Another Tuesday and another pair of trouser to be reviewed. Another pair of jeans? Well, yes, although there is something about this pair that makes them different from every other pair in my collection. We’ll get to that shortly…
Flying Horse Jeans is a fairly new British company, based around their flagship store just off Carnaby Street in London. The duo behind the label, David Rix and Sanjay Madan, have long experience in the garment business, mainly working for major US brands such as Ralp Lauren.
Whereas a majority of denim companies have a US centric attitude, Flying Horse quite literally look in the opposite direction, towards the Southeast Asia. This is very much evident in the naming of the various washes their jeans are available in, such as “Chicken Madras”, “Chicken Vindaloo” and for the less adventurous, “Chicken dinner”.
It’s not all about creative washes though, they also do raw indigo denim, and an “off the loom” variant of denim that is entirely unwashed and in it’s virginal woven state. Something for everyone!
While the wash names may be on the jokey side, Flying Horse really came to my attention after I wrote about using alternative fabrics recently. Why is almost all denim made from 100% cotton? And if cotton is used, why is almost none of it at least organic? It seems the main thing about denim is that it has to be woven in Japan, on ancient looms, and that’s about it.
In a market where, if you strip away the hype and lore, one pair of jeans looks much like the other, why not go down to the most fundamental level and do something about the actual fabric you make your jeans from? This is what Flying Horse have done, replacing 40% of the cotton in their fabric with hemp. To be utterly specific they have used cotton indigo in the warp and hemp in the weft to create a 12.5oz raw indogo denim.
So what advantages are there in using hemp? For starters, there’s less use of cotton, and we know that cotton is a fabric that really should be used as sparingly as possible today, given that it takes around 6000 litres of water to produce the cotton for a single pair of jeans, and around 25% of pesticides used worldwide are used in the production of cotton.
Hemp has many properties that make it a possible replacement for cotton. It is stronger and more durable than any other natural fabric. It’s qualities are enhanced by washing and use, over time it becomes finer and softer. It has superior absorbency, is very breathable and quick drying, feels cooler in the summer, yet naturally warm in the winter.
The hemp fibres are highly resistant to rotting, mildew and mould, which should make it a win-win in the case of jeans. Either you can wash them and make them softer, or you can leave them and not risk them disintegrating on you. Hemp is also fully biodegradable and recyclable.
And of course, taking a big leap back to the origin, the very first pairs of Levi Strauss jeans were made from the Hemp canvas used to make miners tents, before a flashy new cotton twill from France became the fabric du jour. The French fabric was of course “serge de nimes”, or “denim” as we know it.
So why isn’t hemp more widely used? Well, availability is currently limited, and hence cost is around 10 times that of cotton. Availability is of course a result of demand, so supply will no doubt increase as demand increases. Growing hemp uses only a fraction of the water required for growing cotton, and no pesticides at all.
And that concludes today’s lesson. What are the Flying Horse Jeans like?
The jeans are a classic regular fit, five pocket design with a button fly, straight legs and a decent rise waist. What we look for in a pair of jeans for an adult male, really. The detailing is excellent with contrast stitching, branded vintage-look rivets and embossed shank buttons. No expense spared by using generic items, which bodes well.
Stitching is superb throughout with plenty of chain-stitching. The inseam is a felled seam. I get the clear impression that the trousers are made by someone that cared about the end result. All stress areas are strengthened with rivets or bar tacks. I tried to find flaws in the sewing and found none.
I’m rapidly gaining the impression that Thailand is a good place to produce garments. Last weeks SOSO jeans had similarly well executed construction.
The front pockets are well constructed, properly placed and sized. The pocket bags are made using a pleasing herringbone cotton, which is a nice detail that will likely never be seen by anyone but the wearer.
The functional coin pocket with a tab of selvedge showing. A little touch to add some identity! If you look carefully at the photo above, on the folded seams, you’ll see a little bit of the lighter blue coming through where it has seen a little wear. The denim is said to be raw indigo, and judging by my blue hands and the inside pockets, it certainly seems to be bleeding indigo. More so than any other jeans I’ve ever had! Not to a critical or problematic level, it just adds to the denim experience.
