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Left Field NYC and The Appeal of Banana Denim

A while back I read a piece on this very site about a company releasing jeans partially made from bananas, and thought…that’s crazy!

But then I saw that the company was Left Field NYC. Not only does Left Field have a well-earned reputation of making as fine a pair of American made jeans as you can buy, but they innovate in their use of textiles, embracing Chinese (gasp!) long-staple cotton denim way ahead of the pack (I wrote about it here).

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Welcome to the future–with Patagonia now offering a shell jacket made from 100% recycled polyester, it seems only natural that other companies will begin even more aggressively exploring alternatives to virgin cotton and the like, and 30% banana fibers is as good a place to start as any. So…jeans made from bananas–that’s amazing!

Left Field head honcho Christian McCann was kind enough to send me a pair, and I was immediately smitten. From their site, here are the deets:

  • 30% Banana Fibers
  • 12.5oz. Collect Mills Japanese Denim – Light Weight!
  • Banana colored Yellow Line Selvedge
  • Scovill brass pick and shovel logo tack button
  • Copper doughnut button fly with embossed wreaths
  • All copper US made Universal Fastener burrs and tacks
  • American made bandana pocket bags out of heavy twill for durability
  • Navy foil embossed Bodine patch
  • Hidden rivets on back pockets and hidden selvedge coin pocket
  • Available from Left Field NYC for $220

While many are this time of year making sure their snowblower still works, I’m in San Diego getting ready to embrace an 80 degree “autumn,” so the 12.5oz weight of these is perfect…light enough to be noticeably more comfy, not so light as to feel like one-season jeans.

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And while the banana fibers create a wonderfully flecked, slubby appearance, the hand of this denim is surprisingly smooth.

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The other high-end doo dads that Left Field includes are par for their course, except for the special banana-yellow selvedge line that is well worth showing off. These only come in Left Field’s Atlas cut, “with plenty of room for those with muscular thighs but want a tapered leg opening.” No one has ever accused me of having muscular thighs…or ra muscular anything…but the cut is plenty comfortable and certainly familiar (501 tapered).

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These novelty-ish (though still very wearable at times other than national Banana Day…April 15th…thanks Congress!) jeans are a clear indication that the “third wave” of America’s Denimization is finally over. From the post-war heyday (first wave) to the designer jeans craze of the late 70’s/early 80’s (second wave) to the everyone-in-selvedge and Red Wings of the last two decades (third wave), there’s plenty of denim “out there” to be collected, appreciated, reviled and simply worn. And now it’s time to think outside the box…or off the tree as these banana options are concerned.

White Oak is gone and ain’t coming back, and a heightened sensitivity to the environmental impact of the rag trade has designers and manufacturers everywhere looking for responsible, sustainable, “I can makes pants out of that” alternatives. (With companies like the aforementioned Patagonia blazing the trail, can “denim” courtesy of old Poland Spring bottles be far behind?) Fabric can be made from all kinds of things, banana fibers being just one example, so why the hell not.

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And in my attempt to pander to denimophiles everywhere, consider this: The world’s banana crop is a monoculture…the variety we all eat is the Cavendish…as if the only thing that qualified as an “apple” was a macintosh. A new strain of “Panama Disease” is threatening to wipe out all bananadom as we now know it (as it did to the Gros Michel, the last banana monoculture). If that happens, imagine how rare these babies will be!