To paraphrase the elders (or more specifically in this case, Wikipedia), the name denim, “derives from the French serge de Nîmes, referring to the city of Nîmes. The contemporary use of the word “jean” comes from the French word for Genoa, Italy (Gênes), where the first denim trousers were made. Denim has been used in the USA since the late eighteenth century when imported denim fabric from France was used to create sturdy, solid trousers that would later become the ubiquitous blue jeans.”
Given that, I thought, what better way to road test a new pair of jeans than to traipse them around their ancestral home of Paris, France? (And if, according to my accountant, chronicling the experience here means that I can write off part of the trip, that’s purely coincidental.)
While denim may have French origins, the classic blue jean in this country has its spiritual home in California, HQ of the Freenote Cloth Company, founded by brothers Matt and Andrew Brodrick in historic San Juan Capistrano. They create a collection of classic American menswear, including the Rios Modern Slim jean.
I packed a pair (along with my French phrase book devoted exclusively to ordering cheese, bread, wine and chocolate), and headed for the Continent. Six days and five nights later, me and my new Freenote Modern Slims were inseparable! (This is the same word in English and French—when you read it, try to add an accent.) They’re beautifully cut with tasteful details, perhaps the most individual pair of jeans I’ve worn in quite some time. I think they’re a steal at $220.
- Name: Freenote Cloth Company Rios Modern Slim
- Fabric: Sanforized 100% Cotton RHT Cone Mill White Oak 1968 selvedge denim
- Weight: 13.5oz.
- Fit: Slim Straight
- Unique Features:
- Rear pocket rivet
- Branded hardware
- Available for $220 at Freenote Cloth
The Rios Modern Slim sits true to size—I normally wear a 34” waist and could have with these, but the cut made a 35” sit better right at my hips (I’m 6’3 and 185 lbs. and am wearing a 3.5” turn-up). To be blunt, the men in my family have no ass—it’s straight down our backs into our legs with barely a ripple.
I can’t promise the same for you, but miraculously, the cut of these jeans created the illusion of an ass (perhaps this is due to their contoured waistband)! If you’re an average build (or kinda gangly like me), these should fit you swell. The tagged size 35 has an actual waist of 37.5”, a rise of 11.375”, a leg opening of 15.75”, and a 34” inseam.
The Rios is made from a sanforized 13.5oz. 1968 Cone Mills Denim, which is usually considered a brighter, few-shades-lighter-indigo denim. The stitching (chain as well) is a consistent gold, and the seams are felled.
The feel of this denim is substantial, the hand is even, and the initial stiffness quickly surrendered with a few days of wear. (Perhaps the only thing to surrender more quickly was my willpower in the face of many a boeuf au poivre.)
All of the hardware—brushed copper rivets and antiqued button tacks—is custom and sourced in Kentucky. When I first put these jeans on, I was immediately struck by how solidly constructed they were—my pair was flawless. While they didn’t say so, as me and my Freenotes floundered our way through the arrondissements, I could sense an overwhelming sense of Parisian approval.
There are certainly some unique features to these Freenote Rios jeans…a selvedge (generously sized) coin pocket detail, a U.S. vegitan leather patch pressed in Los Angeles, thread from North Carolina, heavyweight Japanese herringbone pocket bags in a wonderful rusty sienna color, and Freenote’s signature leather backed rivet detail.
But really, like with all timeless American men’s clothing, the headline here is about fit and quality construction. Do I think the leather backed rivet detail is cool? Absolutely. Would they and fancy pocket bags make me buy these? Absolutely not. These Rios Modern Slims are going to take some time to reveal their fades within, but they feel and look so good (I have an ass!), it will be hard to not wear them.
Denim at $300…$400…almost $900 a pair can be had at your heart’s desire, but at $220, you’re getting a lot of classic American Made jean with plenty of classy bling with the Rios Modern Slim. I know that Gustin has played with the 1968 Cone Mills denim and I’ve not tried those on, but I can say that I’ve tried on way more brands than the next guy and, save for a few heavyweight Japanese brands, I’ve not felt so securely in one with a pair of jeans as I have with these in quite a long time.
I know many of you join me in mourning the loss of American manufacturing, so here’s an opportunity to celebrate a company actually making Americana in America. And for the record, the French get a bad rap for not liking Americans, but they treated me with nothing but kindness and respect. Was that due in part to my Freenotes? Je ne sais pas, but I suspect…oui.