If you find yourself looking at jeans and thinking “yep, that’s another pair of 5-pocket jeans”, then this review is for you. Like me you find yourself just a little jaded when it comes to the typical pair of jeans. You’ll have a mental checklist you can run through, but if you’re brutally honest as long as you can tick off most of the following you are set: Selvedge denim, proper rivets, chain-stitching, leather patch, some intangible artisan input, a hint of the Japanese, and 5 pockets in the standard configuration. Yes, there are differences in cut, and where the fabric is sourced, and certain amounts of that esoteric X-factor but at the end of a day, it can be really hard to tell the difference. Am I right?
So, today I have something different, and this is not by chance, I actually went looking for something different. I knew my friend George over at New State had been stocking up on some unusual jeans, so I asked him first, and struck gold. “Something different? Take a look at Tender”. I did, and I liked what I saw, so much so that I ordered a pair. And while they are different enough to be interesting, they are also traditional enough to not cause a riot, if you get the drift. We’ll get to that in due course though.
Tender is the child of one-man show William Kroll. I will be doing a fuller profile on Tender shortly, as I find myself genuinely inspired by them, but suffice to say at this point, Tender make jeans and other garments, and other stuff. All considered and a bit different. Looking through the goods available I see no end of things I fancy.
The trousers I bought are the Tender 129, described as “Slim fit”. Now, you’ll see from the photos later on that in the world of Tender, slim fit is very much more generous than usual. To me these are a comfortable and relaxed fit, and going by how the initially fit at the waist, this is what was intended. The waist was initially a little tight, but quickly settled in to a perfect fit. There is very little taper, so I’d consider the legs to be straight.
Let’s get the obvious checklist stuff out of the way first. Yes, the denim is Japanese selvedge denim. Yes, there are proper rivets. Yes, fly has buttons. Yes, there are 5 pockets. And yes, there is a definite air of mystique. Yet, it’s like one of those horror films where the main character wakes up from a troubled sleep and finds the world is subtly off kilter. In this case though, it’s not a bad thing at all.
To start with the fabric, Tender have used an unbleached and unsanforized 16oz Japanese selvedge denim. 25 dips, rope dyed, ring spun, unbleached weft and no sulphur. The trousers are then sewn using cotton thread which, while not as strong as the more commonly used polycotton, makes total sense when you come to the next stage. Once the trousers are finished they are garment dyed by hand in woad, a natural dye from the South of France. This is a process that can take a full day and gives the weft of the denim, and cotton thread, the unique shade of blue. The woad is a vegetable dye containing indigotin, but in much less concentration than normal natural indigo, so it gives a softer, more subtle colour.
Being unsanforized there might be issues of sizing (as I mentioned in my review of Steel Feather), though not in this case as the process of hand-dyeing takes care of the initial shrinkage, and incidentally increases the weight of the fabric to around 17oz.
So, while the denim is sort of the same as usual, it’s also quite different.
Looking at the design we can count pockets, and surely there are five of them. Looking at the front pockets I find them of greater depth than usual, and also that they are made of the same thick denim as the rest of the trousers. Good strong pockets, and also full of woad dye, as my blue hands can testify after a few weeks of fishing my phone out of the pocket. The rear pockets are traditionally placed, but square in shape, with the upper corners reinforced by rivets and a cotton lining.
The fifth pocket, the coin pocket, is usually found in the left hand front pocket, but here it is on the inside of the lining as a quite separate pocket. Described as “Snob’s thumb” pocket, it has a similar calico lining and copper rivets to the rear pocket. I’m not sure what I would keep in this pocket, but it’s nicely made, and again, different.
At this point it’s natural to take notice of the belt loops. There are six of them, sensibly placed, with the two at the rear ideally placed so as to have the rear sit nice and straight on your behind. The belt loops though are actually lined with the same calico used inside the rear pockets. This is something I’ve never encountered before, and while it may have no practical purpose at all, it again adds another point to the difference-O-meter. Also, the belt loops are sewn in place twice, once using straight stitches, and again with zig-zag stitches.
Speaking of stitches, these trousers are very definitely crafted by humans (in fact a tiny husband and wife team that makes all Tender garments in Britain). This is noticeable in that (as far as I can tell) all the sewing on these trousers is done using a single-needle machine. No double or triple-needles to save time, when a double stitching is required then there are two runs to be done. How can I tell? The stitching is almost, but not perfectly parallel. Once noticed, it makes you appreciate the effort even more.
Above the rear pocket is the only slight negative I can find with these trousers. The wash tab sits on the outside of the trouser. A quirky move, yes, and it does say on it that it can be removed, but I truly can’t decide whether to snip it off or let it be. Why not just put it on the inside, or in a pocket, so that it could be kept there?
Up front there is more different to be found in the fly. Yes, the fly has buttons, but whereas most jeans have 3 or 4, these only have 2. And there is a gap that would have almost accommodated a third button between the fly button and the top button. Yet, after a while it becomes obvious that thought has gone into this, as the fly is very much easier to open than on flies with more buttons, and this without there being any risk of your manly parts being subjected to a draught. Very practical indeed.
That top button earns a special mention as well, as I’ve never seen a button like it before. It’s a cast brass button, with the Tender logo on the face of it. Not sewn in place like you’d expect, but held in place with a split pin, straight form the engine workshop. Which means you can remove it if you like, perhaps for a round with some Brasso and a rag?
Moving down to the end of the trouser legs takes a while, as the trousers come in a massive 36″ length. This is part of the deal, as with this extra length comes the opportunity of doing the Tender Double Cuff (as mentioned a few days ago in the post on cuffs). For me the 36″ length means a whopping 5.5″ of denim to be dealt with, so even with the double cuff the width of the cuff is quite massive. More cuff than I would usually sanction, but with the straight legs and general fit of these jeans I just love it.
Yet, with all the factors that make these jeans different, the most noticeable of all is the colour that has, literally, permeated them. The light blue colour of the woad dye that has dyed the cotton thread, the calico linings and added an underlying hue to the denim. While I was initially a little hesitant of the blue stitching, I’ve come to really like it. And in sum we are talking a pair of jeans of quite epic aceness.
As mentioned further up, I would have liked to see the wash-tab placed differently. And there is one more point that needs to be mentioned: These are very expensive jeans. At 330 pounds they are the most expensive jeans in my collection, and while this is the general price level you will find the most specialist of denim at, you really need to “get it” to justify the expense. Are they worth it? Only you can decide, but I’d happily buy more (once I’ve saved up my pocket money again).
Tender can be difficult to come by, I found my pair at New State Store.
My pair are marked as a size 4. My measurements are made according to the Rivet & Hide’s measuring guide.
By Tenders measurements this should be
- 34″ waist
- 36″ leg
- 12.5″ thigh
- 8″ hem
After a few weeks of wear my pair measures as follows:
- Waist: 36″
- Hip: 24″
- Front rise 11.5″
- Rear rise 15.5″
- Thigh 12″
- Knee 10″
- Let opening/hem 8″
- Inseam 36.5″