tell.

Where is Bing Crosby’s Denim Tux?

There’s a great tale in the San Francisco Chronicle today about Bing Crosby’s denim tuxedo. The story is as follows: in the early 1950s, Bing Crosby and a friend went fishing. At the end of the day, they tried to book rooms in a local hotel, but were turned away by the clerk, because Crosby was wearing a beat-up denim jacket. A hotel manager recognized Crosby and corrected the error, but the story went the equivalent of viral.

Back in San Francisco, the folks at Levi’s heard the story, and so they made Crosby a custom denim tuxedo, with a boutonniere of Levi’s labels. Crosby liked it so much, he wore it while promoting his new movie, and it became something of a legend.

Crosby’s niece has been searching for the tux for years. Complicating matters are the many replicas Levi’s made for shop windows at the time. In fact, Levi’s Vintage Clothing recently made a new set of reproductions in a very limited quantity.

She says she knows the difference, and Levi’s has given her a letter that attests to her knowledge, but she won’t tell anyone, because one of the imposters might be altered.

Will she find her “holy grail”? Only time will tell.

It’s on Sale: Levi’s Vintage Clothing on Vente Privee
Vente Privee is just playing the hits these days and brings back LVC for a flash sale this morning. VP’s LVC sale includes both their reproduction denim cuts (LVC’s repros are some of the best out there) as well as leather jackets and other clothing at significant discount (I bought my Menlo leather from a previous VP sale). If you haven’t joined VP yet, feel free to use our link.

It’s on Sale: Levi’s Vintage Clothing on Vente Privee

Vente Privee is just playing the hits these days and brings back LVC for a flash sale this morning. VP’s LVC sale includes both their reproduction denim cuts (LVC’s repros are some of the best out there) as well as leather jackets and other clothing at significant discount (I bought my Menlo leather from a previous VP sale). If you haven’t joined VP yet, feel free to use our link.

Getting a Good Grey Sweatshirt
Every fall season, I can’t seem to stop myself from buying more sweaters, but the one I keep coming back to, year after year, is my reliable grey sweatshirt. For casual use with chinos and jeans, I can’t think of anything better. It’s low-maintenance, sporty, and if the fit is right, can look pretty great.
My favorite sweatshirts are made by Japanese companies such as Buzz Rickson, The Real McCoys, and Strike Gold. These brands specialize in mid-century reproductions, and often use older production techniques (these techniques don’t lend any special advantage, they’re just neat if you care about such things). They’re also thicker and denser than most other sweatshirts on the market. You can find them at them at Self Edge, Blue in Green, Superdenim, and Bench & Loom.
Other really great companies include Archival Clothing, WTAPs, Levis Vintage Clothing, Sunspel, Reigning Champ, Battenwear, Loopwheeler, RRL, and Velva Sheen. Many of these will have their own unique selling points. Archival Clothing, for example, has theirs made in Portland, Oregon by the old-school American manufacturer Columbiaknit, while Levis Vintage Clothing often draws from Levis’ extensive in-house archive. These models tend to be quite expensive, however, so if you want something more affordable, check out Champion, American Giant, Land’s End, Uniqlo, and J. Crew. The last three hold sales pretty often, so you can knock the price down further if you exercise some patience.
Naturally, many people may be wondering what’s the difference between a ~$150 sweatshirt and something that you can find for ~$50. Some of this will be in the detailing, such as some having loopwheeled constructions (which again, are just old ways of making these garments). Some of this will be in the quality of the materials. My Buzz Rickson sweatshirt, for example, is nice and dense, and doesn’t stretch out as easily as the one I bought from J. Crew. It also has a “vintage” fit that I like, which is slightly boxy and short. I think it goes well with the kind of boots, jeans, and jackets I like to wear. 
In the end, however, you just need to find something that fits you well, and works for your budget. Not all sweatshirts have to be dumpy, and not all nice ones have to cost an arm and a leg. If you find that your sweatshirt stretches out easily, just throw it in the wash and put it in the dryer after each wear. It should shrink back to shape. The color might dull from being in the dryer so much, but … it’s a sweatshirt. These look better beat up. 

Getting a Good Grey Sweatshirt

Every fall season, I can’t seem to stop myself from buying more sweaters, but the one I keep coming back to, year after year, is my reliable grey sweatshirt. For casual use with chinos and jeans, I can’t think of anything better. It’s low-maintenance, sporty, and if the fit is right, can look pretty great.

My favorite sweatshirts are made by Japanese companies such as Buzz Rickson, The Real McCoys, and Strike Gold. These brands specialize in mid-century reproductions, and often use older production techniques (these techniques don’t lend any special advantage, they’re just neat if you care about such things). They’re also thicker and denser than most other sweatshirts on the market. You can find them at them at Self Edge, Blue in Green, Superdenim, and Bench & Loom.

Other really great companies include Archival Clothing, WTAPs, Levis Vintage Clothing, Sunspel, Reigning Champ, Battenwear, Loopwheeler, RRL, and Velva Sheen. Many of these will have their own unique selling points. Archival Clothing, for example, has theirs made in Portland, Oregon by the old-school American manufacturer Columbiaknit, while Levis Vintage Clothing often draws from Levis’ extensive in-house archive. These models tend to be quite expensive, however, so if you want something more affordable, check out Champion, American Giant, Land’s EndUniqlo, and J. Crew. The last three hold sales pretty often, so you can knock the price down further if you exercise some patience.

