At its core, Japanese denim is both a reflection of the individual as well as a reflection of a greater culture. Woven on vintage shuttle looms, Japanese selvedge denim is significantly more tedious to manufacture than the majority of projectile-loomed, mass-produced denim that floods the market. In addition to featuring higher-quality denim, higher-end Japanese denim mills usually veer towards natural indigo dye, which has been a staple of traditional Japanese culture for centuries and was especially prominent in the Edo period (1603-1868). Before the yarn goes into the loom, half of it is typically rope-dyed with natural indigo, a process that consists of threading the yarn into a rope and dipping it in indigo baths, which nearly always yields the superior fades. Once the raw denim starts to be worn regularly, it molds to the wearer, revealing myriad fades, unique to that pair itself.

Below, we offer a glimpse into the distinguishing characteristics of some of the top players in today’s Japanese denim game.

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