Levi’s let me down. Like so many fickle heritage brands that flinch at the ephemera of trends, abandoning their DNA so they can keep up with the kids and cut corners/costs and satisfy shareholders, they stopped offering what many loyal customers have relied on and enjoyed for years. For a nice pair of raw selvedge slim-fitting jeans to wear with t-shirts, jackets and everything in between, my go-to fit number was 511. Over this past year, it seems Levi’s has abandoned this model, forcing me to search elsewhere.
Enter Dearborn Denim.
First, I’ll just say that – contrary to what many of my own past and present clients feel – a consistent social media marketing campaign works. I initially discovered Dearborn Denim on Instagram. They grabbed my attention with a pitch for a pair of Chicago-made jeans constructed with a promise of quality American-made denim for $65. Naturally, I was compelled to tap the link to their website.
Here’s what I learned… Established in 2016, Dearborn Denim cuts, sews and crafts everything at their Chicago factory, using materials (denim, zippers, buttons, leather, screws) sourced from the U.S. They sell a lot of stretch denim, of course, because that’s what the kids want. But I was relieved to find that they also make jeans with 100% cotton 13 oz. denim in a tailored fit with either a dark wash or a vintage wash.
Using their size calculator, I entered my height (5’9”) and weight (145). The result suggested I buy 30” W x 31” L, which I did. When my new tailored fit jeans arrived a few days later via USPS, they were too big in both the waist and a little too long. Fortunately, Dearborn makes exchanges pretty easy. I followed their exchange instructions, ordering another pair in 29” W x 30” L. The new pair arrived a few days later. I slipped them on, and they fit!
About the jeans… As advertised on their website, Dearborn’s jeans are pre-shrunk, which meant I’d be wanting a pair that fit right out of the bag. The 30” x 31” pair might have fit better after a wash in hot water and a tumble in the dryer in high heat. But I don’t like what happens to denim when it’s machine dried. I prefer a cold water wash (inside out) and a line dry to preserve the size, the color and the shape the jeans take after I’ve worn them over and over.
The fit of Dearborn’s tapered model was a very nice surprise, feeling pretty good right out of the bag. As of this writing (and in the photo above), I’ve been wearing them for about a week, still unwashed. The taper is slim but not skinny, and the 11” rise is noticeably more generous and comfortable than the rise of a pair of Levi’s 511s.
I also like the color of the dark wash, which is as dark as untreated raw denim. Although Dearborn’s jeans are pre-shrunk, the denim is not quite as soft and limp as other pre-shrunk jeans you might find, but certainly not as stiff as raw denim. Before any first washing, they have a definite rigidity to them. The 100% cotton 13 oz. denim is made with ansler ring-spun yarn, which is created by twisting the cotton strands to make a fine, strong, soft rope of cotton fibers. Sure, it would be great if the denim were selvedge, but for $65, I don’t think I care too much about showing off the inner seam of my jeans. Essentially, I’m liking them a lot.
In the shipping bag with the new smaller pair, Dearborn included a return shipping label and a new shipping bag for the first pair that didn’t fit. I put the original pair in the shipping bag and sent them on their way. Painless. Well done, Dearborn.
All in, despite the slight inaccuracy of their sizing algorithm, my first Dearborn Denim experience was pretty good. The price is fantastic, the return/exchange process is easy and, most importantly, the jeans look and feel great. I’d buy them again.