This review, in many ways, has been an attempt by me at catching up with the developments in the denim world over the past 6 years. My blog went on hiatus for 4.5 years from 2012 onward, but in truth by late 2011 my focus on the denim hobby had begun to wane due to various other responsibilities and hobbies. Even though I continued to wear denim jeans and leather boots during the in-between years, I no longer kept up-to-date with the latest developments in denim.
On my return to the hobby last year, some of the biggest questions that arose for me were: What is Stevenson Overall? Why does it look like Rising Sun Jeans? What the hell happened to Rising Sun Jeans anyway?
Let us ponder away~
The story is that Atsusuke Tagya and Zip Stevenson met at a bank somewhere in Tokyo and got talking to each other due to the cool shoes & belts they were wearing. Zip, of Hollywood Trading Company fame, would of course want to talk to a Japanese dude wearing cool leather stuff. Atsu, on the other hand, was a hobbyist vintage collector who had once made a living exporting Australian goods to Japan. Together they decided to launch a clothing brand, Stevenson Overall, based on a short-lived American workwear manufacturer which existed in the 1920s to 1930s. Though the brand was launched in 2005, actual products didn’t appear on the Western market until approximately 2010 and the brand remained relatively unknown until a couple of years ago.
Atsu has stated that the aim of Stevenson Overall is to distill the styling and detailing of turn of 20th Century garments, and apply them in an understated and minimalist way to produce vintage-inspired Americana that can be worn daily in the present day.
Why do the recent garments from Stevenson Overall look like the ones produced by Rising Sun Jeans? Well, the way I heard it (from a couple of industry insiders), a couple of years ago Mike Hoddis, founder of Rising Sun Jeans and all around work-wear genius, was exited from Rising Sun due to conflicts with the investor who actually owned the majority share in the company. The denim forum regulars who marveled at Mike’s passion and obsession with workwear and its construction must have also wondered how the whole operation was financially viable – looking through the old forum threads now, it did seem to good to be true…
Mike subsequently worked for Atsu for a brief period of time designing some garments for Stevenson Overall, and this explains the similarities between the two brands – the garments in question were designed by the same brain!
Thankfully Mike went on to create more clothes under his new brand, Runabout Goods. My understanding is that there is a non-compete agreement in place, and as such Runabout Goods cannot produce denim goods, which explains the lack of blue jeans in Mike’s new brand.
I had thought Rising Sun would be one of the denims I’d review if I ever restarted this blog, and it’s a shame to see that it is no longer…well, the way I see it, it ain’t Rising Sun without Mike Hodis running the show.
Anyway, enough back-story! Let’s have a look at the Bronco, Stevenson Overall’s button-up denim vest.
The Bronco vest is a modified version of the Type III jacket, with the arms cut out of course.
My chest size is 44, and this vest is sz 42. The volume in the chest is just right, with no tightness in the underarms.
It’s a snug fit for me near the waist, as there’s a noticeable taper from the top down. In comparison with dressier vests, the shoulders & upper back are wide and the total vest length is fairly long.
The denim is unsanforised, so it will shrink with first wash and subsequently stretch out. In the photos above the vest has been shrunk-to-fit and worn for 1 week.
Overall, this vest has a surprisingly modern fit. I speculate this is due to both the vest being cut for a more typical East Asian body shape and the fact that Stevenson’s garments are generally a bit trendier than the typical Japanese workwear reproduction.
Generally speaking, denim can have a red cast or a yellow/green cast – talking primary colours my friend!
Impurities, additives and gradual oxidation over many years can produce a green cast, which is reminiscent of vintage denims. Extreme indigo purity, usually achieved through the utilization of high quality synthetic indigo and foregoing additives such as sulfur, can produce a red cast – as seen on this ‘Grand Indigo’ dyed 13.5 oz denim on this Bronco vest.
The result of the red cast is not only a red tinge to the denim, which I managed to photograph to some extend in the photo above, but also an overall deeper and more violet tone to the blue of the denim. This is most evident when you compare it side by side with standard and faded denims.
This denim has a mild slubbing and a good amount of chatter. The moderate hairiness is also interesting. The hand-feel is textural but not rough, with the weft side feeling slightly furry.
This is certainly one of the nicer denims out there, even in comparison with other Japanese shuttle loom denims.
Steveson Overall has played a trick on us with this vest, in that they have sewn the burnt orange thread over the pink selvedge ID, and so many people believe this denim has an orange selvedge. Look closer!
All the bells and whistles that you’d normally find on a denim jacket can be found on the Bronco vest.
The paper patch is nicely done. I love the graphics and type writer fonts!
Can you see the typo?
The chest pockets are relatively narrow and feature very shapely flaps. The volume of the pockets are just a little too small to be practical – i.e. they can’t hold a smart phone completely.
I’m absolutely in love with the donut buttons on this vest. Custom silver coated, solid and sturdy with great texture. Now this is good hardware!
The buttons are such that they may wobble about, allowing easier buttoning.
The side-cinches are shapely too, in keeping with the whole vest being much more curvaceous compared with Levi’s type III, utilizing details from earlier eras.
The only aspect in terms of detailing that could perhaps be improved would be storage space – this is a vest after all!
The Bronco vest is very nicely made.
Carefully constructed using a mix of single needle stitching, chain-stitching, and double needle chain-stitched felled seams. The majority of the vest uses lemon coloured threads of a single thickness.
The stitching is dense and neat, the lines being evenly spaced relative to each other and the seams.
There are no loose threads or wonky stitch-lines.
Felled seams are extensively featured and evenly chain-stitched.
The buttons holes are first cut, then densely sewn. The placement of the holes are very precise, running perpendicular to the selvedge lines.
Every seem is neatly folded, and loose threading tucked away.
Again, check out the density of the stitching and the felled seams.
Overall, the sewing is perfecto – nothing I could find to complain about! The is one of the most precisely made denim garments I’ve ever seen.
This is my first piece of denim clothing from Stevenson Overall, and I am impressed!
One of the stand-out aspects of this vest – and IMO applicable to most Stevenson Overall’s garments – is that it has a more streamlined aesthetic compared with most other high-end Japanese denim brands. It manages to evoke a sense of old-school cool and incorporate interesting curves in the design without being over-engineered or excessively complicated, which sometimes happen with garments, say, from a brand like Freewheelers. The mix of detailing from different time periods work really well here.
In terms of construct, the work on this vest stands with the best that Japan has to offer. No bones for me to pick here, and there are certainly no flaws to be found. The threads are nicely sized, the seams nicely folded & felled, and the stitch-work is incredibly dense and consistent.
The materials utilised are also winners. The “Grand Indigo” dyed denim is deep, dark and very pure – the resulting red cast and overall purple shade is very appealing to me. The hardware and the paper patch are also some of the nicest I’ve seen, with the iron donut buttons being particularly handsome.
If I absolutely had to raise a negative point, then I might say the chest pockets are too small for a smartphone and the vest otherwise lacks storage space, which is one of the primary functions of a vest! Otherwise the shapes of the collar, pockets and side-straps are well executed and really enhance the appearance of the vest.
You bet! In fact, I’m quite keen on acquiring more Stevenson Overall garments in the future.
Check them out at Corlection, who stock the largest selection of Stevenson Overall products outside of Asia.
Fellow redditors, did you know I also review non-denim stuff?
Feel free to browse through my other reviews via the Reviews tab in this blog’s menu.
For example, check out my review of the Japanese Wallet by mill handmade.