When I’m not in a suit, my regular uniform when I’m working from home, walking the dogs and getting around the neighborhood is jeans. I’m wearing them right now as I type this. 

Since I lean very heavily on one particular pair, I was in the market for an alternate everyday pair. After so much touch-and-go with Levi’s, a brand to which I’ve tried so hard to remain loyal and a brand that seems to have lost its way over the years, I gave up. So I finally swiped the card on a pair from a brand I’ve had my eye on for years: Tellason.

Tellason first came onto my radar back in 2011 at the Pop Up Flea here in New York City. They were among dozens of carefully selected purveyors of American-made clothing, furniture, housewares and other goods. Along with Levi’s, who was at the Flea showcasing their American-made and vintage wear at the time, Tellason was a relative newcomer in the denim space. 

Tellason was started in San Francisco around 2009 by longtime friends Tony Patella and Pete Searson in the wake of the crash in a desire to address buying habits and disposability with an eye on durability and craftsmanship. Their freshman design was a slim-straight fit called the “John Graham Mellor.”

A pair of John Graham Mellor jeans from Tellason. (Photo: Tellason)

Since then, Tellason has expanded their offerings with other straight and tapered cuts of jeans for different body types, all of which are made in San Francisco and available in 12.5 oz, 14.75 oz or 16.5 oz denim weights. 

I clicked the purchase button on a pair of John Graham Mellors in 16.5 oz denim. Several days and $230 later, they arrived. When I put them on, I knew immediately that I’d found a fantastic pair of jeans. Constructed with the timeless five-pocket, button-fly design, the slim-straight is perfect for my build, with a great fit at the waist and seat and a low rise without being too low. (Quite honestly, the rise of 501s was always too high for me, and the legs were always too wide, even after a hot wash.) The pocket bags are made with a really tough fabric, too, which is a refreshing bonus for a guy whose keys have made holes in many pockets of other jeans over the years.

And about the denim… Tellason uses a proprietary Kaihara Japanese raw selvedge denim. What is raw denim? Raw denim is pure denim that has remained untouched after the dyeing process, untreated with any chemicals or water like other “washed” or pre-treated jeans. Raw denim is much better for the environment and makes for a truly unique and personalized pair of jeans once you start wearing them. The fade marks are earned and truly yours. And since the denim hasn’t been degraded and compromised by any toxic or mechanical processes, the jeans last much longer, making the cost-per-wear a much better value over time.

Another word that might not be familiar to some is selvedge. Selvedge (originally “self-edge”) refers to “a narrow tightly woven band on either edge of fabric parallel to the warp that prevents fabric from raveling.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. 

Tellason’s raw denim is also sanforized, which means the denim was stretched and shrunk at the mill, producing a denim that only shrinks 1-3% as opposed to the 10% shrinkage of regular shrink-to-fit jeans.

I must mention, however, that I got an unexpected gift with my jeans. The pair I got from Tellison happened to be pulled from their last remaining stock made with Cone Mills White Oak denim. Started in the early 1900s, the Cone Mills White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina was once the world’s largest producer of selvedge denim and was the last selvedge denim plant in the United States. As denim goes, it produced the gold standard. The old cherry wood flooring at the plant provided a “bounce” for the original looms at the plant, giving the denim a special character and depth that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. After the company produced its last run of selvedge denim in 2017, the private equity firm that owned the plant closed it permanently. I consider myself very lucky to have a pair of jeans made with Cone Mills White Oak denim, and I’m grateful to Pete Searson for the handwritten note he sent with them.

These days, the denim connoisseurs know that the good stuff is being made in Japan, and Tellason has tapped a really good source. When I’m ready for my next pair, they’ll be hearing from me.

A note on price…

Barring any special editions or collaborations, Tellason’s jeans are all $230/pair as of this writing. This can certainly seem like a steep number for a pair of jeans. But considering the cost-per-wear I mentioned above, plus the sourcing of the highest quality denim in the world with a consideration of environmental impact, and the fact that these durable jeans are made right here in the U.S.A. with a timeless design that will never go out of style, I would consider them an extremely good value.

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9 Comments

  1. The Husband’s been an APC man (New Standard) for 16 years, with little complaint, save for the 31s getting snatched from the West Village boutique, Jeffrey (RIP!) and Barney’s (RIP for reals!) all too often.

    How do you feel this cut stands up to New Standards, dear George? I’m rather intrigued at domesticallly-produced product, so tell us how long you’ve worn these, how you’ve kept ‘em crisp, and what cut and weight works best for a lanky, 6’1” guy! Xoxo

    • I love these jeans. I’m a lean guy at 5’9″ coming in at a 30″ waist. Had them for about a week. I might wash them in June.

  2. Dutch Uncle Reply

    George: you’re a guy with impeccable taste, but that low-rise really doesn’t suit you. Looks like you’re trying to look cool, but you don’t need to try—you’re already cool.

    • And? They suit his body. Read the post again where he discusses his dislike for higher rises.

      At a certain point, a man with a decent bod who knows himself knows what works for him best. Why shame him?

  3. Thomas Eville Reply

    Unfortunately I cannot wear a low rise because of the gut situation. Any suggestions besides 100 sit-ups a day? I’ve been a 501 man since the age of ten. Some of my friends beg me to get skinny jeans but they’re just not for me either.

  4. George, I live in Levi’s 511s but have been looking for a really high quality pair of jeans. Like you say, my cost-per-wear makes investing in good jeans worthwhile. I wonder if you can compare the fit of these to 511s?

  5. Sandro Battaglia Reply

    Nice piece. I’ve got 4 pairs of Tellason Cone White Oaks Selvedge across different cuts and fabric weights, all purchased years ago and/or pre-owned. My favorite is the indigo rich mid-weight red-line selvedge 14.75. They fit and wear beautifully. Enjoy yours, they’re in it for the long haul and get only better.

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