Los Angeles may inspire images of sun-baked palm trees, endless traffic, and gaudy Hollywood glamour but the SoCal city has much more to offer. The fact that the West Coast is closest to Japanese fabrics, that Downtown LA is currently the largest garment manufacturer in the United States, and the feel of the perpetually dressed-down California style have all made the sprawling metroplex one of the biggest denim meccas on the planet.
Dozens of denim designers call LA home and the vision in their products frequently bleeds into the retail spaces that sell them. Below you’ll find our picks for the best shops in the city and some of the must visit places for denim pilgrims.
Mister Freedom1761 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90031
Imagine if Jean Luc Godard had been obsessed with American biker and G.I. movies instead of gangster flicks. Now imagine that he moved to America and started making men’s clothes instead of making films in France.
If you’re still with me, you’ve got a good idea of what to expect from Mr. Freedom, the brainchild of French born designer Christophe Loiron. His concurrent homage and fantastical reinterpretation of classic Americana really has to be seen to be believed.
The bright red store on Beverly Boulevard is as much a museum of Americana curiosities as it is a retail space. Outside of the area devoted to the Mr. Freedom label (a collaboration with Japanese brand Sugarcane), the remainder of the store is stocked full of well preserved vintage clothing from the mid-1800′s through present day.
Everything from deadstock big “E” Levi’s, WWII era USN peacoats, and mountains of old workboots make you feel like you’re wandering a movie studio costume department in the 1960s – fitting as the store is next door to the cult revival theater, The New Beverly.
Rising Sun & Co.2246 Fair Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90041
You know how the ice cream tastes just a little bit better at those neighborhood joints where they actually churn the stuff up in the back? Rising Sun & Co. produces some of the most amazing period workwear you can buy, but what makes shopping there just that little bit more magical is knowing that almost all of the pieces on display had to move about ten feet to get from production to the showroom.
Rising Sun & Co. is a destination in every sense of the word. Owner and designer Mike Hodis moved his operation from Pasadena to an old garage in Eagle Rock last October to give himself the space to maintain the entire operation under one roof. Eagle Rock may be a slight detour from most of the main LA areas, but Sun is well worth the trip and the store really thrives off the local flavor.
Take an afternoon and mosey on up to Eagle Rock for a trip into Mike’s time capsule. Just make sure you get to see the back too, that’s where the real magic happens.
Self Edge Los Angeles144 N La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036
It would be impossible to make it through this list without mentioning the Los Angeles branch of denim institution, Self Edge. Headed by 3sixteen partner, Johan Lam, SELA offers an assortment of denims ranging from Lam’s signature brand to hardcore Japanese offerings including The Flat Head, Dry Bones, Strike Gold, Real Japan Blues, Sugarcane, and Iron Heart.
Besides their immaculately curated denim selection, SELA also does Union Special chainstitch hemming and full darning repairs in-house. The interior design is part industrial minimalism, part mid-century bowling alley, but all rockabilly cool. Pop on in for a fitting, to scope the latest Japanese imports and browse the current issue of Inventory, or just to chat up the staff.
They’re very welcoming!
American Rag Cie150 S La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036
Also located on the La Brea “indigo strip” is high fashion superstore, American Rag. With more than 12,000 square feet of floorspace – 5,500 of which is devoted purely to jeans – AmRag boasts more labels and designers than we could hope to list.
Their men’s and women’s denim brands run the gambit from Naked & Famous, LVC, Nudies, Rising Sun & Co., RRL, Unbranded, Civilianaire, WeSC, PRPS, Baldwin, APC… you get the point – if they’re jeans, they’re probably here.
The shop’s denim heritage runs deeper than just having a wide stock, however, as many of the rising stars in the denim industry (Karl Thoenessen of Rogue Territory, for example) got their starts on the floors of the denim bar. A walk through the denim bar feels like the denim lover’s walk down the Hollywood stars.
