After being away from the denim hobby for a few years, I had a lot of catching up to do when I returned to the indigo life last year. Many brands and start-ups were new to me, and out of these denim makers the ones that impressed me the most were perhaps Tanuki Inc. and Stevenson Overall.
After being introduced to Tanuki’s RR1 jeans last year – my review can be found here – I found the Retro denim very much to my liking, and have been consistently wearing the RR1 for the past 6 months.
Background information about Tanuki Inc. can be found in my previous review linked above, but the short version is that Tanuki is a project started by a group of like-minded craftsmen from different professions within the jeans making industry. Tanuki stands out from other Japanese brands by focusing on highly technical & innovative denims and modern cuts, whilst still retaining the considered craftsmanship and attention to detailing that has been the domain of reproduction-oriented Japanese makers.
The folks at Tanuki were kind enough to allow me early access to their latest fabric, the Red Cast denim, in their signature Tapered fit. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the Tanuki RCT1 jeans.
The RCT1 features Tanuki’s Tapered fit, which is the second most spacious in their current line up of six fits.
I measured this size 36 pair of the Tapered cut, in loomstate, with the following results:
F Rise 10.75
B Rise 15.75
After a proper shrink-to-fit, there is initially a ~ 8% shrinkage:
F Rise 10.375
B Rise 15
For reference I am 185 cm tall, around 95 kg, 44 inch chest. In the photos here I’m wearing the size 36 for the first time, after shrinking the denim with a thorough hot soak.
For me, the jeans are long enough to allow cuffing even after shrink to fit.
As you can see from the measurements, Tanuki’s Tapered cut is very much a variation of the lifter’s fit – possessing a medium rise and decent room in the seat & thighs, yet maintaining a trim silhouette by aggressively tapering from the knee down. Overall I would say the fit is true to size and able to accommodate slightly larger folks without discomfort in the upper legs or any nut-cracker action.
The Denim – Raw
What we have here is an unsanforised, low-tension 16.5 oz fabric, in right-hand twill, that has been woven on a narrow shuttle loom. The cotton utilized is a slightly longer than usual staple from Texas.
This Red Cast fabric is a very special denim indeed, both in terms of the weave and the colour. Immediately, you’ll notice the red cast, but it is not the red cast with which we’re familiar – more than a purple hue, the blue here is fairly intense and the tinge of red can be observed both within the indigo and around it.
Traditionally, a red cast denim is produced by using extremely pure indigo dye, basically synthetic indigo without any additives such as sulfur. The result is a shade of indigo which is (blue + red) = purple.
Tanuki has taken a more detailed approach here, however, and have specially developed the indigo used on this Red Cast denim to be both more pure and more reactive with organic & acidic compounds that are commonly found in the environment. The warp threads are rope dyed through just 6 dips, yet with the oxidation time in between dips maximized to achieve the deep, red-tinged colour you can see here.
The low tension weaving combined with the use of semi-slub yarns in both the warp and the weft produce a very textural fabric. Further, by controlling the rattling on the loom, Tanuki was able to manipulate the level of loom chatter so as to create a denim with a vintage feel which isn’t too loud or artificial in appearance. Overall, this Red Cast denim is certainly slubbier than the previously reviewed Retro denim, closer to the Natural fabric in hand-feel and surface appearance.
To increase the vintage character of the Red Cast denim, Tanuki engineered it to have a small amount of nep. The denim is dotted sporadically with outwardly protruding tufts of weft threads, one of which can be seen in the photo above.
Despite the rough fabric, this denim is not scratchy or uncomfortable at all. In fact, Tanuki pays special attention to all of their low tension fabrics to ensure that the texture of the denim does not impact comfort, performance or longevity – a point of difference compared with many other denim makers from whom slubbier denims tend to be scratchy, prone to early tearing and initially uncomfortable.
The slubby texture and irregularities within the denim can also be observed clearly on the weft side. However, the weft threads reveal another hidden aspect to this denim…
If you look carefully, you’ll see that the weft threads are not bleached or ecru. Instead, the weft is a shade of biege with a tinge of red! This subtle colouration adds further to the red tone of this denim.
The colouring of this thread is most easily discerned at the selvedge edge, where bleached threads are used to close off the fabric, contrasting with the coloured weft.
The end result? The denim not only has a red-in-blue, purple hued indigo colour, but also a faint red glow that rises from behind the warp threads. This Red Cast denim is certainly a very unique fabric.
