Being a dad is single-handedly the most fantastic experience of my life. I really can’t stress that enough. I know a great and many of us in the denim community are parents and suspect the feeling is mutual across the board. Maybe not; some kids are outright dicks. You know I’m right. As I think about the Indigo Invitational, I contemplate the complications being a dad may pose to a year-long fade competition. Depending on what denim-care philosophy you subscribe to, parenting a toddler, nay, two toddlers, and raw denim often clash. Just read my story on that exact topic. It’s explosive.
That said, parenting toddlers could produce some killer fade patterns, too. Ask fellow dad-fader, Jason Thomas. There’s no end to the potential weirdness rolling around, and rough-housing with littles can have a fresh pair of raws. However, dig deeper with Jason and find out that he also sees Year Two of the Indigo Invitational as a way to roadmap not only his adventures but those of his 15-month-old son. The evolution of his jeans over the next year will mark each new experience in fatherhood and fun. It was an absolute pleasure to talk with Jason. Come get to know him with me.
INDIGO INVITATIONAL Y2 CONTENDER: Jason Thomas (@jasonrthomas3000)
THE ARCUATE: Hey, Jason! Thank you for taking the time to sit and talk with me about the upcoming Indigo Invitational Year 2. Before we get started, let’s go over some basics; can you tell us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
JASON THOMAS: Hey, Grant! My name is Jason Thomas. I’m a 40-year old father of two and a husband from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Fredericksburg is located about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C., on Interstate 95. I’ve been working in I.T. for the past 18 years or so, and though I work from home (SICK desk fades, brosephs! ;)), I support a government agency that’s headquartered in D.C.
TA: I’ve been asking everyone about their selvedge origin story and looking for a better answer than, “it’s a hobby,” “I like fades,” or “why the hell not?” So as real as you can be, what drew you to selvedge denim?
JT: Just about anything that piques my interest ends up sucking me into an internet wormhole, which definitely happened with selvedge. It started in 2019 after I lost a bunch of weight, and it’s occurring to me as I write that, technically, there’s a prologue that dates back to 2001, or so – but maybe I’ll save that for another time ;).
After losing the weight, I had pretty much sized out of my entire wardrobe. In the interest of being somewhat brief, I’ll keep it to more recent interest. A guy named Mike Pontacoloni runs Comma Vintage; I started following his work after losing about 65-70 lbs.
Mike has written some excellent vintage buying guides, U.S. made articles of clothing, how and where to find them, what to look for, describing the sizing and fits. The dude has done a ton of research on vintage clothing and shares his knowledge freely. I was particularly interested in his blog posts about Levi’s trucker jackets and flannel shirts, but he also wrote one on the venerable Levi’s 501.
Mike’s post on the 501s included links, and one of the articles was from PrimerMagazine.com, titled Shrink to Fit: A Guide to Shrinking the Classic Levi’s 501 STF Jeans. That article was pretty much all I needed to read. I received my first pair of raw, STF 501s the week of my 40th birthday.
I thought it was really cool to have a fresh, blank canvas as I began a new chapter. Not only was I entering into a new decade, but I was also recently engaged and expecting a baby boy, Maddox, with my new fiancé, Michaela. My son would be my second child, as I also have a five-year-old daughter, Stella, from a previous relationship.
These jeans would age with me, into my 40s, showing wear and tear (like myself), and they’d develop into a great pair of worn jeans as my boy grew, both occurring right before my eyes. They were both evolution roadmaps.
TA: That’s seriously one of the most honest answers I have gotten so far, Jason. Nice work on the weight loss, brother. Let’s talk about the Indigo Invitational. First, were you aware of the competition last year, and if so, how did you first come across it? What made you want to compete this year, aside from the crazy prize list?
JT: I became aware that there was some sort of fade competition (Indigo Invitational) that was on-going through reading threads and discussions that took place in those two virtual communities. The whole thing seemed very much Fight Club-esque, and everyone was following the first two rules.
