Sugar Cane sc40300 Ryukyu natural indigo model

Sugar Cane (owned by Toyo Enterprise, who also manufactures Buzz Rickson’s, Indian Motorcycle, Sun Surf, Tailor Toyo, etc) is one of the original vintage reproduction companies in Japan, established in 1965 – one of the oldest, alongside Edwin, Big John, etc. They have many lines of denim in the Sugar Cane label, and their Satobiki line is my favourite.

This is a pair of sc40300 from Sugar Cane’s old 100% natural indigo series – with a 1952 Lee Riders based cut (saddle crotch, stove-pipe legs), made with left hand twilled, 14.25oz, 50% cotton / 50% sugar cane fibre, twill weave denim and natural indigo from Ryukyu. I have worn this pair for 2 years now, and plan to put it into semi-retirement 🙂

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Laurel wreath buttons & Lee inspired copper hardware~

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The leather patch is indigo-dyed buffalo hide, still very supple and full of oils after two years.

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The pocket cloths are made of indigo dyed sugar cane millet.

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This pair of jeans has been through 2 crotch repairs, here is one.

The [edit: lockstitch, my bad…], a feature that is not common these days.

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I am very sad that Sugar Cane decided to stop making the 100% natural indigo models. The natural indigo gives the denim an incredible sheen that fluctuates in sunlight – something that synthetic indigo cannot even begin to approach.

The problem that I’ve noticed with natural indigo dyed jeans is that the denim + stitching (especially 100% cotton threads) tend to give up a lot earlier than the dye does. I think the combo of natural indigo, LHT and the very soft 50% cotton/50% sugar cane denim makes it incredibly hard to achieve fading, let alone a contrasting one. These earlier natural indigo models were hank dyed up to 30 times (as opposed to rope dyeing more common in synthetic indigo), as per traditional methods. This results in saturation of the denim fabric of with the dye, right into the core – very, very difficult to fade!!! Moreover, the fact that natural indigo dye has lots of organic impurities, usually of large molecular sizes, makes the denim even more difficult to age.

Therefore, natural indigo is something reserved for advanced hobbyists, not for someone who is wanting their first pair of Japanese denim. The above reasons, and the cost & labour involved in the production, is probably why Sugar Cane stopped producing the natural indigo series and focussed their efforts on the mixed indigo series & Union Star/Mr. Freedom jeans. We’re also seeing a lot more companies producing natural indigo denim using the rope/dyeing method, so that a more contrasting, faster fade can be achieved – Triple Works, Samurai, etc.

I’ve seen a couple of other used sc40300 in the past, and the fading were not very defined. The owners gave up on them before their full potential could be achieved due too many blown crotches and buttons eventually springing loose/popping out (which thankfully hasn’t happened with mine.)


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