Oni x Tanuki 21.5oz Secret Denim Jeans Review

When Tanuki sent me my first pair of jeans to review, I remember telling them that I really wanted them to make their Oni x Tanuki collaboration jeans in the regular fit. The reason was that while I normally prefer more vintage-oriented and reproduction-style jeans right now, I do sometimes find myself tempted by more modern jeans with fabrics that push the boundaries rather than try to recapture old magic. In 2019, Tanuki only made their Oni collaboration jeans in slimmer fits that I would not personally wear. I actually did not expect them to ever do it, but they did finally offer their 21.5oz Oni x Tanuki fabric in their “regular” cut and they were kind enough to send me this pair to review as well. 

My size 36 Tanuki Earth Denim jeans that I previously reviewed

I enjoyed the first pair of Tanuki jeans that I received, but I was never able to wear them too much because I was losing weight when I got them and the size 36 ended up becoming too large for me fairly quickly. To explain just how poorly they ended up fitting, this new pair is in the same cut, are size 31, and the waist is also too big on these as well. However, I do feel that these fit me pretty well overall.

The measurements are as follows for my one wash pair after about 10 wears:

Waist: 16.5”

Front Rise: 12”

Rear Rise: 15”

Upper Thigh: 11.75” (this is an entire inch smaller than Tanuki’s measurement)

Knee: 9”

Hem: 8.2”

Inseam: 29”

These are called the regular fit and I suppose by modern standards, they are a fairly regular fit. The rise is a little lower than I would prefer and the hem is a little tighter than I would like, but given that Tanuki is a more modern denim company that is focused on people who tend to like more modern jeans and modern fits, this silhouette makes sense for them. In fairness, I think the jeans look pretty good on me. My only real issue with them is that the hem is too small for them to look good with my engineer boots. They technically fit over my engineers, but I do not think they look great with them. 

Something that I need to clarify is that the only reason this cut works for me is because I am not very tall and have all my jeans hemmed to a 29” inseam. Tanuki’s measurement for the leg opening of these jeans with the full inseam of almost 36” is 7.68”. For me, this would be basically unwearable. I do not think that leg openings under 8” look good with any boots aside from sleek Chelsea boots. This is why I really do not consider this pair of jeans to be a regular cut. They work out to be a modern regular cut for me thanks to the hem, but if I were taller, these would actually be a pretty slim cut. I personally am actually pretty happy with how well these jeans fit and look on me, but I do not think the label is accurate.

I think the cut is overall good for me personally and is in between a more modern tapered fit and a true classic silhouette, which is probably what Tanuki was going for. If you are someone who is used to more skinny and tapered fits and would like to branch out to a more classic or generous cut that looks better with your boots, but don’t want to go all out with a full vintage style cut and are fairly short, then I think this would be a great option. These jeans certainly are not loose in their cut.

The real star of the show here is the fabric. If you know me, you will know that for the last few years, I have been much more into repro and vintage-style denim than modern Japanese denim and I do not see that changing anytime soon. However, there are certain fabrics that are more modern that excite me and this is one of them.  I am not a fan of overly-textured, gimmicky denim and I am not a fan of heavyweight denim anymore. However, I love these. To be clear, I do not think this fabric is overly textured or gimmicky. I think it’s just restrained enough to not be classified in the category of gimmick denim (in my opinion). 

The Oni x Tanuki jeans (lighting is a little dark and yellow in the inside shots)

As an example of Oni’s famous secret denim, it is very loosely woven and has a fairly rough handfeel, while not being uncomfortable. The one-washed denim is actually pretty soft and flexible from the beginning and not crispy at all. This means that it is extremely easy to wear from the get go. To me, it feels like I’m wearing 18oz denim rather than 21.5oz denim. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was more comfortable at the start than some stiffer 14oz fabrics I have worn. The texture is present and noticeable, but not obnoxious. There aren’t any massive slubs and it’s not overly neppy. Slubs and neps are present, but not overly so. It’s just a nice, noticeable rough texture. I think this creates a denim that is interesting without having a gimmick, like some overly textured denim does. It’s just a heavyweight, loosely woven denim.

What really sets it apart for me is the color. The combination of the much brighter, almost royal blue warp with the beige weft creates a stunning color combination in my opinion. This combined with the texture of the fabric make it look gorgeous to my eyes. In fact, it is the only new modern denim that I have been interested in at all since getting into repro and vintage oriented denim. If I had to choose, I would still pick the RJB left hand twill fabric over this, but that isn’t being made anymore so this is my favorite modern-style denim fabric being made today. Plus, my RJB denim is in a cut that is way too skinny for my preferences now so I will be wearing this denim a lot more than that pair.

As with my previous pair from Tanuki, construction is quite good. Of course, it is not at Ooe Yofukuten or Roy levels, but it is as good as most other high end Japanese jeans that I have owned which means there are no actual faults and everything is put together cleanly. There is a nice variation of stitches per inch with higher SPI for thinner threads and lower SPI for thicker threads as expected. Some of the downsides are that the extra threads underneath the overlock stitching at the crotch could have been trimmed further and that there are quite a few threads that could have been singed or cut to give a cleaner appearance. This is not any different than most pairs of jeans, but I have seen a couple that really clean this area up and separate themselves from the rest. Tanuki have not done that, but it is nothing disappointing either. There was also a flaw on the crotch of the jeans, where the chainstitch fell off the seam that it was supposed to be stitching. I’m not super worried about this, but it is something worth pointing out and is a bit disappointing.

