Worn Out is our series of product reviews where we take an in-depth field test with many of the most sought after items. Whether it’s raw denim, shirting, footwear, outerwear, or accessories, we’re here to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly before you make your purchase.
My initiation to British clothier Sunspel came courtesy of Royale, Casino Royale, as Daniel Craig’s James Bond did his thing in a trim and ultra stylish Rivera Polo. I coveted that shirt, but at $125 thought I could look Bond enough (even if it was Roger Moore) in something half the price.
Yes, premium priced staples are a big part of what we talk about here, but I have trouble spending too much on something I feel an actor-waiter could spill salsa-guacamole on it (I suspect Bond doesn’t eat that much guac). Turns out that it’s not just polos, as costume designer Lindy Hemming believes that 007 and Sunspel go together like a super villain and a docile angora cat.
“There have been so many different characters in film and theatre that I have dressed in Sunspel vests, t-shirts and underwear because they are classic, timeless and beautifully made. This time, dressing Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, I thought that it would be a perfect collaboration of quality and Britishness to ask Sunspel to create all his t-shirts, polo shirts and underwear, which they duly did so excellently. He looks very sexy and happy in their clothing.”
I begin this Worn Out review like this to illustrate the point that Sunspel makes elegantly tailored, refined versions of classics, and they have newly applied their decidedly British approach to the creation of a new Selvedge jean. Kind of.
Make no mistake–in no way are these raw or anywhere close to the family of denim we normally write about here. More on that in a bit (I’m such a tease). But I will say that if Her Majesty’s Secret Service gets to enjoy a casual Friday, I can see plenty of Double O’s wearing these, as they are, quite literally, fancy pants.
Sunspel Japanese Selvedge Denim Straight Leg Jean
- 14 oz premium Japanese Selvedge denim
- 100% cotton
- 100% indigo rope dyed
- Rinse washed at 40 degrees to shrink to fit and minimise subsequent shrinkage.
- Custom-branded hardware
- Exterior bar branding on back pocket
- Chain-stitched hem
- Pocket bags printed with Sunspel design
- Classic straight leg fit
- Designed and Made in England
- Available from Sunspel for $445
According to Sunspel, these are made in England from 14oz. Japanese rope-dyed Selvedge denim that has been, “Rinse washed at 40 degrees to shrink to fit and minimise subsequent shrinkage.”
Yes, they’re pre-washed jeans in the style of the rinsed 501s you can get at any big retailer, and the flimsy hand of the fabric speaks to that. But yes, they are Selvedge. So if you don’t think of these as the type of selvedge denim you know and love, but rather a pair of wildly expensive blue cotton pants, you’ll be appropriately managing your expectations.
Once I shifted my thinking, I came to enjoy this change of pace. I’ve been logging a ton of hours in the Freenotes I reviewed a while back (my favorite pair of jeans to date), and those are still plenty stiff, quite the opposite of these Sunspels right out of the package. After all, everything Sunspel makes, from t-shirts to polos to swim trunks to these jeans, is wonderfully, terribly, unmistakably Britishly civilized.
If you’re like me (and heaven help you if you are), you wear denim regardless of climate or circumstance, and that means sporting jeans when those accompanying us (significant others, maître d’s, the bride) would prefer we didn’t. This may be the pair that makes our detractors resent us a little less. I don’t believe in the idea of dress jeans, or at least I didn’t until I slipped on these.
As you can see, the custom branded hardware and “bar branding” on the back pocket are subtle to the point of being nearly invisible. The inside back tag and signature pocket bags are to be enjoyed by the wearer only. Minimalist design and a clean, uncluttered look are Sunspel hallmarks, so these jeans make perfect sense.
I suspect that most of the guys who Sunspel suspects will buy these don’t own Red Wings…they’re “workwear” only if you work somewhere where the whole place shuts down at 4pm so a cup of tea can be enjoyed.
I’m wearing a tagged 36×34, with an actual measurement of 35” around the waist, and 33.5” down the inseam (with about a 2” turnup). This fit is textbook straight leg, with a button fly and roomy legs all the way down to the 8” opening.
At $445 per pair, the high end of the high end, one might think that one would want to get one’s money’s worth by wearing these jeans all day everyday, and perhaps as pajama bottoms too. But one likely won’t and neither will I.
By and large, these will be broken out on rare occasions when I want to class it up a bit, Bond style. Not when I want to flash some exclusive denim, but more when I want to wear a pair of blue cotton pants that still look like jeans. Kind of.
Hell, I might even wear them with something other than Vans, and I’m positive I’ll always steer the conversation toward getting someone to ask me how much they cost so I can watch them go insane.
Much as Ian Fleming gave his JB a license to kill or be killed, thanks to Sunspel this JB now a license to sport fades or not. I know most of us have at least one pair of deep fades, one pair in the middle, and another mostly new, but if you’ve got the scratch to reserve one pair you hope will take a good long time to show any wear at all, I say why not? Oh, that’s right–because they’re $445 a pair, and that’s without shipping from the UK.
Would I cough up the full freight on these? Not on M’s life, but I can tell you that I wore them to dinner the other night and I arrived to in style. Of course not in an Aston Martin–I’m a writer! But, I did spring for a cab. (One way.)