I was recently contacted by a representative of Wrangler, one of the traditionally huge names in denim, asking my opinion on their new “Born Ready” line of jeans. What struck me then was that although Wrangler has always been one of the Big Three denim companies, I’ve never had any sort of opinion about them at all. Always one to grab an opportunity though I requested a sample pair to take a look at. This also inspired me to write the post about the “evolution and devolution of denim“.
A pair of Wrangler Colton “Eat Grit” jeans duly arrived. Now, as denim goes, these are a little different, and it’s not just the black wash. No, these are “Rain-ready” and “Cold-ready”, and the denim itself is not the more common 100% cotton, but a blend of 71% Cotton, 27% Polyester and 2% Elastane. Elastane is much more common in skinny-style girls jeans, as it provides a flex to the fabric that lets it shape to the body. For guys skin-tight jeans is never, ever a desirable style.
Rain and cold ready though, what’s that about? This is actually what caught my eye. As I cycle all year round, in cold and rain as well, anything that makes life easier is an advantage. I have previously tried Rapha “Cycle Jeans”, and I found myself quite excited to try Wranglers effort. After all, Wrangler is a bona-fide jeans company, and these trousers do look just like a pair of black denim jeans.
At this point you may be thinking something like “Hang on, Nick is a chap that likes his proper heavy selvedge jeans, what is going on?”, to which I’ll say, “Yes, but no, but yes, but… “, or more fully:
It’s no secret among denim aficionados that heavyweight raw denim isn’t the single solution to all things legwear. I cycle a lot, and I wear denim a lot, and there are at least a couple of situations where heavy denim becomes more of a pain than pleasure. Such as when you’re caught in the rain and your trousers are soaked. On the way to work.
Heavy denim takes ages to dry, maybe a little less time if you’re wearing the damp jeans, but in any case you’re looking at a pretty miserable day. Also, heavy denim has no elasticity, at all. So if your jeans are on the fitted side, and you’re pumping hard up a hill on your bike, then you will experience the joy of muscles that can’t expand. This plain hurts.
What if there was a pair of jeans that repelled rain, and allowed your thigh muscles to work, and also looked just liked regular jeans? Oh, while we’re making wishes, how about if they also insulated a bit? And this is what Wrangler promise, which naturally has me really intrigued.
My initial impression is that Wrangler really like to brand their jeans. I’ve never seen a pair of trousers with this many labels and tags on them. Still, it does give more info on what exactly is going on. The promised thermal properties are by way of Thermolite, as far as I can make out this is the addition of hollow core synthetic fibres to the fabric, making it insulate better and dry more rapidly. I think we can safely say this stuff isn’t coming off an old loom in a dusty back alley in Japan.
Secondly, these do genuinely look like a pair of quite regular black jeans. Yes, there are some odd design touches and there is a handy extra pocket for your phone, but the general impressions is such that while wearing them the past week no-one has said to me “Oi, Nick, you’re not wearing jeans!”. Which is good. Had I been wearing some truly ‘orrible jeans I would have been informed of my error.
The legs are a little unusually constructed, with three seams running down, and a seam across the knee. There is also a lot of extra stitching running along the yoke and on the rear of the thighs. I can’t see any reason for this other than as a design statement, though I’d love to discuss this with whoever thought this might be a cool feature.
Thirdly, they do actually feel warm. The fabric itself isn’t all that heavyweight, so there was no expectation of them being any warmer than a pair of lightweight jeans, but they are warm. Pleasantly so. This was a big surprise.
Construction-wise they are very decently sewn. Two of the seams running down the leg are properly felled though, so extra points there. Even the seam that isn’t felled has extra stitching to strengthen it. The rear pockets also have added strengthening. I can’t help but think that Wrangler are actually quite serious about these trousers being made to be used hard.
The flex in the fabric is also welcome, as they are pleasant for cycling in as well. I know, I know, it’s not on to admit to appreciating jeans that aren’t heavy and inflexible, but it does make sense. I’m not advocating men wearing skin-tight body-hugging jeans, may I be smited if this was the case, but a regular pair that lets your thigh muscles expand when needed, makes a lot of sense.
That “Rain-Ready” business was tricker to test though. Ideally there would be a day with serious downpour that would allow me to go for a long, hard cycle ride. This was not to be though, plus I was more into a mug of tea and a couple of mince pies. An alternative strategy was needed.
So, I retreated to the section of the lab where we can simulate horizontal rain under safe conditions (aka. the shower) and asked my chief lab tech (aka. my dad, the rainmaker) to help out. The only usable recording of this can be seen here.
Immediately after this I carefully removed the trousers and checked for water penetration. The result was impressive, almost no damp on the inside. Another noticeable improvement was that while the outside was definitely wet, it didn’t take long for it to dry. No, while the engineer in me wanted to wait up with a hydrometer and stopwatch, I did settle on a good nights sleep instead. I got up dead early though and they were bone dry then. At this point usual 19oz denim would still be dripping.
So there you go, the evolved tech of the Wrangler Coltons actually does what the packet says, not bad at all.
- Look like regular black jeans
- Very comfortable and good fit
- The thermal and water repellant properties are genuine
- Quite reasonably priced
- Made in Bangladesh
- Strange stitching design on yoke and part of legs
Full retail price is 95 pounds at Wrangler UK. Currently on offer at 47.50.