Most of the brands we write about here are boutique (French for, “small, but expensive!”), offering a focused, well curated collection of pieces. And when I first read about Cee Blues and their release of wide-leg indigo chinos, I thought I was perhaps (as my usual) late to the party, and this was but the most recent release from another “boutique” brand.
So I reached out to see what other cool duds I had missed out on, and came to find out that Cee Blues was Brand. Spanking. New.
As Daniel Rockburn, the Heddels’ writer of the original Cee Blues piece, put it:
Richmond, Virginia-based vintage clothing retailer Cee Blues just threw their hat in the denim ring with their Leigh Denim Chino, a 40s style chino featuring deadstock slubby Cone Mills 10.5 oz. 2×1 indigo denim. In this case, 40s style means a wide-leg and a medium-high rise, plenty of room to skateboard in—just ask Cee Blues Proprietor and Pro Skater, Gilbert Crockett. The Leigh Denim Chino is made in the USA, features slash front pockets, patch back pockets, metal Cee Blues-embossed buttons on the fly, chain stitched waistband and hem, white selvedge ID, and tonal stitching throughout. Available at Cee Blues for $300.
So yes, while CB’s CEO is no stranger to the world of fashion, selling and wearing were more his thing until he figured, if he was looking for a WWII-era silhouette chino in selvedge denim, maybe somebody else was, too?
Besides being one of Richmond, VA’s favorite sons, Gilbert Crockett has deep street cred, with signature Vans to his name and a talent for often getting attention as much for what he wears as how he skates. It was exciting getting to talk with him about perhaps his riskiest trick—making a go of it in the chew ’em up, spit ’em out world of “fashion.”
Heddels: You’ve launched your first product into the world…how does it feel…how have the chinos been received?
Gilbert Crockett: It feels great! I love hearing what people think of the jeans…it seems like people are into them.
H: What about others in the skate community—do they think you’re crazy?
GC: I think a lot of skateboarders trip out on spending hundreds of dollars on clothing, so yes some people think I’m crazy. But I have also seen a decent amount of support coming from skaters at the same time—the first two pairs of jeans I sold were to pro skaters.
H: There’s always been a deep connection between the worlds of skating and streetwear, how did you get interested in fashion?
GC: Wether people want to admit it or not, skateboarding is a fashion show…it can make or break someone. There can be a great skateboarder with endless talent, but if they don’t know how to dress themselves, it’s hard to watch. Skateboarding is one of those romanticized things that people will argue to the end of time about whether or not something looks good. So fashion has always been on my mind, even before skating, I was obsessed with clothing and shoes…it’s just in me
H: There are lots of easier ways to lose money that starting an apparel brand—what made you want to give this a shot?
GC: This is a goal that I have had in the back of my head for a really long time. I just want to make clothes that I think are worth making. Pants are the first thing I thought of making because I love wider leg pants and it’s hard to find them, especially made in the U.S.
H: What’s been the biggest surprise as you’ve started Cee Blues, and where did the name come from?
GC: I’m just really not used to any part of running a business, I’m a skateboarder and that’s the only job I’ve ever known, so it’s hard for me to be paying attention to a business day-to-day. But I’m working on it! I wanted the name to be sort of enigmatic, Cee is pulled from defunct workwear brand Washington Dee Cee. I just wanted something that has a feeling more than a meaning. I want the imagery and the pieces to give the customer a feeling when they see it and wear it. We all know what it’s like when you get a new pair of pants that you’re excited about. It’s fun to make something that someone can hopefully get some energy from and have for a long time.
H: Your debut product is a wide leg selvedge chino, made from Cone Mills denim—did you essentially design something you wanted to wear but couldn’t find?
GC: Yeah, I’m really into 1930’s and 1940’s U.S. Army and Navy chinos. They are a nice wide cut leg, but the rise on those old jeans is really high and it’s sort of uncomfortable to wear. So I made some wide denim chinos with a wearable rise and changed a few things to my liking to make them mine. They are very heavily influenced by a pair of 1930’s U.S. Army denim chinos that my friend Ryan Shamblin owned.
H: What’s next…where do you go from here?
GC: Oh man I don’t even know. I’m working on like 5 patterns right now, tops and bottoms. I have a 5-pocket jean that I’d like to get into production ASAP.
H: Is Cee Blues something you see as a long-term business proposition…can you see yourself trading the half-pipe for a corner office?
GC: I’m really not sure. I’m just getting started and I really enjoy working with clothes so I’m gonna keep it going…but who knows what the future holds?
Who knows, indeed. As of this writing, Gilbert hasn’t released any new designs, BUT he has issued his chinos in Cone Mills denim with black stitching, natural stitching, and black Japanese non-selvedge denim with black stitching. Each has the same wide cut as the pair he sent me. Granted, it’s not a cut for everyone, but I like it a lot.
At 6’3, I’ve enough leg “real estate” to make the generous cut seem not so drastic, but really, I think “drastic” may have been what Gilbert was going for. They may be mid-rise for some, but to me, they’re decidedly high, going over the hips much like Dickies 874 work pants. That reference aside, for me…fit-wise…these are a whole new animal, wider than any chino I’ve ever worn with a giant leg opening (9 5/8″ for a size 32) making way for a “shoes then pants” dressing order should you feel like changing it up.
From the simple buttons and minimal construction details (plain pocket bags, small label, overall discreet branding) these certainly adhere to the “just the facts, ma’am” approach of their military-issue inspiration. I suspect they’ll fade to a lovely blue-gray after a soak, with plenty of yardage to take on the creases and folds that come from wear (no X-Games-style skate stunts for me, unless ordering Chipotle becomes an X-Game…and then only a fool would suit up against me). I love them (the jeans, not double-wrap burritos, but I love those too. LOVE!).
Whatever Gilbert decides to do/release next, I’ll be watching. And if Cee Blues has more historically-inspired, generously proportioned, wildly-wearable tricks up its sleeve, give your lower extremities a break from your snug usual suspects and give ’em a try, even if you think a McTwist is a new frozen treat at the Golden Arches. (It’s not—I asked, ’cause I’m a kook).
Shop and learn more about Cee Blues on their website.