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The Flat Head – History, Philosophy, and Iconic Products

 

My journey to find the perfect grey sweatshirt was an emotional one. Too long, too short, too wide, too slim – not to mention the necklines – to call this buying experience a minefield would be an understatement. But when my quest ended, unwrapping a heather grey sweatshirt by The Flat Head, I realized my perseverance had paid off.

The Flat Head is a Japanese clothing label known for its raw selvedge denim and meticulously crafted Americana-casual clothing. Led by founder and creative director, Kobayashi-San, the brand strives to produce clothing of unparalleled quality and character by utilizing bespoke fabrics and labour-intensive production methods. In doing so, The Flat Head hope that all of their products are worn hard and cherished for many years to come.

Beginnings of The Flat Head

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Kobayashi-San via Clutch Magazine

The Flat Head was founded in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, in 1996. Prior to the brand’s creation, founder Kobayashi-san ran a vintage apparel store named ‘Dessert Hills Market’ in the early 1990s. Kobayashi would fly to America to source the best vintage clothing he could find, conducting repairs on any damage in a bid to display the highest quality product in the windows of his store.

Repairing countless pairs of vintage jeans meant Kobayashi was constantly deconstructing jeans, allowing him to examine different fabrics, stitching methods and the general construction of the five-pocket jean.

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Dessert Hills Vintage via The Flate Head

Before long, Kobayashi decided to try his hand and creating his own jeans, with the goal of merging these classical construction techniques with his own styling and vision of how clothing should be made. The industry was kind to Kobayahsi in his humble beginnings. In an interview with Clutch Magazine, he says “I was able to meet so many people who were willing to answer all my questions and provide me with the opportunity to try things my own way to achieve what I wanted, which is why I was able to start this brand”.

By 2001, The Flat Head was a well-established brand with its own leathercraft studio, their ‘3005’ raw denim jeans that remain a popular model to this very day, and they had become known for their superior tubular knitted t-shirts constructed with triple-needle stitching at the neckline to retain a snug fit. These early triumphs laid solid foundations for Kobayashi’s brand and held The Flat Head in good stead to open more bricks-and-mortar locations across Japan.

The Philosophy of Flat Head

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Image via Rivet & Hide

The Flat Head is a no-expenses-spared love affair with Americana-style clothing. All products are made in Japan and Kobayashi insists on paramount quality within each step of the brand’s production process. Their pieces use only specially selected threads, bespoke fabrics, and traditional construction methods to create hard-wearing products. The goal is to create something that with unquestionable character that ages beautifully, Kobayashi explains, “At the time of purchase the product is only 50% complete, but that this completeness level rises with repeated wearing as the product begins to meld itself to the unique shape of each individual.”

Unlike many Japanese labels, Kobayashi has chosen to keep The Flat Head based in Nagano Prefecture as opposed to transferring operations to Tokyo. An unconventional decision, Kobayashi feels that by avoiding the hustle and bustle of Tokyo or Osaka, The Flat Head can be unbiased by other brands and trends of the big cities.

The Flat Head Today

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The Flat Head Stores via The Flat Head

Having gained worldwide attention from the raw denim community in the last decade, The Flat Head is now one of the leading names in the raw denim market and their products can be found in stores across the globe. The brand has a variety of labels, each offering a different aesthetic:

  • The Flat Head mainline – Largely inspired by Americana fashion, this label covers a vast majority of the brand’s offerings, including raw denim jeans, printed loopwheeled t-shirts, vintage-style sportswear, and luxury leather jackets.
  • The Flat Head ‘MK‘ – This label offers slightly higher-end products such as jewelry, cotton/silk blend garments, and exotic leather goods.
  • The Flat Head Club Label – Launched in 2017, this label offers more laid back garments that lean towards a sportswear design aspect, such as sweats, t-shirts, and casual coats.
  • Real Japan Blues (R.J.B) – Recognizable by its cross-sword branding, this label was launched in 2005 to navigate the more sophisticated end of the fashion spectrum. As well as tailored button-downs, this collection also includes rider jackets and slim raw denim jeans.
  • Hard Bird – This label acts as a collaborative project between The Flat Head, Japanese actor Shinji Takeda, and Japanese musician DJ Dragon. The aim is to create products that merge the inspirations of all three creatives, resulting in a collection of bold garments influenced by music, entertainment, and motorcycle culture.

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Iconic Products

3009 Raw Denim Jeans

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As the brands best seller in Japan, the 3009 is slim-straight jean constructed from 14.75 oz unsanforized raw selvedge denim. Dubbed ‘3XXXX’, this particular fabric is held in high regard due to its rich texture and potential to yield high-contrast fades. Coming in classic five-pocket style, each pair is finished with hidden rivets, a button-fly, custom back-pocket arcs, and a branded goat-leather waist patch.

Available for $315 at Self Edge.

Heavyweight T-shirts

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The Flat Head’s loopwheeled tubular knit t-shirts are famed for their heavyweight fabric and sturdy construction. The neckline features reinforced triple-needle stitching which eliminates unwanted neckline-stretching, and the lack of side seams helps maintain the fit of this 100% cotton t-shirt.

Available for £80 ($109 USD) at Rivet & Hide.

WRJ-53A Horsehide Riders Jacket

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As an end-level leather jacket, this piece would be considered a grail for many leather enthusiasts. Constructed from black vegetable-tanned 1.3mm Horsehide from the Japanese Shinki tannery, this reproduction of an iconic Schott piece embodies The Flat Head’s obsession with craftsmanship and Americana. Each piece is made in Japan, and comes complete with sateen linings, silver snaps throughout, universal zippers, and side-cinch buckles.

Available for $2,375 at Rivet & Hide.