Welcome to the first post in what is intended to be a substantial run of trouser reviews. I intend to cover a variety of trousers, both with regards to style and materials. My aim is to help my readers become more informed and aware of what goes into a pair of trousers (and I don’t mean your legs, though that is obviously also true).
To kick things off I’ve selected one of my most notable pairs of trousers, the Iron Heart Beatle Busters. Iron Heart is considered to be one of the premier Japanese producers of quality jeans, most notable known for it’s use of heavyweight denim fabric and the attention to sturdiness in their construction. There is a certain level of biker chic in what they do, where the jeans are said to be both inspired by and appropriate for motorcycle use. I’m not really into this side of the denim look, but I can certainly appreciate a well made and solid pair of denim trousers!
In a world where it seems every cool designer is a Japanese pedant with an extreme focus on detail and a near autistic fascination with vintage Americana, it is quite refreshing to note that the Beatle Busters are actually designed by a female German denim enthusiast who goes by the nickname Beatle. This is becoming something of a trend, whereby denim enthusiasts go from being enthusiastic wearers to designers of denim garments.
As mentioned before, Iron Heart are very much known for their denim, which in this case is a 21oz indigo selvedge variant. Milled in Japan on a narrow loom, giving it the tell-tale selvedge edge as shown above. The weight of most common denims is around 12oz , so this is notably thicker and sturdier. It is also very soft, due to the fabric being woven quite loosely from quite softly spun long staple cotton. This means the tales you may have heard about the pain and suffering involved in “breaking in” a new pair of hardcore jeans is not so much a factor here. These are quite comfortable from first wear. Not to say they don’t get more comfy, they do, but there is no biblical suffering or bloodshed involved. If you’re in doubt, this is a good thing.
Really heavy denim might not be the best thing for the summer season, but where regular issue denim might feel a bit light and unsubstantial during the colder months, heavyweight denim does a good job of blocking wind and providing some comfort for exposed legs.
It is also notable that the denim used is sanforized. This means that the denim has been pre-treated to stabilise it before it was cut and assembled (more about this in my Denim Guide part 2). This may sound like a trivial matter, but it means that the trousers you buy will basically stay the same size even after you have washed them. There is a lot of focus on raw unwashed denim these days, which is good and fine, but the huge disadvantage of the unwashed part is that the first time you wash them you basically making a gamble on what your trousers will fit like after the wash. Shrinkage of up to 10% is not unheard of, which may stretch out again at the waist, but may leave you looking quite silly with the hems halfway up your shins!
The fact that the denim is sanforized, i.e.. has seen water after it left the loom, means that you don’t need to worry about soaking to make the denim less stiff. You can just buy them, pull them on, do a few squats and lunges to let them know who is boss, and go your merry way.
The fly is of course of the button type, with solid metal Iron Heart branded buttons. Rivets are both visible and hidden, which seems a little odd, but I often see “hidden rivets” proclaimed as a desirable design feature so there must be more to it than I can imagine. The quality of buttons and rivets tells you that no short-cuts have been taken and these trousers have been built to last.
Given the incredible range of jeans available today, every brand tries it’s hardest to find some way of making itself unique. From the hipster “non-branding” like Universal Works have done on their new “Made in Britain” denim range, where the only label showing the brand is on the inside, to variants where the brand is spray panted onto the legs. I think Iron Heart has done a fairly subtle variation of this, where there is the stout leather patch in the traditional position, the “Arcuates” (stylised stitching) on the rear pockets, and the red W on the right hand pocket. Really, given that a belt will most often cover the leather patch, and everyone and his pet tortoise has some squiggle on the rear pockets, the “W” stands out as the most recognisable marking on them. And it’s quite subtle at that.
A big thing about denim today is buying it without any pre-distressed markings. Oddly, some people actually prefer to buy jeans that are torn, worn, bleached, acid-washing, sand-blasted, paint-spattered, sanded and whatever, in an effort to make them look like the owner has actually lived in them. The thinking now is that your jeans should reflect the life you lead and age gracefully through your use. As can be seen for the above photo, my jeans show quite clearly that I cycle. Almost every time I wear them, which has been on average once a week since last summer, I’ve cycled. Hence the odd wear. We’ll leave it at that.
Now, anyone following my blog for a while will have noticed that I’m on a bit of a crusade when it comes to sizing and the lack of predictability when it comes to the size marked on garments. Hence, in each review I will get out my tape measure and actually measure the trousers. In this case, I have a special case where I have two pairs of the same trouser in the same size. One with around 8 months of use and one totally unworn.
The Iron Heart website gives good advice on the measurements and sizing on their jeans, in this case they give the reassuring advice to go true to size, i.e. buy your waist size. It will feel tight to start with, but will expand about an inch.
Both pairs are marked as 33″ waist. The used pair measures 34″ and the unused pair measures 32″. In fact, I can’t even get the new pair on without extreme discomfort. The pair I’ve worn feel great, I might even have successfully “broken them in” and the waist has certainly stretched a small amount.
Fit-wise, these jeans are on the slim side. On me they could definitely have been a little larger over my thighs, but this is mostly down to me having almost super-human muscles in my legs. To give you an idea of the measurements they are 9″ wide at knee height and the leg opens 8″ at 30″ inseam. What we call tapered, rather than straight. This suits me well, as I often find straight jeans to look a little too flared for my taste.
Also, I’d like to give kudos for having a decent rear rise on these jeans. Rear rise means how high the trouser goes up over your posterior, and for proper gentlemen it should be sufficient to ensure you never show any butt cleavage. If you feel a cool breeze whenever you bend over, you either need more rise on your trousers or you need to tuck in properly.
Note, there are two schools when it comes to desirable denim today. One that is looking for denim that will quickly wear and develop patterns of fading, the other that appreciates quite the opposite and prefers a pair of trousers that will stay looking fresh and clean for a long time. I am quite firmly among the latter!
In summary, would I recommend a pair of these? Yes. You can find any number of cheaper jeans, but nothing has the sense of quality and heft of a pair of really heavy jeans like these, and when the construction and materials are as superb as these, it’s hard to not see the sense in them.
Sizing and washing:
Both pairs are marked as 33″. The unused pair measures 32″, the worn pair measures 34″. Iron Heart state to go true to size and to allow an inch of expansion in the waist.
The label inside states that a 40 degree regular machine wash is the appropriate wash for these 100% cotton trousers.
- Fabric – Japan
- Jeans – Japan
Score (1-5, 3 being average):
- Assembly: 5
- Details: 4
- Quality: 5
- Value for money: 3
- Cool-factor: 5
I have a pair of sulphur-dyed black “Beatle Busters” for sale on my For Sale page.
What exciting pair of britches will I feature next week? All will be revealed.