Naturally, many people may be wondering what’s the difference between a ~$150 sweatshirt and something that you can find for ~$50. Some of this will be in the detailing, such as some having loopwheeled constructions (which again, are just old ways of making these garments). Some of this will be in the quality of the materials. My Buzz Rickson sweatshirt, for example, is nice and dense, and doesn’t stretch out as easily as the one I bought from J. Crew. It also has a “vintage” fit that I like, which is slightly boxy and short. I think it goes well with the kind of boots, jeans, and jackets I like to wear. 

In the end, however, you just need to find something that fits you well, and works for your budget. Not all sweatshirts have to be dumpy, and not all nice ones have to cost an arm and a leg. If you find that your sweatshirt stretches out easily, just throw it in the wash and put it in the dryer after each wear. It should shrink back to shape. The color might dull from being in the dryer so much, but … it’s a sweatshirt. These look better beat up. 

Levis’ 1947 501s
Most high-end jeans on the market today are some version of a semi-low rise, slim-fit cut. I actually like that kind of cut, and wear a slim, straight-legged pair myself, but folks who want something with a higher rise and fuller leg may want to consider the 1947 model of Levis’ classic 501s.
The 501s, as many folks will know, is one of the most classic jeans ever designed, but throughout its history, it’s gone through a number of iterations (some of them being very differently styled than the others). The 1947 edition was the first one produced after the end of WWII, and as a result, featured details that were previously lost due to national cutbacks in the effort to win the war. The watch pockets were made with rivets, for example, and the back pockets had arcuates (those double needle, “bat wing” stitches). It was also made with a classic slim-straight cut - slimmer than the company’s current version of the 501, but with a bit more room in the leg than many slim-fit jeans today. 
You can find the 1947 model through Levis’ Vintage Clothing, a sub-line of Levis that specializes in vintage reproductions. Retail price is pretty expensive, coming in at ~$250, but sometimes you can find them on sale (Vente Privee had them earlier this year with prices starting at $55, but that was an anomaly). You can also hunt for a pair on eBay, where they typically go for ~$150-175.
Other good options to consider include 3sixteen’s CS-100x, which is based on the 1947 501s. That one is made with the company’s signature 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim, which is woven exclusively for them by a mill in Japan. From my experience, their denim fades well, and has the added bonus of being flannel-soft inside when you first get them (though, the denim itself is still rigid and tough). Japanese denim brand Sugar Cane also has a repro, simply called the 1947, as well as two models called the Hawaii and Okinawa. Those are cut just like the 1947, but feature crazier denim and detailing. 

Levis’ 1947 501s

Most high-end jeans on the market today are some version of a semi-low rise, slim-fit cut. I actually like that kind of cut, and wear a slim, straight-legged pair myself, but folks who want something with a higher rise and fuller leg may want to consider the 1947 model of Levis’ classic 501s.

The 501s, as many folks will know, is one of the most classic jeans ever designed, but throughout its history, it’s gone through a number of iterations (some of them being very differently styled than the others). The 1947 edition was the first one produced after the end of WWII, and as a result, featured details that were previously lost due to national cutbacks in the effort to win the war. The watch pockets were made with rivets, for example, and the back pockets had arcuates (those double needle, “bat wing” stitches). It was also made with a classic slim-straight cut - slimmer than the company’s current version of the 501, but with a bit more room in the leg than many slim-fit jeans today. 

You can find the 1947 model through Levis’ Vintage Clothing, a sub-line of Levis that specializes in vintage reproductions. Retail price is pretty expensive, coming in at ~$250, but sometimes you can find them on sale (Vente Privee had them earlier this year with prices starting at $55, but that was an anomaly). You can also hunt for a pair on eBay, where they typically go for ~$150-175.

Other good options to consider include 3sixteen’s CS-100x, which is based on the 1947 501s. That one is made with the company’s signature 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim, which is woven exclusively for them by a mill in Japan. From my experience, their denim fades well, and has the added bonus of being flannel-soft inside when you first get them (though, the denim itself is still rigid and tough). Japanese denim brand Sugar Cane also has a repro, simply called the 1947, as well as two models called the Hawaii and Okinawa. Those are cut just like the 1947, but feature crazier denim and detailing. 

Levis Vintage Clothing and Levis Made & Crafted Sample Sale
If you’re in New York, don’t miss the LVC / Made & Crafted sale. It’s tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday in New York, and from what the Choosy Beggar tells us, it’s usually quite an extravaganza. They’ve got all the details here.

Levis Vintage Clothing and Levis Made & Crafted Sample Sale

If you’re in New York, don’t miss the LVC / Made & Crafted sale. It’s tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday in New York, and from what the Choosy Beggar tells us, it’s usually quite an extravaganza. They’ve got all the details here.

It’s On Sale: J. Crew’s Third-Party Brands

J. Crew is offering 25% off orders over $150 or 30% off orders over $250, as well as free shipping, when you use the coupon code WINTER.

This normally wouldn’t be that interesting since J. Crew offers 25-30% discount coupons frequently, but this time, it appears you can apply it to their third-party brands (something they rarely allow). Perhaps they’ll take these off later today, but for the moment, that yields the following deals:

Take a look at their "In Good Company" section for more deals.