Jacob Osborn

14 Best Japanese Denim Brands | Man of Many

Jeans from the best Japanese raw denim brands will typically cost more and require some extra TLC, but they’ll also deliver more character, colour, variability, style, comfort, and prestige. It’s then only natural that you might want to score a pair. Here’s our list of the best Japanese denim brands:

The Best Japanese Denim Brands

This top brand hails from Kojima, where the Japanese denim industry was born and where it continues to thrive. Handmade using rare materials like Zimbabwe cotton and a natural indigo dyeing process, Momotaro jeans don’t just resist fading, they get a little darker with age.

1. Momotaro

If hard-to-find Japanese jeans went by any other name, that name might very well be Oni. Shrouded in secrecy, the brand keeps the exact details of its elusive weaving methods tightly under wraps. According to legend, each pair is handwoven on a vintage shuttle loom by an ancient master-weaver named Oishi-San. Whatever the methods, the resulting selvedge denim jeans are duly distinguished by their slim fits and unique textures. Good luck scoring a pair!

2. Oni Denim

Striking a balance between high-quality and relative affordability, Japan Blue delivers genuine raw selvedge denim for much less than most competing brands. True to form, the label’s jeans are tight, modern, durable, and well-made. What more do you need?

3. Japan Blue Jeans

Not to be confused with Japan Blue Jeans, this seasoned brand employs traditional methods and a unique dye of natural indigo. Like fine leather, each pair of Blue Blue Jeans take on more character, colour, and distinction with age. This is quintessential Japanese style with a worldwide cult following to show for it.

4. Blue Blue Japan

“These ain’t Diesel, these is Evisu…” So goes a (slightly modified) line from the 2002 Jay-Z track “Show You How,” which was just one among many rap songs to mention this legendary brand. Named for the Japanese folk god of money, it first launched in the early ’90s and initially produced about 14 pairs of jeans per day. Each one featured a signature seagull that was hand-painted by founder Hidehiko Yamane himself. In the wake of a tax evasion scandal, Evisu relaunched in 2009 and continues to capitalise on its urban appeal.

5. Evisu

If you’re looking for exceptional range and quality construction, then you’ve just found your new favourite denim brand. Inspired by Japan’s motorcycle community, Iron Heart specialises in heavyweight fabrics and high-contrast fades. As a result, it’s cultivated a considerable following across the world stage, and grown rapidly in under two decade’s time. By working with a number of top-tier Japanese mills, the label makes up for a lack of singularity by way of ample versatility. Currently headquartered in the UK, it’s still a Japanese denim brand at heart.

6. Iron Heart

Easily one of the best Japanese raw denim brands, Samurai Jeans has been exploring the power of the fade since the late 1990s. Taking direct cues from Levi’s, founder Tohru Nogami infuses American-style trends with Japanese materials and flourishes to create something utterly unique. It’s all in the details, as the saying goes, and that’s where this brand truly thrives. Pick up a pair of the 19oz. raw denim jeans and look for the silver selvedge ID, which resembles a samurai sword.

7. Samurai Jeans

Crafted in the vein of vintage American workwear, Sugar Cane & Co. has been churning out durable Japanese selvedge denim jeans since the 1970s. The brand often incorporates eco-friendly sugar fibre into the cotton fabric blend, achieving a purposefully uneven texture. Built to last and hard to find, these jeans commonly deliver a tight fit.

8. Sugar Cane

Part of the famous Osaka Five, this trailblazing brand was the first to make shuttle loom-woven hank-dyed jeans in Japan. When the Japanese raw selvedge denim boom kicked off in the late 1990s, Studio D’Artisan became all the more popular. To this day, it makes its own fabric and weaves its own range of inexpensive to fairly expensive Japanese jeans, which often appear in limited supply and sell out fast.

9. Studio D’Artisan

Passion meets experience at Tanuki, which was recently founded by a group of seasoned craftsmen. The Japanese brand excels at making unsanforized denim, meaning denim that hasn’t been stretched, fixed, or pre-shrunk. You might say this is raw denim in its purest form, though it can lead to complications in terms of sizing. But we still say it’s worth it!

10. Tanuki

Along with Japanese denim brands like Evisu and Studio D’Artisan, Full Count makes up part of the iconic Osaka Five (though it now operates out of Okayama). Since the early ’90s, this popular label has employed luxurious fibres like Zimbabwean cotton to create vintage-style jeans that are equal parts tough and comfortable.

11. Full Count

Drawing inspiration from the California coastline, this Nagano-based brand remains best-known for its slim and mid-weight raw denim, which ages impeccably and lasts forever. More than the creator of expensive Japanese jeans, The Flat Head also offers jackets, wallets, and other clothing and accessories of considerable quality.

12. The Flat Head

Founded by a former denim apprentice in 2008, TCB stands for both “Taking Care of Business” and “Two Cats Brand.” It reproduces vintage American designs from various eras by way of Japanese methods. The range is famously small and broken down according to the decade that inspired it (’20s, ’50s, etc). Meanwhile, the prices are relatively low, the quality is high, and the style is classic.

13. TCB

Let’s give it up for the first brand to produce 100% Japanese denim jeans! Sure, that makes Big John something of an old-school titan, but it also makes them the godfather of Japanese selvedge denim, among other things. Plus, the label keeps pace with the latest and greatest trends. Put it all together and you get one of the best Japanese denim brands, period.

14. Big John

While Japanese denim jeans might differ from one pair to the next, the country’s foremost brands are best known for two things: selvedge denim and raw denim. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t quite the same thing. To elucidate, raw denim is denim that hasn’t been pre-washed and selvedge denim—which comes from the phrase “self-edge”—refers to a tight and natural edge that can only be achieved via specific methods.

What is Japanese Selvedge Denim?

In the decades following WWII, nearly all the denim in Japan was sourced from America. However, a company named Kurabo Mills decided to craft its own denim fabric in the small town of Kojima (which is now known as a veritable Japanese denim hub within the broader Okayama prefecture). After some gruelling trial and error, Kurabo created KD-8 denim in 1972. KD was named for the mill in which the material was created and 8 made reference to the number of attempts it took to get it right.

Why is Japanese Denim Considered the Best?

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