My First Denim Love: RJB 103bsp Review

Over the first couple of years in my journey into the world of raw denim, I owned several different pairs of jeans that never really got enough wear. I was still in the process of learning simple, but important things such as the difference between sanforized and unsanforized and how to buy jeans that actually fit. Eventually, I finally found a pair that I actually committed to singularly for a period of well over a year and it was one that I never thought I would ever want to own.

A few years ago, The Flat Head/RJB was one of, if not the biggest name in raw denim as far as the western world was concerned. Their status has dropped a little bit as of late, but the quality has remained as perfect as ever and they are still my favorite brand in the world. In fact, all of my every day carry items (wallet, key ring, rings, necklace) all are Flat Head/RJB items. I have more items from this  brand than any other and that’s largely because their shirts, sneakers, leather items, and jewelry are so beautiful. They became famous originally for their denim, however. Back in the ancient times when high contrast fades were favored, which was basically the entire life of the raw denim subculture up until around 2016, The Flat Head’s Pioneer denim was the gold standard. It was famous for its incredible construction, apparent, but not extreme fabric texture, and most importantly, quick fades. Masayoshi Kobayashi and his team created a denim that had everything that 90% of denim heads at the time were after and to top it off, had stunning vertical fades as well.

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Back in the day (the day is specifically from 2012-2015) during my early days of denim, the hype was so grandiose for The Flat Head that I immediately discounted the brand just like I discounted Bruno Mars because I hate modern pop and The Sixth Sense because everything Shamalamadingdong has touched since it has been more abhorrent than watching American politics. At the time, I thought that they were too expensive for what they offered and were overhyped. How could they not be considering how hyped they were? At the time, they were the Harry Potter of the denim world. Just like everyone’s favorite wizard, it felt like everyone loved The Flat Head and those that did not were the idiots who preferred Twilight. Even the people that did not wear the brand had massive respect for them. Giles from Iron Heart actually brought Flat Head items back from Japan to sell for crying out loud. That’s the same as Microsoft selling Nintendo products on the Xbox Live arcade.

My interest was finally piqued when I saw the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen in my entire life. It was a Real Japan Blues diamond jacquard short sleeve shirt. The fabric was the most detailed and incredible fabric I had ever seen. I soon found out that Real Japan Blues (RJB for short) was actually just The Flat Head’s even more luxurious line of clothing. I coveted this item more than I had ever coveted a non-leather item in my life and it immediately made me re-think my bias against The Flat Head and RJB. The shirt did eventually sell out, but by that time I had done sufficient research into the Flat Head and especially RJB and really wanted to try some of their clothing. I ended up purchasing one of their dress shirts and a pair of 103bsp jeans from Self Edge.

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In terms of fit, they are a slim straight fit with an incredibly low rise. The jeans did not shrink as much as advertised, but that ended up working out well for me. They are slim, but not skinny. The leg is about 16.5 inches around which is what I need to comfortably fit them over my engineer boots. My only issue with them is that the rise is insanely low. I can’t really tuck any shirts into these jeans so I don’t wear them too much in the winter when I can’t have shirts hanging out below my leather jackets.

The denim itself is 13.75oz unsanforized right hand twill denim that is made from Zimbabwe cotton. This cotton is not necessarily better than other cottons, but in my experience it is definitely softer than other forms, even pima and supima. As you can see from the pictures, the texture is not extreme. These aren’t PBJ or Oni jeans here. That said, there is a beauty in the subtlety and it is certainly not plain. Where this denim really comes alive is when it fades. RJB jeans seem to not only manage to have beautiful fades in terms of texture, but also in terms of color. This is something that most jeans do not produce. The hues of blue are stunning even from my barely-faded pair and more heavily faded examples show examples of the most stunningly gorgeous blue/grey fades I have ever seen. In fact, my two favorite pairs of faded jeans in history are both made from this denim. It does not fade as quickly as a pair of Flat Heads, however. I have not worn these as much as I would like due to the fact that I can’t wear them to work and also wear a lot of chinos and trousers, but it should still be fairly obvious from the pictures that these are fairly stubborn. Even pairs that have been worn for years still have some very dark indigo left in certain places.

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The construction is unsurprisingly top notch. As far as factory produced jeans go, I would say that RJB and Flat Head jeans are at the very top. I have not ever seen or experienced jeans that are better stitched or with less flaws, just a few that are equally so. Even other brands that many people equate with them actually are not made as well. The only jeans I have seen or owned that are actually better made are my Roy jeans and while the difference is very slight, it is something that I will go into in a future review. That said, these RJBs are still at the top level in terms of construction and details. The arcs are gorgeous, the hardware is RJB branded aside from the Universal branded rear pocket rivets and zipper, the double length knife pocket is quite useful, and the rear pockets are lined. Even the patch is a sight to behold as I adore RJB’s diamond theme branding and their logo. Speaking of the logo, in my opinion it is by far the best looking logo in the entire raw denim world. It’s actually fairly simple, yet beautiful because it manages to combine all three letters into one in an aesthetic way and the pirate swords look great because… pirates are fucking cool.

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The stitching has held up very well over all this time especially considering that I have only washed the jeans once after a couple of initial soaks. The crotch is starting to get thin, but this happens to all my jeans so I will not blame RJB for this. With my Conner’s Sewing Factory jeans becoming a new favorite, I won’t be wearing these as much, but they will be my go to pants whenever I am wearing sneakers until they finally have to be retired.

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These Real Japan Blues jeans are what actually made me fall in love with jeans for the first time and they were what convinced me that unsanforized jeans were what I preferred. More importantly, however, they began my love affair with RJB and Flat Head as a brand that culminated in me actually going to Japan and touring the facilities in Chikuma, Nagano this summer while hanging out with Kobayashi-San for most of the day. The only downside is that as far as I can tell, you cannot buy this fabric anymore. However, the new left hand twill RJB denim is just as beautiful from the outset, so there is no need to despair. Once these are retired, I will start wearing the pair of that denim I have to see how the fades compare and I have no doubt that I will love them just as much. By the way, I did eventually get that diamond jacquard RJB shirt and will review it in the future. Also, for the record, I absolutely love the Harry Potter series – some of you may have noticed the Deathly Hallows keychain pendant that I have in my pictures…

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