In a previous article, I claimed that the raw denim and heritage workwear trend was in fact not a trend and would last for many years to come largely thanks to the internet having allowed us to connect and keep our passion for denim alive. The internet communities are responsible for making raw denim blow up the way it did in the first place and I believe that they warrent a closer look due to their importance in keeping our hobby alive in the future.
The first point that must be pointed out is that there are a large number of raw denim/work wear communities online and while they can all be connected even easier than Kevin Bacon to any movie, they are all separate and unique from each other. Specifically, the communities I will be discussing today are Reddit (r/rawdenim), the forums (Superdenim, Denimbro, Iron Heart, The Fedora Lounge), and of course, Instagram. Obviously, these are not the only communities and there are more forums than the ones I listed, but I want to limit my scope to what I have experience with. This article is intended to give a brief and obviously very biased point of view of each of these communities to show the pros and cons of the denim communities and why each of these spheres of denim is so important to our larger denim world.
Let’s start with Reddit because if I’m honest, it’s the community that I know the least about and have the least experience with so while you should take all of my opinions (and anyone’s for that matter) with a grain of salt, please make sure to take my comments on Reddit with a large order of McDonald’s french fries and a side of American Chinese take out. The first thing that jumps out to me about reddit is how beginner-friendly it is. That may come off as a backhanded compliment, but I mean it in the most genuine way possible. From my limited experience, more basic questions get the least amount of hate on r/rawdenim and the community there is more receptive to certain brands that would be scoffed at on forums such as Naked and Famous.
Scanning through as I read this, I see everything from daily discussions (a staple of r/rawdenim) fade updates, fit checks, news articles related to denim, and questions such as “what are the differences between the two types of button fly?” and “How big a deal are tucked belt loops?” These questions may already be understood by many, but they are good questions in my opinion and the great thing about r/rawdenim is that there are actually answers to both of these questions from users. There is also a simple questions thread/post dedicated to answering these types of inquiries.
This is not to say that more experienced denim heads would not get anything out of this community, because they can and do. The point is that from my view and experience posting and viewing r/rawdenim, it is a relatively casual community when compared to others that is great for asking questions, learning information, getting the right fit on your jeans, and discussing brands like Naked and Famous, Unbranded, APC, and Gustin.
Forums do share some similarities with r/rawdenim. Members do post fade updates and people do ask and answer questions, but things are a bit more extreme in these necks of the woods. In general, forums are much more nerdy when it comes to denim and discussions can be… heated. Forums also have a lot of variance because unlike r/rawdenim, there is more than one of them. The Iron Heart Forum obviously caters mostly to Iron Heart jeans and is the only major denim brand to have their own forum, such is the level of dedication to the brand. Obviously, if you are interested in Iron Heart products, you will be able to learn everything you thought you wanted to know and more here.
Superdenim has some extremely knowledgable people on the forum, including the owner of Self Edge himself, Kiya. There are threads for brands ranging from TCB to Iron Heart to Warehouse and the general trend is to higher end and more expensive Japanese brands, though Roy is also very popular here. Even more extreme than this is Denimbruin, which caters to a crowd that tends to prefer an even more vintage look. Brands like Mister Freedom, Freewheelers, The Real McCoys, Conner’s Sewing Factory, and Roy are popular here. As you may be able to guess, this is the denim forum I have spent the most amount of time on due to my preference for more vintage/classic looks.
However, the forum that I have spent the most time on overall is The Fedora Lounge, which is by far the most extreme and vintage-oriented forum I have been on. My advise is to stick to the outerwear section if, like me, you wish to learn everything you possibly can about leather jackets. There is not much about raw denim here, but engineer boots, work boots, and especially leather jackets are talked about at length here and there really is no better place online to learn about leather jackets besides David Himel’s blog.
The forums are where you go when denim and work wear become more than just a casual hobby to you and you want to learn everything you possibly can and interact with those that are just as passionate and nerdy as you are. Unsurprisingly, this level of passion often gives way to heated arguments and many disagreements. I have talked to several people who specifically stay away from forums due to their volatility. That said, I still believe they are extremely invaluable and important because without them, I would probably not be into raw denim at all anymore. I personally believe that despite their problems, forums are necessary to connect those like myself who become consumed with their hobbies and have a need to geek out with others and argue about whether the Mister Freedom or Freewheelers deck jacket is better and whether or not Conner’s Sewing Factory put their pleat stitches in the correct spot on their 1946 Levi’s Type I jacket reproduction.*
Instagram is an entirely different beast. I technically joined over a year ago, but have only really posted for about 8 months and have only been very serious by posting every day and interacting with people since I started this blog and purchased my camera around August/September. I point this out because I want to make it clear that I have not been heavily invested in this platform for as long as many others have been, but I still feel as though I can come to a reasonable conclusion with my thoughts on it.
There are two things that have struck me about Instagram since truly getting into it. The first is that the community here is really quite friendly, supportive, and helpful from my experience. In fact, I have already met with the guys from the ladenimhangs crew in person and they were even friendlier and amazing to hang out with in person than they were to talk to through my phone. Even the members with some of the most followers and most popular accounts have been very quick to respond to messages and very nice people which surprised me. Inn8chiro, Johanmalik80, yonagrinberg, clobbercalm, thisnormallife all have vastly more followers than I have and have all been nothing short of fantastic to interact with and this is not including everyone else that I have met and messaged. Overall, it really is a very positive vibes kind of place, at least in the raw denim community.
The other thing that struck me most was the different brands that were popular on Instagram. I had never even heard of Shockoe Atelier before and while I knew that 3Sixteen and Red Wing sold well in stores, I never knew who bought them because none of these brands were overly popular on denim forums. Looking through Instagram definitely answered that question for me. In fact, Red Wing is ubiquitous on that platform to the point that I almost feel as though there is some conspiracy. On forums, Red Wing ranges from accepted to reviled, yet on Instagram, they are worshiped as the best brand in the universe by many.
The only real issue with Instagram is the fact that while I have learned about several new brands on the platform, the brands represented are a little narrow at times and most are not to my taste. The other issue is that because it is picture based, actual discussion can be rare. Of course, dm’ing someone changes that and people like ladenimhangs have started to get instagrammers to meet in person which is a strong step in the right direction. This, combined with the positive overall feel on this platform definitely encourages people who want to post pictures of their denim life to continue to do so, which as of right now means that this community still appears to be growing which is wonderful and very healthy for the denim world as a whole.
All of these platforms, despite their flaws (or things that I do not personally love) are quite invaluable and all contribute to keeping the passion and community of the raw denim and heritage work wear world alive. I personally have and continue to utilize all of these platforms to gain knowledge, post pictures, have discussions, and generally interact with others who share my hobby. If you participate on one of these platforms and no others, I encourage you to give some of the others a try and if you don’t utilize any, I certainly suggest you start now. Each is different enough to exist independently, but all are united in keeping the raw denim community alive and therefore, preventing it from becoming a forgotten trend.
*Yes, these conversations have actually happened