Tanuki are quite partial to putting a lot of interesting and unique details into their jeans. They are not quite at Samurai level of ostentatious detailing, but they certainly have a lot going on with their jeans. How much you like this is up to your personal preference, but at the very least, these many unique details show care and effort on Tanuki’s part which makes the price more justified to many. If you are purely into more retro and repro style details then these jeans are probably not for you… but then again, the 21.5oz denim should have sent you over to Warehouse or Conners Sewing Factory a few paragraphs ago if you’re a repro guy. Even as someone who is more repro-oriented myself, I appreciate these details. In fact, I actually love all the ridiculous details of Samurai jeans so I am not opposed to having some more modern and unique details on my own jeans.

First of all, Tanuki use quite a few different thread colors. The thread sizes vary a bit, though not as much as some other brands. As Indigo Shrimp has pointed out, a lot of brands from Japan have been putting less effort into this detail as of late. Tanuki here puts themselves above most American brands aside from the likes of Roy and Mister Freedom, but again does not stand out in this category. Where they do stand out a little more is in their thread colors. They have lemon, tea/orange, blue, black, and if you count the “ni” symbol on the back pocket, red and white as well. This is more along the lines of a brand like Momotaro who will often use several colors of thread including pink when sewing their jeans. I would say that Tanuki have done a good job of incorporating the royal blue thread with a majority of lemon/yellow and tea/orange threads for a largely traditional, but still modern look. 

In addition, Tanuki have done a solid job with their customized buttons on the fly, which feature a Tanuki on the front and the “ni” symbol on the back. The other buttons are interesting as they only say “Universal” on the back, but are customized to say “Tanuki Inc.” on the front of them. I personally prefer the way Samurai and Momotaro do customized button backs, but this is still a step above some makers. The pocket bag material is a soft light blue herringbone material that while not super tough feeling is of nice quality. This same material is used to half line the back pockets which is a nice touch. The selvedge line is pink and unsurprisingly there is hidden selvedge on the coin pocket. Given that this is a collaboration, the Tanuki patch on the inside of the waistband is joined by the Oni patch on the other side and the leather patch on the back includes both the Oni and Tanuki logos. Topping things off are hidden back pocket rivets and raised belt loops. 

At $335 these jeans are not cheap. However, the price is not ludicrous either in my opinion. Iron Heart charges the exact same price for their 21oz jeans and in terms of fabric, there is no contest between them in my opinion. This fabric is far more interesting and unique compared to the sanforized snooze-fest of Iron Heart’s denim. Of course, there are other great unsanforized 20+oz jeans available from brands such as Samurai and Oni themselves. Oni’s jeans are lighter on the details, but cost less money and have a similar fabric obviously given that this is a modified version of their secret denim. Samurai have fabrics that do not start out as eye-catching as this pair, but do fade very nice and have more exclusive details. They do also cost more in general, however. 

With this in mind, I feel like this pair of jeans is a pretty great option in the 20+oz category of denim. The denim is full of character without being a complete overload of slub and/or nep. The color is also unique without being obnoxious as well. Details are interesting enough to keep most enthusiasts happy and will be especially nice for those upgrading from more entry-level brands. Aside from the inaccuracy of the cut description I think these are quite nice jeans with the fabric easily being the real standout to me.

These jeans look fine with these boots, but they would not work with my engineers

The more I wear these jeans, the more I like how they fit. As far as a modern interpretation of a standard fit goes, I think this is pretty excellent after the hem. They are not quite as wide in the knee and hem as I would personally like and they are not wide enough to look good with my engineer boots, but with most other boots I think they look pretty good. Surprisingly, I am enjoying the relatively lower rise because my TCB jeans have a ridiculously high rise which make some of my leather jackets look too long. These Tanukis have a comparatively lower rise and look more proportional with my leather jackets. 

The way these fit and look on me has caused me to wear them more than I was expecting to and the weight of the denim has not been an issue at all. It’s heavy, but the loose weave makes them pretty soft so after the first day of wear, they were pretty comfortable and easy to wear. With that said, the waist is a little loose on me so I am sure that helps. Downsizing would probably not be a good idea. I went a little loose in the waist (I have a 31.5” waist and these measure 33”) so the thighs and seat would fit me well and that went really well for me. Keep in mind that thigh, hip, and seat fit matter just as much as the waist does if not more in terms of denim and trouser fit. 

As you can tell, I really quite like these jeans. Are they my favorite pair ever? No, but then again they are quite different than my favorite type of jeans anyway so that’s not really a fair question. I think the impressive part is that I still really like these jeans despite the fact that they are so different from what I usually like. This is one of only a couple heavy weight fabrics that I really like and this one is my personal favorite in that category. You can call me biased because I received these jeans for free and that is fair. However, I have still pointed out aspects I do not like about them, especially in terms of the fit and label of the cut which I think is totally inaccurate. It works for me, but for taller people it’s just not an apt label. I would also love to see Tanuki add some custom hidden rivets and the flaw on the crotch chainstitch is a bit disappointing as well.

With these complaints/suggestions voiced, I will say that I will continue to wear these jeans after this review is over. I am certain of that. I’m not sure exactly how often I will wear them, but I know that I will at least sometimes because I do really love the fabric and like how the jeans look with my leather jackets. If that does not happen, I will update that information here. However, I do find these jeans to be a nice change of pace from my usual fare and the relatively lower rise and color works extremely well with a couple of my leather jackets, especially my deerskin Freewheelers Sunset. That jacket in particular looks great with these jeans so at the very least I will be wearing these jeans with that jacket in the future.

If you are interested, check out these jeans on Tanuki’s website. As always, I must point out that this is NOT an affiliate link and I do not get any commission or benefit in any way by providing this link. I always provide the links to products that I review unless I specifically do not recommend them.

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