Singing the Blues

A denim evangelist shares the gospel of good jeans.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A denim evangelist shares the gospel of good jeans.

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James Dung wants to convert you. In his denim temple that is five-year-old menswear boutique Rugged Gentlemen Shoppe, he shares the gospel of good denim. Of how denim jeans are a work of art. “A pair of well-worn jeans truly tells a story about its owner. Your body contours, how you move, how you sit – they all leave an imprint, making your jeans unique to you.”

He cuts the fluff: “A lot of what has been said about denim is marketing gimmick.” Consider the following myths surrounding denim – all of which, says Dung, is untrue. The thicker the fabric, the higher its quality. If you jump into a bathtub with a pair of denim trousers on, it will shrink to fit you. Jeans should never, ever be washed.

“Wearable jeans are about 11 oz to 14 oz. But, say, if you are a motorcyclist and don’t want your jeans legs flapping in the wind while riding, then you would want heavy weights. Heavier denims are stiffer, more imposing-looking. But they will still wear and tear the same way as lighter ones,” says Dung.

And you want the wear and tear, because that is what brings about fading, and character to a pair of jeans. Forget about all the expert advice you’ve read online: Dung’s jeans are washed weekly.

As for the part on shrinking: It happens only when wet denim is drying, not when it’s in water. “If you want jeans that mould to the form of your legs, you should get non-sanforised raw denim jeans. You can control how it fits you by selectively soaking the parts that need to be shrunk, be it the trouser leg or the waistband. How you dry it also affects the shrinking process: It shrinks more when hung in the hot sun, and less when dried indoors.” 
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