As if the raw denim subculture wasn’t niche enough, there are several niches within this niche. The most well-known is the heavyweight denim lovers. These guys love their heavy denim more than the British loved Princess Diana and the obsession seems just as perplexing upon first glance. On the surface, there really is no logical reason for the obsession with heavy weight denim that some people have. Heavyweight denim (I’m talking about jeans that are 20oz and higher) are hotter, more expensive, more difficult to break in, and less comfortable than a pair of average weight jeans. They aren’t even more durable than regular jeans (this is up for debate, but it’s really more about your washing habits and the sewing thread used than it is about weight). So why on earth are so many people committed to wearing jeans that weigh more than Kanye West’s ego?
A couple of years ago, I wanted to find this out for myself. At the time, there was more hype around this type of denim than there is now and I wanted to see if the positive aspects extolled by the faithful were actually real and if the negative traits denounced by the heavy denim atheists were as bad as claimed. To put a slight spin on the situation, I bought a pair of jeans that did not come from one of the mainstream heavyweight denim brands. The two most iconic brands are of course Iron Heart and Samurai. These are the two titans of heavyweight denim. Pure Blue Japan and Oni also make popular pairs of hefty pants with Naked and Famous with their Elephant range and 32oz psychotic-masochistic jeans of death and Unbranded with their 21oz denim are well known for heavier denim on the more budget-friendly side of the market.
I decided to go for a pair that was made by a company that did not usually offer heavy jeans, but also a brand that wasn’t (and still isn’t) very well known. The Kamikaze Attack ‘Ball Crusher’ jeans appealed to me for several reasons. The grey weft gave the jeans a very nice and dark appearance, the brand was relatively unknown and seemed to make a great product with a lot of fantastic details at an excellent price, the pants were made from Zimbabwe cotton which is famously soft, and the jeans weighed in at an almost illegal 24oz. Actually, that’s a bit of a misleading statement. They weighed 24oz when raw, but these were unsanforized and unwashed which means that after washing, they weigh somewhere around 27 or 28oz. As far as I know, this matches the heaviest jeans from PBJ and Samurai and only lose out to the 25oz unsanforized jeans from Oldblue and the 32oz Naked and Famous jeans that weigh in at 36oz after soaking which I’m pretty sure will render any wearer infertile after only a couple of months.
So as you can see, I was not dipping my toes into the heavy denim world. I jumped in headfirst naked. The beginning was definitely not easy. Buttoning a pair of super heavyweight denim post-soak was something that was already known to be insanely difficult and this proved to be true. I could hardly get the buttons done up even when the jeans were flat on the floor with me not in them!
What was I doing all this for? The testicle-hating jeans enthusiasts who love weighty denim more than the internet seems to love thicc things these days say that heavy denim is more durable, has more protection, fades in a unique way with higher contrast, and actually becomes extremely comfortable after a couple of months of wear. The first two claims have either been disproven or are pointless unless you ride a motorcycle, but the second two points are what really had me interested in trying denim like this in the first place. Supposedly, jeans this thicc will fade much differently than light weight pairs and with a very high contrast. In fact, Southeast Asian heavyweight denim-wearers have achieved such high contrast fades in such a short amount of time that they have been accused of cheating and artificially fading their jeans on multiple occasions.
Honestly, you don’t need to buy a pair yourself to see that this is true. The weight of denim does make a difference in the way it fades. Of course, there are a number of factors so I’m not sure that heaver jeans necessarily fade faster. Those infamous Southeast Asian fades have as much to do with the insanely humid climate as they do with the weight of the jeans themselves. That said, once you see enough pairs of jeans, it’s pretty easy to tell when fades are coming from heavy jeans vs. lighter jeans. There is a certain look that only comes from heavier weight fabric.
Can you tell which pair is considered heavyweight and which is not? I bet you can.
Whether or not this is better is entirely subjective. In my case, it’s tough to tell for sure because I have trouble giving my denim the time it deserves due to work, my lack of social life, and the fact that I wear a lot of chinos and trousers in addition to jeans. That said, I do feel like my Kamikaze Attack jeans faded faster than any other pair that I have owned. My RJBs that I reviewed in the last post are about equal or slightly more faded despite being worn for at least 3 months longer.
As far as the comfort claim is concerned, I was surprised to find that it was true. While extremely stiff, thick, and painful to the point of making me bleed at first, these jeans are now extremely comfortable. They really are like denim sweatpants, but without the stretchy waistband that allows you to eat bags of double stuffed Oreos without feeling like a failure. This unique feel definitely won me over and I really started to understand the love of heavy jeans.
On the other hand, they are hotter in general than other pairs of jeans. These made me sweat like a potato in a microwave, but I was able to wear them for an entire summer without dying of heat stroke… I just ruined a couple of shirts with sweat. The heavyweight faithful will argue that the tightness or looseness of the weave has a lot to do with the comfort level and this is true in part. I had a pair of 18oz jeans that were far cooler in summer than some 14oz jeans due to the different fabrics. However, once you get really high in ounces, you can’t really make a jean comfortable in anything about 85 degrees F. At that point, it’s up to the tolerance of the wearer and just how much they need the sikk faedz.
The discomfort of wearing these throughout an entire summer along with the discovery of RJB was what caused me to put my Kamikaze Attack jeans back in the closet for a few years, but I will admit that I still have them and will probably start wearing them again in the near future once fall finally hits Southern California around Valentine’s Day. Despite being modestly priced and from a brand that has few singing its praises, I found these to be very well constructed and with some excellent details.
The stitching has so far held up perfectly as well which is very nice to see from a less popular brand. The fabric itself has some nice texture without going overboard and is a truly wonderful shade thanks to the grey weft. I love very dark indigo jeans and these really hit the spot for me. The pocket bags are branded with the company’s logo, the silver selvedge line is gorgeous, and the branding such as the patch, tab, and top button are clever and unique. The company’s name, branding, and slogan “mission to take over the world” make me laugh and make it quite unsurprising that the brand was born out of a tattoo shop.
So here is the final score: Yes, heavyweight denim is more painful to break in, generally hotter to wear, not more durable, and generally more expensive. On the other hand, there are some great deals out there for those who love denim armor, they do fade differently, and they do (at least in my case) become extremely comfortable after being broken in as long as the weather is right and you don’t wear engineer boots all year like silly me. I can say with confidence that I am not done with heavy denim and while I am on a vintage/high rise/classic cut kick right now I will almost certainly buy another pair of jeans like these in the future. I will count myself on the side of the heavyweight fanboys and say that I understand the appeal of this type of jean far more than I understand the Princess Diana obsession.
As for Kamikaze Attack, I have only positive things to say about the brand. My brother has a pair of their black denim that were bought for less than the price of Naked and Famous jeans that have held up brilliantly and still look great after over a year of constant wear. My ball crushers have held up well, have some great details and a truly wonderful denim that I love, and were very reasonably priced at under $300. To this day I still do not understand how I was able to buy 24oz jeans made from Zimbabwe cotton that were well made in Japan for such a price. In addition, the slim straight cut is actually one of the best fits I have worn. The taper is extremely minor, just like my RJB jeans which I adore. Of course, I wish that the rise was higher, but like with the RJB jeans, critiquing the fit is pointless considering that they aren’t made anymore. The only downside is that I haven’t seen much from the brand since in terms of new denim, but I hope they come back with a vengeance to complete their mission to take over the world… or at least the denim world.