It's Denim Jacket Diversity Awareness Month

From left to right: Momotaro, Big John, Rag & Bone, Pure Blue Japan; Bottom: The Hill-Side, Japan Blue, Naked and Famous, Iron Heart
Okay, no it's not, but with February apparently also being "National Children's Dental Health Month," this doesn't seem like that far of a stretch (and is definitely more interesting). When you picture a denim jacket in your head, there's a large chance that image will be a Type III jacket aka the Levi's "Trucker" developed in the 1960's (see below). But if you restrict your view to only that design, you would be missing out on a wealth of other interesting options out there - even within the same family.

The Classics 

The iconic Levi's Type III Trucker is easily recognizable by the pointed flap pockets, tapered vertical double-line stitching, and slim fitting proportions. It's a style that has been carried forward in time so faithfully that it has barely changed, if at all, over the years - even when interpreted by more contemporary brands into their own translations.

Type III Trucker - Levi's Vintage Clothing

Grandfather of the the Type III, the one pocket Levi's Type I was first seen in the early 1900's and features front vertical "knife pleats" with box stitching overlying, a lower chest pocket with a higher horizontal chest stitch line, and a cinch at the back waist.

Type I Jacket - Levi's Vintage Clothing

The Type II, entering the market in 1953, kept the knife pleats and basic makeup but added double chest pockets and replaced the cinch back with simpler waist adjusters. The jacket also featured bar tack stitched reinforcement for durability.

Type II Jacket - Levi's Vintage Clothing

You can find slightly different versions of the Type I, II, III through various denim specialist shops online, although the Type III design is the most common by far and usually carried in some form by most mainstream general clothing retailers.

Lee 101J and Wrangler 24MJZ

There are other great historical references from competing companies, such as the Lee Slim 101J models introduced in 1931 and the lined Storm Riders which predate the Type III's design, identifiable by zig zag front stitching and slanted front chest pockets for easier cross body access with parallel vertical stitch lines, worn by style icons such as James Dean, Paul Newman, and Steve McQueen. One pocket versions similar to the Type I Levi's jacket were also made early on as the 401 "Prestige Jacket" in reply to the Levi's 506. Bluebell Wrangler also made their own 11MJ (similar to the Type II) and the 24MJZ jacket with slanted welt pockets.

Steve McQueen wearing a Lee 101J as a pallbearer at Bruce Lee's funeral


Kapital 101J style jacket, Thunderbird jacket, and Bing Crosby style tuxedo jacket (at Unionmade)

Expanding the circle further to contemporary brands, many designers are both recreating vintage models faithfully and putting their own twists on the classics. Take, for example, Japanese indigo specialists Kapital. Like many things menswear related, leave it to the Japanese to perfect them and then make them their own. From the more reverent 101J style jackets in coveted Japanese textiles to my current favorite denim jacket in that silhouette, the St. Domingo Thunderbird jacket pictured above, there are a lot of options out there that change the flavor of the sauce while still being recognizable as jackets in the same general style.

Though this post was originally meant to highlight other options in the same genre of cropped denim slim riders, if you lift those restrictions the world opens up dramatically. Chore coats and other workwear-related outerwear, blazers, bombers - the options are almost endless and limited only by designers' imaginations. True to form, I tend to prefer vintage styling and Americana design, but there's truly something for everyone.

Nigel Cabourn, RRL, Journal Standard, Kapital
Kapital 8 oz shop coat

In that same vein, Mister Freedom is an LA based brand collaboration with Sugar Cane in Japan creating "historically plausible original clothes that never existed but could have." They combine Japanese milled fabrics, vintage materials, and recycled military hardware with original designs - naturally, those designs include vat-dyed indigo and denim, though their other textile work is inspired as well. I'm stopping by LA next weekend and plan on dropping in to take a look at their combined vintage and original design store if I'm able.

Mister Freedom denim outerwear

If you're looking for a place to start exploring, there are two ways to go. Mainstream brands sometimes often bring out their own denim pieces, with higher level designers usually branching out more into their own designs. On the other hand, denim specialists usually focus on quality textiles, details, and construction while generally being more vintage-inspired. Heddels, formerly Rawrdenim, gives a great introduction to some of the more prominent denim brands out there, though note that those tiers are MRSP-based so don't get scared off by the numbers.

Like many things menswear related, the world of denim is deep - perhaps among the deepest overall, with a culture and heritage that can stand up to any other. The samples seen here are just a drop in the bucket, so if you have any personal favorites of yours or great brands I overlooked, drop me a line - I'd love to learn about some more, especially before a trip to Japan this fall.


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