The Denim – Shrink-to-Fit
To shrink down this unsanforised denim, I soaked it in hot water for a hour with agitation every 15 minutes. I then finished the process by rinsing the jeans in warm water several times.
The soak water turned out a very deep shade of green after an hour!
There was a lot of starch in the denim, and even after the extensive soak & rinse process the jeans were still sticky with starch. The colouring of the yarns can be clearly discerned when the fabric is wet – look at that tea coloured cotton!
After contact with water, not only does the weave tighten and the slubbing become accentuated, but the denim also becomes rather hairy. Very curiously, the red tone and the general depth of colour in the indigo has increased – Tanuki explained to me that the hyper-reactivity of this indigo applies to water contact too, which increases the intensity of the red cast.
Indeed, the overall appearance of the denim is noticeably darker now and the redness more apparent. The transformation with water is pretty intense with this Red Cast denim, and the indigo featured here is perhaps the darkest from Tanuki so far.
The fabric definitely has a rougher feel after shrinking, but it is not uncomfortable at all. Rated at 16.5 oz, this Red Cast denim has slightly less body compared with the Natural fabric. Overall, it is a comfortable and easy to wear denim, despite the rugged texture.
Much like the Retro denim, this Red Cast denim must be soaked before its full potential is released!
Like all the other Tanuki jeans so far, this pair features their signature vegetable tanned deerskin patch at 2.5 oz (1 mm thickness).
This is one of the nicest leather patches I’ve experienced, and I base this opinion on how the patch on my Tanuki RR1 has aged so far after 6 months – it has performed very well in aspects of grain development, depth of colour, lustre and wash resistance.
The button fly features four metal buttons with antiqued copper finishing and plain back-studs. These buttons are sturdy and substantial.
The antique finishing on these buttons are rather well done.
In my previous review of the Tanuki RR1, one of my few criticisms pertained to the lack of customisation in the hardware featured. I am very glad to see that in their latest batch of jeans, Tanuki has made it so that the external Universal rivets have all been customised and antiqued in a similar way to the buttons.
The hidden rivets are Universal’s, nice & thick!
The belt loops are raised, with a fairly prominent ridge.
A shirting-quality red gingham cloth is used as front pocket fabric and back pocket liner. This is one of the nicer pocket cloths I’ve come across, even among Japanese brands, though it does not feel as substantial as Kurashiki sail cloth.
The front pockets are deep enough & shaped in such a way so as to easily accommodate modern phones or a smaller wallet. The front pocket holes are also cut lower and with a deeper curve, resulting in pockets that are very easy to use. Even if you don’t put anything in the front pockets, it’s quite comfortable resting your hands in there!
The back pockets are nicely sized and will hold any type of wallet comfortably. Traditionally sized bifolds, rider’s and mid-wallets will fit into the pockets completely.
The Chinese character for ‘two’ features again, in signature red and white bar-tacking. If you look closely, tonal indigo stitching can be seen running across the pockets, hinting at the half-lining of the back pockets.
The sewing of this pair of RCT1 jeans is mostly the same as the previously reviewed RR1 jeans, being neat and ‘streamlined’.
I counted 7 thread colours in a variety of sizes.
Main threads: Lemon, Orange, Tea.
Secondary threads: Red, Black, White, Tonal Indigo.
Playing on a similar theme, the Red Cast jeans feature a red line of stitching running down the inseam instead of the signature blue line which feature on Tanuki’s other jeans.
Further, the Red Cast jeans also feature red stitching on the coin pocket.
Similar to my observations in the RR1 review, here I am impressed by how the main thread colours are carefully coordinated and blended into each other in a subtle but elegant way. You must look closely to notice this detail, as the orange and tea threads are easily mistaken for the same colour at first glance.
The sewing is neat and straight with no stitch-lines too close to the edges. Take the chain-stitching on the waistband for example.
As you can see, thicker threads have been selected for the chain-stitch.
More examples of the chain-stitch work can be found in the back yoke and hems. The consistency and regularity of the construct are noteworthy.
The button holes are very nicely made. The sewing is very dense on both sides and precisely placed.
The button holes deserve another look – sewn then cut, check out the density of the sewing too!
The fly is neatly locked on both sides. This is one of the neatest non-selvedge flys I’ve come across, even with the contrasting thread colours!
The belt loops are not tucked, but are accurately placed and bar-tacked.
The bar-tacking, riveting and button placement are all carefully executed. Check out the great finish at the fly reinforcement!
