OldBlue Co. WWII Repro – Denim Review
In recent years, Indonesia has become a major location for denim and vintage Americana. Taking full advantage of lessons learned from the Japanese repro boom, South-East Asian markets are quickly becoming hotbeds for quality denim and workwear production.
Among the top ranks in the Indonesian denim scene is OldBlue Co. Providing both repro models as well as proprietary fits, OldBlue aims to produce jeans in the spirit of times past, eschewing any gimmicks and keeping their jeans simple and straightforward.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on pair of OldBlue’s first repro jeans, their 1944 WWII Repro, based on the Levi’s ’44 501s.
Materials were chosen well, keeping as close to the original jeans as possible without making them utterly uneconomical. The denim is an 11.5 oz. run of unsanforized selvedge denim from Cone Mills’ White Oak plant.
This 100% cotton denim is mildly uneven despite its light weight, is not particularly hairy, and features a selvedge ID that differs from standard red-line selvedge in that it places the red stitch between the indigo warp threads and the undyed edge weave.
While most folks probably wouldn’t care much about the selvedge ID, it came as a nice surprise to see a Cone Mills denim we hadn’t come across before.
While the original Levi’s jeans featured front pocket-bags made of green herringbone fabric, OldBlue’s are constructed from Japanese duck canvas in olive green. The result, while not 100% true to the original, is an aesthetically pleasing compromise that feels strong and well-constructed.
The jeans are sewn together well, using an all-cotton thread. The same gauge thread is used throughout the jean, and though a heavier-gauge thread would have been nice for the outseams, it still feels secure on most applications. (For what its worth, the ’44 cut is still a regular-straight silhouette, so the outseams are unlikely to get strained as much as a skinnier cut.)
The cuffs are chain-stitched, as per the originals, so as to produce the coveted roping effect. The inseams are backed over with a second stitch, which helps keep the hem stitching from coming apart with normal wear & tear.
OldBlue’s choice for hardware is also on point, having chosen black-painted laurel leaf donut buttons for the fly. While Levi’s had to make do with what they could procure, the laurel leaf buttons were a favourite as they symbolized peace.
At the bottom of the fly, the crotch is reinforced with stitching instead of a rivet. Interestingly, the button holes are reinforced in such a way that it creates minor puckering along the length of the fly. It will be interesting to see if this puckering remains with regular wear.
The watch pocket is sewn on in a double stitch without rivets, and features the common “peekaboo” selvedge detailing.
The back pockets are unlined and feature bar-tacked corners. Hidden rivets also ensure your wallet is held in place by more than a handful of threads.
For the rivets, themselves, OldBlue chose YKK fasteners from Japan. While they aren’t the deadstock Universal rivets of yore they feature no branding on the exterior of the jeans, leading to a clean and uniform look.
The leather patch is a soft American cowhide, tanned in such a way that it feels similar to deer skin. Also included with the jeans is a patch made from the “leather-like” cardboard material Levi’s later switched to.
What makes the ’44 501s so memorable is, of course, their painted arcuates and red tab. OldBlue Co. has naturally included painted arcs of their own which appear stitched from afar.
While the arcuate design isn’t for everyone, it’s still less flashy than many brands and one can’t blame OldBlue for wanting to avoid a lawsuit (although their usage of the red tab on right pocket is questionable from a legal standpoint…we still like it!).
The overall feel of the jeans is very nice. The denim is lightweight without feeling thin, and the lack of heavy starch allows for an initial softness uncommon in unsanforized denim. The longer yoke and straight-cut makes for a different feel from most modern jeans, but does not appear so loose as to trigger flashbacks of 8 Mile.
The jeans also come with a small repair kit that includes a spare button and rivets.
All told, the OldBlue Co. ’44 WWII Repro jeans are a fantastic alternative to LVC’s option. Using a beautiful American-made selvedge denim and Japanese hardware, OldBlue has created a well-made and competitive repro that retails for two-thirds the price ($155) of the LVC ’44 501s, and may even last longer than the official repro due to it’s retention of back pocket rivets.
If you’re interested in picking up a pair, the ’44 WWII Repros are available from OldBlue Co.’s website.