In a community that is all about heritage, tradition, reproductions, and for some people, cosplaying as a 1920’s railroad worker, making headway as a new brand is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible. If I had a dollar for every failed raw denim brand, I’d be able to afford a pair of Gold Label Momotaros. In fact, the only idea that is even close to as difficult as that is attempting to do anything new and modern. Making minor tweaks, adding a few convenience features, and making the fits more modern is acceptable, but too much modernization is often frowned upon and completely new ideas are rarely even attempted, let alone successful. It is therefore safe to assume that starting a new brand that focuses on new and modern ideas would result in products as popular as the DC Cinematic Universe.
Despite these odds, however, Nine Lives has managed the impossible and is taking the raw denim world by storm. Certainly, their products are divisive, but they have at least as many fans as they do haters, making them much more akin to Blade Runner 2049 than any of DC’s garbage. The fact that such a new brand with such brave designs is successful means that they must be doing something right. In fact, they are doing almost everything right. Some products are selling better than others as with all brands, but overall, the brand has made a strong impact in a very short period of time. Today, we will be looking at my favorite of their releases yet.
I have worn this shirt extensively and it has held up beautifully
If you know me, you know that I am a massive fan of The Flat Head and RJB, the two most well-known brands from Masayoshi Kobayashi. My favorite products from them are their shirts which have without question, the most impressive patterned fabrics in the raw denim world, if not the entire world. This is a strong statement, but looking at the flannel patterns, jacquard fabrics, and other patterned fabrics that they have released proves that at the very least, no brand in the heritage and raw denim market comes close to them as a whole in terms of fabric design and intricacy.
The Nine Lives “short circuit”/”dmt” check shirt is the first shirt from a different brand I have ever seen that is on the same level as Flat Head/RJB’s best fabrics in that like the best Kobayashi designs, it looks great from far away and even better up close. Most intricate fabrics that look beautiful up close look too busy and messy from far away. Either that, or their just not that interesting and aren’t even all that complex or deep. However, this shirt does in fact manage to achieve beauty both from afar and up close.
This fabric is stunning!
How is this possible? Starting with the basics, the color combination is brilliant here. Burgundy is one of my absolute favorite colors and it is underutilized in the raw denim sphere. Nine Lives not only used this color, but also combined it brilliantly with brown and white instead of black. When Burgundy and red are used, they are nearly always paired with off white or black. This combination with brown is unique and beautiful. From a distance, it appears to be a simple combination of those two colors with a splash of white. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that 5 colors of threads are used instead of 3. This adds a lot of depth to the shirt upon closer inspection.
With more sunlight, the brown really comes alive
Adding to the beauty of the shirt is the pattern of the weave. From a distance, it is a fairly simple, but still very attractive and unique plaid pattern. However, closer inspection reveals that it is far more intricate and complex than at first glance. This, combined with the different thread colors gives this shirt incredible depth up close. At certain angles and distances, the fabric almost appears to be 3d as it really jumps out with great pop. As with the best fabrics, it really requires an abundance of close inspection to truly appreciate.
The raglan sleeves are a very cool design feature
While the fabric is the star of the show, there are other design details that truly stand out and bring this shirt to the highest of levels. Personally, I love the choice of YKK snap buttons for a non-western style shirt. The raglan sleeves are another unique and welcomed choice. These two details, combined with the slim silhouette and lack of any pockets gives this shirt a very modern, streamlined appearance that straddles the line between classic button down and western shirt. It is impressive that this shirt combines so many design ideas without looking like a camel. This is a sign that the Nine Lives design team has some true talent.
It looks OK untucked
The construction is top notch unsurprisingly. On a shirt with a fabric this complex, they wisely decided to not use contrast thread for the constructional stitching. Upon close inspection, I could not find any wonky or loose stitches. There was one thread that was not cut off, but this is a better result than most Japanese shirts I own and vastly better than the American and Canadian shirts I own. Overall, the construction is excellent and near the top of the pile in my experience.
However, not everything is perfect. There are a couple of minor issues that I do want to point out. Firstly, the center back seam is overlock stitched instead of flat felled. This is not a massive issue, but I would definitely have preferred it to be flat felled for greater durability. On the plus side, this was the only overlocked seam that I found. The bigger issue is the fit. My shirt is a size large and it measures as follows:
To me, this is far too small of a chest measurement for a size large. In addition, the fit is extremely slim. In fact, it is too slim in my opinion. I will admit that part of this is due to the fact that I could stand to lose a few pounds, but even so, I do feel that this shirt is too slim. The length is also slightly awkward. It is not short enough to be worn untucked easily and is not as long as I would prefer for a shirt meant to be tucked. I would have preferred if they had either gone the Flat Head route and made the shirt nice and short for casual wear or make it longer like my Naked and Famous and Freewheelers shirts for easier tucking. When I first received it, I wore the shirt untucked, but I now wear it tucked exclusively.
Despite my gripes about the fit, I would not say that it is a poorly designed fit. On taller, slimmer people, this shirt is incredibly flattering. What is better is that Nine Lives listened to feedback and did tweak the fit of these shirts for the second round and it was a much improved and more versatile fit. This is very encouraging to see. The fact that the company will constantly make improvements and listen to feedback is a highly positive trait that instills confidence and faith in customers. They have also added a couple of different colorways, giving quite a lot of choice depending on your preferences.
But I think it looks better tucked
This is one of my all-time favorite shirts. Despite my small complaints, this is a winner on nearly every level. What is most impressive is that there really is nothing else like it on the market. Ian and K at Nine Lives have an infectious amount of passion for their company as I mentioned in the last article, and items such as this one demonstrate this with unquestionable clarity. Despite being so new to the raw denim world, Nine Lives has become a major name and is creating some of the most unique and beautiful pieces around. Unlike nearly all newer brands in this subculture, Nine Lives has truly set itself apart and made a strong name for themselves. Much of what they produce is quite polarizing, but that is exactly what sets them apart and in my opinion, it is exactly what this scene needs.
With design and quality this high, the price is equally high. This shirt goes for $320-$340 depending on the colorway. In my opinion, it is worth every penny of that price. If the style is not for you, the price is not relevant and if you dig this shirt, you will never regret buying it. I hope that Nine Lives comes out with even more colorways for this shirt in the future and I am very excited to see what they come out with in the future.
Check out Nine Lives’ website here: https://ninelivesbrand.com/
Follow them on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/ninelivesbrand/