The inseam is neatly locked too, all of the sewing running precisely in parallel and none of the fraying denim stick out!
No loose threads on the inside or outside – a very clean look indeed!
Thoughts & Opinions
Many experienced denim hobbyists had doubts about Tanuki last year when the hype of its launch overshadowed the substance of their products, the situation made worse by a couple of competitors waging questionable forum campaigns against Tanuki. I am glad to see that Tanuki has been keeping its head down and focusing its effort on developing new denims and new fits. One year on, as the first batch of Tanuki jeans are starting to produce some great fading results, Tanuki can be counted among the most popular brands in the raw denim community at large and have won over some fairly hardcore fans too. The proof of the pudding is in the eating – I believe at this point Tanuki’s jeans more than speak for themselves.
Tanuki continues to impress me with their new fabrics and updated cuts. The original Natural Indigo and Retro fabrics were some of the best loomstate denims that I’ve ever handled, and the subsequent solid tone denim releases (ID x ID, black) were great combinations of modern aesthetics and Japanese denim tradition. Tanuki’s latest Red Cast denim continues this record of producing fantastic loomstate denims, and these RCT1 jeans prove to be one of the most interesting Japanese jeans of 2017 thus far.
Like I had mentioned previously in the Tanuki RR1 review, it is very rare to encounter a pair of jeans for which the denim has been completely custom engineered from the ground up… the resources and industry connections required to achieve such a feat is simply unavailable to all but the most prestigious Japanese makers and brands, with Tanuki having significant advantages in this area due to members of the project being actual denim weavers and loom specialists. Denim of this calibre are few and far in between.
The RCT1 features a rather modern Tapered fit which should appeal to current generation denimheads. Ample room exists in the top block such that movement is relatively unrestricted despite the slimming fit, even for people with more masculine lower body builds. Reproduction enthusiasts need not apply, though they may find the Regular Straight cut more suitable.
The Red Cast denim itself is a great twist on how the red cast of indigo has traditionally been achieved and, much like the Retro denim, is a marvelous fabric that is full of geeky details which will be appreciated by hobbyists and collectors alike. The tone of the indigo is reminiscent of early century denims, giving the jeans a rustic appearance that is quite appealing to me. Unlike most red cast denims on which the indigo have intense purple hues, Tanuki’s version imparts a tonal shift in both the warp & weft that is much more towards a darker shade of red…the colour of a nice Taiwanese oolong tea, if you like! The vintage character of this fabric has been further enhanced by a very specific slub n’ nep texture that was achieved through expert manipulation of the shuttle-loom.
The detailing and construction of these RCT1 jeans are very considered too. Tanuki jeans feature some of the nicest sewing around, with the overall construction comparing well with other top-tier Japanese brands. The peripheral components such as the leather patch and pocket cloth all feature first class materials which combine nicely with the denim itself, and overall the jeans have a cohesive aesthetic and an artisanal quality. The deerskin leather patch in particular, from a leather enthusiast’s perspective, is one of the nicest patches I have ever handled.
This ‘cohesiveness’ I mentioned is an often forgotten aspect when examining jeans, yet I think it is one of the most important factors that separate Japanese jeans from the usually inferior jeans made in other countries. It is a vague consideration to be sure, something that is hard to precisely explain, but you know it when you see it and, more importantly, jeans simply look weird if cohesion is lacking. (NB: I don’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings here and I acknowledge there are some great jeans being made outside of Japan, but there is no dispute within our hobby that the Japanese are at the top of this game!)
Now that Tanuki has added custom embossing to the external rivets, the other aspect of the jeans that I believe could be upgraded is the use of a customised top button. I really want the face of a Tanuki on the button 🙂
If you haven’t tried a pair of Tanuki’s jeans yet, I’d suggest that you need to at least see a pair in person at some point. For me, after wearing the Tanuki RR1 for the past 6 months and now getting some time with the RCT1, I would actually recommend Tanuki ahead of Oni or PBJ!
To conclude, I believe these Tanuki RCT1 jeans will make a great addition to the denim collections of both new and advanced denim hobbyists. New comers to Japanese denim will appreciate the comfortable yet modern fit and the considered detailing, whilst hardcore geeks will really enjoy the nuances of this Red Cast denim – the RCT1 has something to offer everyone.
9 out of 10, highly recommended!
Tanuki is available through several stockists – check out Godspeed Store for Tanuki jeans and even Tanuki wallets!