A nice touch is the yellow selvedge marking. It really is quite rare to see any variation in this edge of the fabric colouring, even though it is the simplest thing in the world for the weaver to make this any colour at all. I believe Levis originally had the blue, white and red colours though, and this has been copied ever since, with few exceptions.
Show a bit of selvedge by sporting roll-ups and someone is bound to ask what brand jeans you’re wearing.
The buttoned fly is well executed. The copper buttons have a nice weathered look and will age nicely with a bit of wear. The button holes them self are among the better ones I’ve seen.
The rear has a nice, unfussy look to it. Just the single seam over the traditionally shaped rear pockets with contrasting stitching all round. A cheeky little snippet of selvedge poking out on the right hand pocket, mirroring the same snippet on the edge of the coin pocket.
Personally I would have liked to see another couple of belt loops added, as 5 loops can allow the waistband and belt to interact poorly, as in the waistband can slouch down below the belt. The patch is only stitched top and bottom here though, so you can run a belt behind the patch to counteract one missing belt loop at least.
Whereas some trouser have the seam over the rear pocket as just a design feature, really properly made trousers have it there for a purpose: It is part of the rear pocket reinforcement. Flying Horse have done it properly and the lower third of the pocket is lined with the same herringbone cotton fabric as used for front pocket bags. Nice.
The fabric itself is the most singular aspect of these jeans though, and I’m sure you’re curious to hear about my impressions of it. To start with, you can feel it isn’t the usual 100% cotton. The fabric feels a little stiffer, though this is something that will loosen up with wear or wash. It also feels just a little smoother, as if it’s been ironed maybe? Again, this is the fresh out of the box feel and something that even after a few uses is evolving into a softer touch.
At 12.5oz it’s a thinner weight of denim than I usually go for, so it’s a similar weight to the chinos or twill trousers I’d be wearing in the warmer weather.
In fact, the almost black indigo colour is developing character quite rapidly in wear areas. Not as apparent on the photos as when studied up close. I’m tempted to give the trousers an initial wash just to see how they look post-wash. A wash should also have an effect on the very slightly scratchy feel against the thighs, which may or may not be real.
With a new material like this, it is easy to have preconceived ideas about how it will feel. In this case, knowing how coarse hemp rope feels, it is easy to imagine that the trouser fabric will feel the same way. Not that there is any rational reason to believe so.
In the unwashed state they are now, they are definitely not on the tight side. Hopefully they will shrink about an inch in the waist after the first wash.
This is a pair of jeans I can’t wait to give a good soaking, if not a gentle wash. There is a stiffness to the denim now that I feel is working against it. Looking at the photo above this is quite obvious near the cuffs, where even after a few days use the folds are still painfully visible.
It would also be nice if there was a bit of shrinkage to be had, as I feel the fit is a little too comfortable right now.
In summary: These are a nice addition to my collection and a really decent pair of jeans. I can see myself becoming a fan of Flying Horse!
Ok, I’ll confess, while finalising this write-up, I popped the Flying Horses into the washing machine on the 30 degree “hand wash” program, with a gentle spin to help dry them. I’ll add my impressions once they’re dry!
Post-wash update! Shrinkage of 1%, both inseam and waist. Inseam is now 32″ and waist about 35″. Next time I will wash them a little warmer and see if they’ll shrink a little more.
Of more interest is the surface texture of the denim. Pre-wash is felt a little smooth or ironed, post-wash it is a little coarser, with a slubbier look to it. A nice improvement!
Measurements (as supplied):
- Waist: Marked as 34″, measures 36″
- Inseam: Marked as 32″, measures 33″
- Fabric – Thailand
- Trousers – Thailand
Score (1-5, 3 being average):
- Assembly: 4
- Details: 4
- Quality: 4
- Value for money: 4
- Cool-factor: 4