From cowboy to couture

Every month Scott Morrison makes about 30 pairs of jeans in front of his customers at his store, 3x1, in SoHo, New York. Called Bespoke, each pair costs upwards of $1,200 and takes up to six and a half hours to perfect. Once a pattern exists, however, subsequent jeans – aka “Custom Made” – can be tailored for between $525 and $775.

There are 10 customers who have each bought more than 50 pairs of the Bespoke or Custom Made jeans since he opened the store last year. That’s 500 pairs, several hundred thousand dollars worth of denim, and it is the latest, most extreme example of a trend of men’s obsession with luxury jeans.

“We do make for women but about 95 per cent of Bespoke is for men,” says Morrison. “It’s been eye-opening. A lot of the customers for our Bespoke service are hard-to-fit guys, such as 7ft 1in NBA basketball players, but others are men who have had a great experience having suits tailored and now want a perfect pair of jeans.”

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, is a fan. “I’ve been following Scott’s work since I discovered Paper Denim & Cloth [a former Morrison brand] in 2005,” he says. “I was immediately struck by his honest craftsmanship.” Indeed, Dorsey tweeted his appreciation earlier this year, which brought 3x1 to the attention of Robert Klap, a London-based private equity manager, who has since bought three pairs of Bespoke jeans, one Custom Made pair, and one pair of non-denim shorts. Klap says: “They are worth buying because they are of uniquely high quality. I don’t buy jeans from any other brand now, and I wear mine on evenings and weekends and to the office on some Fridays. My favourite pair is a slim-fit boot cut in the 14oz black XX46 Kurabo denim, woven in Japan, with black enamel hardware and black thread.”

Morrison is not the only one to have targeted luxury jeans – virtually every designer is offering a premium-priced version for men. Maison Martin Margiela’s slim-fit five-pocket cotton jeans are £270, as are Jil Sander’s. Dolce & Gabbana has a distressed wash jean at £325. Brioni’s brown stretch denim jeans are £340 while Gucci’s black denims cost £445. Japanese designer Junya Watanabe has collaborated with Levi’s for a slim-fit, made in Japan pair at £535. Balmain’s moto-cross-inspired black jeans cost £595 and are one of the few luxury jeans that go beyond the classic five-pocket western style. With autumn in mind, Loro Piana has a cotton jean (£665) lined with an 85:15 cotton-cashmere fabric.

At 3x1, which is part atelier, part temple for worshippers of denim, the entry-level garment is the Limited Edition jean at $285–$425. These are made in limited numbers of only eight, 12, 16 or 24 pieces. Each are hemmed and finished with a waist button and rivets of the customer’s choice. All 3x1 jeans are made on the premises, so watching the production process is part of the experience. Denim jackets can also be specially made.

Actor Orlando Bloom with a jacket from 3x1

The shop stocks about 175 types of denim from all over the world, including 115 versions of selvedge denims. Selvedge denim is highly prized by jeans lovers as it is woven on artisanal old-fashioned narrow looms rather than mechanised wide ones. The selvedge – the “self edge” vertical trim that marks the limit of the cloth – is only seen when the jeans are rolled up. “We attract a lot of serious jeans collectors because we have denims that they won’t have seen anywhere else, like heather-grey selvedge denim,” says Morrison, who believes this concentration of interest in high-class jeans shows that a wider revival is likely.

He should know. When he founded Paper Denim & Cloth in 1999, the premium jeans line was part of a primarily US denim movement that included high-fashion names such as Frankie B, Earl Jean and 7 For All Mankind. Then, in 2004, Morrison left Paper Denim & Cloth to launch denim brand Earnest Sewn.

“The premium denim sector was doing well until the economy faltered and since then the market has been dominated by twill pants like chinos, coloured chinos, prints,” Morrison says. “But my sense is that [we] will see people realising that a great pair of blue jeans is worth wearing again.”

3x1, 15 Mercer St New York, NY 10013, tel: +1 212-391-6969 (Junya Watanabe stockist)

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