The Stronghold1625 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
“I want you to feel like you walked in to 1955,” says The Stronghold owner and proprietor, Michael Paradise. From 1895 through the late 1950s, The Stronghold was Los Angeles’s only denim, well, stronghold. Besides producing workwear, they’ve also made the movie jeans that went on stars like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath, and a whole host of John Wayne Westerns.
The label sat dormant for half a century until Paradise bought the rights to revitalize the brand in 2005. Looking at the store, it’s like Stronghold hasn’t missed a beat.
The house line is mainly raw selvedge jeans and work coats inspired by the brand’s original fits and patterns (many of which were recovered by our mutual friend Brit Eaton).
Outside of The Stronghold label, Paradise holds to a strict policy of only stocking companies that were around before 1960 and have avoided transferring their production to sweatshops. This includes a healthy selection from Alden, Russell Moccasin, White’s Boots, Stetson, and Filson among others.
Drop by and experience a part of denim history or to talk old movies with Paradise, he can pick out a pair of Strongholds in almost every picture you can think of!
111 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Finding the perfect fit can be more than half the battle when searching for a pair of jeans. Luckily the good folks at the Den.m Bar have taken all the guesswork out of that process by making every jean bespoke in-house to give their customers the best fit imaginable.
Operating out of the heart of Downtown’s fashion district, Den.m Bar offers old school tailoring mixed nicely with modern manufacturing. Customers can pick from a dozen or so rotating denim options including Cone Mills selvedge, Nisshinbo selvedge, and stretch fabrics from Candiani and Bull. Next comes the fitting process where an individual pattern is cut for every single pair before going to the in-house tailors to stitch the complete package together.
The whole process takes anywhere from 4-6 weeks and in the end you’ve got a pair designed for you, by you. Owner Richard Wang is willing to go to any length to give the customer the design they have in mind. Whether that’s a specific pocket lining, thread color, or a slightly outrageous design, he’ll go there. He tells the story of one case where a customer commissioned a retro pair of “Elephant Pants” with huge bell bottoms, no belt loops, and extra pockets on the thighs.
Whatever your denim dreams may be, Den.m Bar is there to make them come true.
Like a vintage Honda bike, General Quarters is all function, no flash, and pure cool. Owner Blair Lucio’s La Brea store has a unified vision of recreation wear from the 1950s and 60s including tees, backpacks, button downs, and of course a healthy stock of raw denim.
General Quarters not only host denim from California locals Rogue Territory and Tellason, but are also one of only two stockists of Italian brand Blue Blanket. Aside from the jeans, the shop also features classic American labels like Schott and Pendleton alongside new-wave brands like Archival Clothing and Topo Designs.
Despite the blending of so many different eras, everything in General Quarters adheres to the same general aesthetic and function like a well oiled machine. There’s even an operating barbershop in the back.
Los Angeles is a big town, and there are a few excellent stores still completely worth the time for a visit that don’t necessarily focus primarily on denim.
Unionmade Los Angeles225 26th St., Santa Monica, CA 90049
The “pocket sized” version of the Unionmade flagship store in San Francisco is practically bursting at the gills exceptional product. With a selection of jeans from LVC, Tellason, and Raleigh Denim, the Los Angeles branch is a great distillation of everything you’d want in a men’s boutique.
Mohawk General Store4011 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
This ultra hip Silver Lake boutique brings together everything from Engineered Garments to LVC, Dries Van Notten to Tellason in an amazingly simple Danish mid-centry atmosphere. They’re also the only place in the States where you can get your hands on those seamless Anatomicas!
Glory Sales & Service4659 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
This Los Feliz motocycle shop has all you’d ever need to ride in rockabilly style. Along with their own Glory branded denim, they also stock Levi’s, Railcar Fine Goods, and a whole host of hardcore rider helmets and leather.
Did we forget to mention your favorite spot? Sound off on your top LA denim haunts in the comments below.