There are a huge amount of denim brands available today. I wouldn’t even want to try to start counting them. Maybe half a dozen huge brands, several dozen big brands, and the number of brands seems to grow exponentially the smaller they get. Black Iron Clothing are one of the smallest I’ve come across, being essentially a 2 person venture.
So what does Black Iron Clothing bring to the table? For starters, they’re from Sweden, the country that already brought us the phenomenally successful Nudie brand. Secondly, their background is in building custom motorcycles. Thirdly, they have so far only made a single style of jeans, the limited edition Knucklehead, and it’s only available in 100 pairs.
The name “Knucklehead” is well chosen, being both a classic engine by Harley-Davidson, and an expression for someone that is hardheaded or stubborn. The dual meaning would appear to fit well for a motorcycle-obsessed upstart like Black Iron.
When I received my pair, the first thing that made me stop was the packaging. Normally the packaging is just another layer to breach before getting to the inner goodness, but in the case of this parcel I felt I had to document it. Someone actually took the time to print my name and URL on the package, and added the small brass scissors and knuckledusters from the logo. A personal touch.
While it won’t make any difference to the wearing of their jeans, I just adore it when people have this attention to details! I’ll have to hang these on my key-chain.
When the jeans are unwrapped, the first thing I noticed was the denim, naturally enough. A Japanese 13oz selvedge denim, the result of a meticulous process to find just the right fabric for what they wanted to make. It has almost the same look and feel to it as a pair of Red Selvedge Edwins I have, though perhaps a little lighter weight. Soft and pleasant right out of the box though, no need to soak them before use.
The second thing I noticed was the label and certificate included, with a hand printed number showing that my jeans are #41 of the 100 made. A nice touch, and for someone that spent many years of his life chasing down “limited edition” vinyl records, it awakens deep memories of wanting to have what only few others could have… Sly marketing indeed!
The second feature you notice are the shiny copper buttons. No logo on them, just sturdy, plain and shiny. They will no doubt gain take on some life as time goes by. 4 of them on the fly, and another 6 for attaching braces.
Having buttons already fitted for suspenders is a great feature for those of use that like to vary our method of trouser suspension. Not only in saving having to fit buttons, but in that these copper buttons are much better than regular buttons. The copper rivets used throughout are also unmarked and of good quality.
Another little touch is the double belt loop at the back, providing an extra layer of security against sudden trouser droop.
And that is really what you notice to start with. My impression is that Black Iron have gone the subtle route with their first design. It’s as much about what has not been included as what has been. If it doesn’t have utility, it’s not there. No fancy or fiddly additions, just quality denim, well put together. Even the arcuate on the rear pockets is just a single horizontal line. Normally this would indicate a strengthened pocket, but in this case it’s just a seam.
What came as something of a surprise though, after I’d rolled up the cuffs a couple of turns, was how good they felt on. The size was absolutely spot on and the fit was just so. It almost made me a little suspicious, but when I showed them to WDG her immediate and unsolicited response was: “Those are the best fitting jeans you have”. Considering the various trousers I’ve asked her opinion on in recent years, this really says something!
The fit is slim, with some taper in the leg, just the way I like them. As is apparent from the photos the fit is also very good around the butt, with an appreciable rise at the rear. No doubt a legacy from riding motorcycles, but something grown-ups with private underwear will appreciate as well.
The fit is where the Knuckleheads really shine. Granted, we’re all created in different shapes and sizes, but to find a pair of jeans that fit this well, going only by my waist size, is quite remarkable. And where other jeans have required wear to feel comfortable, it is easy to appreciated a pair of nice jeans that just feel right from day one. Life doesn’t have to be hard and painful, right?
Copper buttons for braces may be awkward if you don’t wear braces, as with a wide belt done up a bit tight, you may find that the 6 buttons are pressing into your hips. A slightly narrower belt will avoid this issue though. Another possible issue is when getting into your car you risk the buttons catching on the edge of the seat. The Black Iron remedy for this is no doubt to ride a custom Hog instead 🙂
A nice touch is the inclusion of fuller than usual washing instructions printed on the pocket on the inside. Given how the care and nurturing of raw denim is something that has taken on almost religious overtones, it’s nice to see a maker that includes their precise recommendations. With a sense of humour as well. There is also provision on the other pocket for keeping a record of your wash-dates.
Price wise the Knuckleheads are similarly priced to Edwins or Nudies made to the same specification. The key here being the 13oz Japanese selvedge denim. The difference comes down to the scarcity of the Black Iron jeans. If you like your denim rare, and wish to know exactly how rare it is, you’ll probably understand Black Iron.
If you prefer your denim to be less obvious that a pair of Nudies, you will appreciate the stealthiness of these. If you roll your eyes at people wanting stealthy legwear, I can report that I’ve seen people meticulously remove the wavy trademark arcuate so other denimheads wouldn’t recognise their strides. It’s a strange and wonderful world, eh?
Black Iron Clothing had to go all the way to China to find a factory that had the skill and willingness to produce their jeans to the required quality in such a small number.
The Knuckleheads are available in waist sizes 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 36. Mine are 33″, and I measure them to be closer to 35″. This is sanforized denim, so there should be no shrinkage when time comes to give them a wash. This would explain some of the comfort I’m experiencing though! All trousers come in a standard 34″ inseam.
Sizing and washing:
Marked as 33″.
The label inside label has comprehensive instructions for washing. You will normally never go wrong washing using a 40 degree regular machine wash as appropriate wash for 100% cotton trousers.
- Fabric – Japan
- Jeans – China
Score (1-5, 3 being average):
- Assembly: 3
- Details: 4
- Quality: 4
- Value for money: 3
- Cool-factor: 4