Ah, finding the perfect pair of jeans. It’s not easy, is it? Despite being one of the most universally loved items of clothing –and the most popular – it seems that sourcing the ideal pair is a ubiquitous sartorial struggle.

With so much choice in the market, the sheer task can be overwhelming. In the current era of mass-production, it not only makes sense to shop around and invest, but it is the more sustainable option, both financially and environmentally.

Enter: Japanese denim.

A Brief History

For decades, America has been the original home of denim production thanks to brands such as Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger, but in recent years, Japan has steadily gained a reputation as the world’s leading denim destination. When compared with its American counterpart, the history of Japanese denim is a relatively recent tale, but it is Japan’s signature craftsmanship that makes its denim so highly sought-after and unique.

Following James Dean’s 1955 appearance in Rebel Without a Cause, in which he sported the now-iconic ‘white tee and jeans’ combo, denim jeans were solidified as the trend du jour and worldwide demand for them began to soar.

In post-World War II Japan, where there was an insatiable appetite for American culture, denim became a salient metonym of Americana cool. To meet this increased demand, in the mid-1960s, Japanese designers began recreating denim jeans using imported American fabrics. However, in the early 1970s, Kurabo Mills produced Japan’s first ever pair of selvedge denim jeans made entirely from Japanese-made fabric.

Japanese denim companies fall mainly into two categories, “street” and “heritage”

The realisation that it could now produce its own fabric — as opposed to importing — revolutionised Japan’s denim production market. What makes Japanese denim so special some forty years after it was first created is the artisanal techniques that remain at the centre of its production; namely the old looms on which the denim is woven and the use of natural dye as opposed to synthetic which is used by most other manufactures.

Japanese denim companies fall mainly into two categories, “street” and “heritage”. The street brands are focused on fashions and trends, while the heritage brands are concerned with looking to the past, taking the best characteristics and qualities of workwear, military and western clothing from previous decades, and either creating perfect copies or updating for today’s lifestyle.

Click through the gallery below for our pick of the best Japanese denim brands...