I suppose Pure Blue Japan really doesn’t need to be introduced…their world wide distribution has steadily grown over the past few years and their signature slubby, coloured-weft denims are well known among enthusiasts. Having been around for 19 years, PBJ doesn’t release new models all that often, but their staple offerings remain excellent choices despite the mounting competition from Japanese and overseas brands.
This pair of XX-014 featured here was originally a Blue in Green collaboration…which many shops are now stocking (?). The XX-014 is a slim, tapered fit – a more modern cut compared with the original XX-010 Purple Face. The rise is low-medium for a Japanese make. The slimness is noticeable from the upper thigh downwards, while the taper is only mild compared with the overall slimness of the legs.
The denim is a 14 oz unsanforised, RHT fabric with a blue line selvedge, nicknamed “Purple Face” due to the purple dyed weft. Like most PBJ fabrics, this denim rolls off a couple of old Toyoda power looms in an unnamed mill somewhere in Okayama.
The warp is pure indigo rope dyed, while the weft is purple to the core. The effect is that the denim looks an incredibly dark shade of indigo in indoor and indirect lighting. In full sunlight, however, the purple goes wild…very purple indeed.
If you cuff these jeans, expect an eyeful of purple!
This Purple Face denim is also notable for its slubby, moderately hairy and rather rough hand-feel. However, it is comfortable and breathable when worn. This contradiction between it’s rough & slubby hand and the comfort upon wearing is likely due to two factors:
One, the loose weave done slowly on the old power loom. Two, the weft utilises extra-long staple cotton from Zimbabwe (I measured one strand at 40 mm), whilst most of the warp utilises shorter yarns, apparently made with cotton from Texas.
The end result is a fabric with the unevenness & curious handling of early 20th century denims, but with improved comfort and durability.
I know what you’re thinking – “Hey Mike, wouldn’t this denim fade really weirdly?”
Surprisingly, no! Check out PBJ’s official two-year aged sample.
The stitch work is nicely done. I am especially impressed by the 4 different stitch colours being used in at least three different sizes. The black and purple dual tone chain-stitch is especially catching on the indigo & purple fabric. Clean, smooth and unobtrusive (for a pair of purple pants anyway) – these pants are nicely put together, and make no attempt to give a Americana or reproduction feeling…instead, a diligent & tidy Japanese approach is evident.
This pair has the classic PBJ patch in the Syoaiya variant (international version), which is made of thin deer skin that has been treated to be water-resistant, and features a Japanese dude soaking a pair of jeans. This style of patching is less maintenance intense compared to a thick, vegetable tanned patch, as the leather proves to be much more water and heat resistant.
Of course, the signature embroidery in the form of the leaf of the indigofera plant is very noticeable on the right back pocket.
Twill pocket fabric is dyed black. Soft hand, but sturdy. My pair must come from slightly older stock, as the pocket print informs me that this pair is a special Blue in Green collaboration…and I didn’t buy it from BiG
The nickel buttons are customed front and back – the indigofera leaves on the backings are a nice touch. The rivets are plain, with two types being used – the hidden rivets are copper, whereas the pocket rivets are plated to match the colour of the raw denim.
Everything considered, this is a great pair of jeans. Similar to PBJ’s other offerings, there are no glaring faults, and everything is well considered and nicely put together – giving the sum of its parts a certain feel that makes them stand out among other specialty denim jeans, which can sometimes come across as a little boring. However, these are not reproduction jeans, and not everybody will be interested in coloured weft denims. Most of PBJ’s offerings, including this XX-014, will likely not appeal to denim purists.
That said, if you are a fan of Japan Blue’s exotic denims like I am (e.g. the Godzilla brown weft jeans I recently reviewed), Pure Blue Japan jeans may be considered a direct upgrade -perhaps even more so than Momotaro – in terms of the focus on interesting fabrics and coloured weft products.
Value wise, whilst the pricing of Pure Blue Japan jeans have increased slightly over the last few years, I believe they still represent a fair balance between product novelty, solid craftsmanship, interesting materials, brand premium and pricing. They may not be a top-down producer of jeans like The Flat Head or Japan Blue Group, but PBJ jeans have a distinct personality that is hard to describe and difficult to come by.
For pure value in Japanese denim, you are unlikely to do better than Edwin, Sugar Cane or Japan Blue. For reproduction detailing you won’t likely surpass Studio D’Artisan, Fullcount, Warehouse or, more recently, heavy hitter Connors Sewing Factory…
…but if you are a fabric nerd or a connoisseur of tactile stimuli, these Purple Face jeans (either the XX-010 or XX-014) from Pure Blue Japan is a must try at some point, and represent better value compared to Samurai’s various special edition denims. If you don’t like purple, PBJ’s other offerings such as the super-slub denim, the 24 oz denim, the indigo x indigo and even the Ai dye denim are also worthy considerations.