If I think back to winters spent shivering at bus stops in the snow, taking shaky drags on soggy cigarettes, or summers hitch hiking through France with nowt more than a passport and my wits intact, the denim jacket is a prominent feature throughout those adolescent adventures. If I laid out each one I’ve ever owned, cuff to cuff, they wouldn’t cover more than 5 metres - they’re the kind of thing you buy for keeps, to wear forever.
My first one was from an army surplus store in Hull. There were rumours the owner kept dead-stock Wranglers in the stockroom and sure enough, the hearsay was true. I rocked up to seal the deal and he shuffled off – reappearing 10 minutes later with the hidden treasure. It was stiff as a corpse, the fabric felt cardboard dry and I struggled to fasten it up because the buttonholes felt two sizes too small. Flustered, I paid him, assuming this denim jacket lark required patience, perseverance but above all – dedication. The breaking-in process wasn’t pleasant. It was scratchy, tight and uncomfortable for the best part of six months. Washing was a tempting shortcut to softness, but I’d been told this was ‘cheating’, and that to really ‘own’ this garment, I had to stomach the stench and keep it away from the laundry basket for a good year. It was unbearable, watching helplessly as the collar started to look shiny and grubby creases developed on the sleeves. The war of attrition ended after an exploding bottle of cider at a Nirvana gig, when I caved in and shoved it on a 40° cycle the morning after. A quarter of a century later and it’s still in my wardrobe, a slightly frayed symbol of hedonism, youth and freedom.
With denim, if you’re going to do it – then for God’s sake, do it properly. Make it raw Japanese selvedge and wear it in all weathers until it starts to feel like a second skin. The essence of this garment lies in its good value, its honesty and above all, the purity of the cloth. Thread count forensics aside, these are the kind of simple, unisex pieces designed to withstand the demands of modern living. Everyone should have one. Martin Sheen in Badlands epitomises denim perfection for me (far more believable than any Marlboro cowboy) and Lady Diana didn’t do too badly either – keeping it innocent for the regal polo match crew with a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt underneath hers.
Buying one box-fresh guarantees you’ll share the journey together – there’s a feeling of familiarity every time you wear it, a real sense of ownership. Studio Nicholson have made theirs in Okayama, Japan – an area well-known as the mecca for denim production. Coming in at 14oz, the SNJP Tottori Jacket and Miyazaki Jean mean business. With zero rodeo connotations, both pieces are clean cut and boxy for a lifetime of fuss-free durability. Good quality denim like this is engineered to last, telling stories along the way. There are markings on the pockets of my denim jackets from old purses, house keys, fag packets and gigantic mobile phones. They are memorials to late nights I’ve regretted and days I’ve never wanted to forget, all in varying shades of indigo.
Leanne Cloudsdale is the Studio Nicholson Editor-at-Large