I was born and raised in Pakistan. Born in Lahore (a city of culture) and raised in Islamabad (a city of beauty and completely misrepresented by Homeland). Growing up with , I had my fair share of exposure to American culture, and perhaps standing ten thousand miles away really put some bits of Americana on the map (figuratively speaking) and none more so than blue jeans. Take a walk in Lahore or Islamabad, and you are likely to see at least a dozen people wearing a pair at any given time. They are most ubiquitously important American import. Around when I was thirteen, and newly discovering the importance of a good pair of jeans, Levi’s appeared to me.
Over the years, I have worn many fits raining from bootcut (shit, what was i thinking?) to baggy (I had an Eminem phase) and from stonewashed (i thought American dads were style icons) to black (my Slipknot phase). By the time I started college I had finally decided that my jeans had to be dark blue (indigo?), and with some trial and error, Levi’s 501s seemed to be most timeless fit for me. There were still problems – the thighs were never quite the right fit, and after around ten months of wear, it was always sagging and giving me diaper butt. Not to mention the fabric of the jeans which left quite a bit to be desired.
Which is why, at the worst of times (yes, bad jeans constitute an almost Dickensian worst time), a lucky day of shopping at Gap as an undergrad, yielded me my best pair of jeans ever – twenty two bucks, cut slim (the Authentic Skinny Fit, think more Gosling in Drive rather than hipsters in SF) and in halfway decent Japanese selvedge denim. I had hit the jackpot. It has been three years, and I still wear those jeans a few times a week. Then I got employed and started to look for the fineries in life, and with that I found Imogene and Willie of Nashville, Tennessee.
I went to Nashville right after I started work because I had spent most of my college years making a list of the places I would go when my finances allowed for it, and Nashville was the closest one to me geographically on that list. I was excited for two things: food and music, lots and lots of music. I had heard from a friend that Nashville, also happened to be a place to get my hands on some authentic Americana – goods, garments and a little bit of everything else. I was having lunch at the Urban Grub Fish Pit and Southern Cantina and a walk around the neighborhood brought me in front of a house that seemed a bit like what I had seen in a review of Imogene and Willie. I hesitate to post a picture of someone’s home (even if it is really a store), but they gave me something just as good in its stead.
I walked into the house/ store, and found myself greeted by some very friendly sales people. Then I looked around and the stuff I saw made my jaw drop to the floor, then roll around and leave my body – the decor, the shelves of neatly folded jeans in blues, blacks and grays, scores of hooks with belts from vintage to brand spankin’ new in Horween leather (courtesy of Tanner Goods), the shirts, this was the paradigm for any real denim store to follow.
A lovely sales lady, asked me what I was looking for, made some remarks about the tattered state my Gap jeans, and put me into a pair of Barton Slims (in 13.5 oz. Japanese Selvedge from the mountains of Okayama Japan). The first thing I noticed of course was the rigidity of the dry denim, but once I had them on, the other details started catching my eye. So far, all the selvedge denim I had seen was always edged with red thread, while these were an interesting burnt orange (a recurring color for the brand, which really leads me to think this was more intentional rather than a happy accident).
After seeing how I looked in the mirror, once more loose in all the wrong places, I was ready to give up – until my lovely sales lady, came back and started pinning the jeans in to get the perfect fit. Included in the price of the jeans (an insane $ 275 at the time of publishing) included a custom fitting. Diaper butt be gone!
With the custom fitting and alterations, the jeans arrived in three or so weeks. Everything about these jeans looked perfect. The rise was somewhere between mid and low – a near perfect sweet spot. I checked my new threads out in a mirror a few times when they arrived, and that was when I noticed, the single thread running along the inside thigh seam. Unlike double or triple stitched seams, these are a tad bit weaker (do not fear, because mine have never fallen apart at these seams), but a lot more flexible and hence comfortable. I felt like I had attained some sort of denim Nirvana.
What had me even more in love was that these jeans did not scream ‘look at how much money I spent’. Unlike the brands littered over mall stores, these jeans did not have any back pocket detailing, or even branding save a small orange “+” at the thigh seam. To top it off, a small tag sewn inside the jeans proclaimed that these were ‘made with love’. Perfect.
If you ever happened to find yourself in the fine city of Nashville, Tennessee, a trip to Imogene and Willie is an absolute must. Along with a trip to the Mecca of Country Music, the search for the holy grail of denim must not escape you. And remember, wear them often, wash them, not so often.