It’s possible I was just missing the more detailed threads or just not paying close enough attention. But the year one competition was winding down as I became aware of what exactly was going on. I joined the Indigo Invitational group before year one was officially closed out so I could vote for the finalists, which was pretty cool. I think just being an active participant will be one of the best parts of the Indigo Invitational for me.
TA: Right on, I can dig that. You’re about to commit to one pair of jeans for 365 days. I’ve killed cacti in less time than that. With virtually no upkeep, I couldn’t commit to keeping them alive. What are you going to commit to wearing, and how did you decide on your competition pair?
JT: Ultimately, I ended up with three new pairs of raws since the Spring, and I’ve left the tags on them all. I (kinda) explained what this was all about to my (now) wife and asked for her advice on what to choose for the Indigo Invitational. I wanted her buy-in since she’s going to have to friggin LOOK at me (and maybe SMELL me) every day for the next year. And while I indeed have developed a style of my own, she’s much more fashionable than me. Wow, that’s a lot of words to say, “I let my wife decide!”
I’m going to rock another pair of 501s – with a twist… Over on r/rawdenim a young fader, u/Larrypawolski posted a thread about a pair of oddball Levi’s 501 STF style #2751. In the thread, he compared them, stylistically, to the much more expensive PBJ XX-010s.
I’d actually SEEN this colorway (did I use that correctly?!) on Amazon. They are an indigo warp and fuchsia weft denim. One of the odd little things I’ve noticed on Amazon is that pricing may vary quite drastically from one size to another, and the STF 2751s was an excellent example of this. Most measures were about $55, but I found them in my preferred size (ODDBALL!!) 35w34l for $27.40.
I can’t pass on a good deal, and at less than $30, I jumped. Overall, the jeans have a purple appearance, though they seem to change color based on the environment’s lighting. The buttons of the fly and rear brand patch are neon pink. The rivets are dark, as is the stitching – such a weird, oddball pair of jeans. I love them, for now.
TA: Dude, you might have the best bargain pair in the entire Indigo Invitational. What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s competition?
JT: Sick fades, brah. Honestly, I am very curious as to how these will fade. I’m going to do the best I can to minimize washing and agitation to shoot for the highest contrast fades I can achieve with this pair – high contrast will look very cool – my hope is for dark jeans with light pink creases, stacks, honeycombs, etc. The jeans just blending to a more uniform purple will be kinda boring to me, so we’ll have to see how it goes. But it will be fun just to be part of the contest.
TA: What do you think the most challenging part of the competition will be for you, and how do you plan to overcome that obstacle?
JT: Not getting bored with the same pair every (or most) day(s).
Remember, I said I have two other pairs of raws? Also sitting in the closet, my first pair of Nudies, in Dry Black Comfort Selvedge. I usually dislike even 1% elastane in jeans, but I just LOVE this pair. I got the Grim Tim cut, and I think they fit me perfectly.
I also picked up some other oddball pairs that all need attention. If I’m committed to fading my new Levi’s – these two can sit on the shelf for another year, another contest… that’s going to be HARD to leave them alone.
These three raw faders with so much potential will just be sitting in the closet. Calling me. Tempting me.
Other questions pop up like, are these purpley jeans going to look fucking SILLY with certain shirts, jackets, boots, sneakers I wanna wear? Am I going to be getting ready to go out somewhere (lol, just kidding, Coronavirus) and decide the purple jeans don’t look as good as a true indigo pair, or black, or chinos? At least I AM rocking this pair during a time where I really am not leaving the house for any social reasons. Silver lining to global pandemic!!!
TA: Brayn, on the competition’s founding fathers, just posted an excellent blog post about this, staying focused, and not getting distracted by the other pairs on the shelf. Worth a read…maybe it will help you stay on the path towards the light! There’s some incredibly stiff (no pun intended) competition in the field this year. How do you feel about going against guys like Alex Swords and Stephen Snider?
JT: LOL, it’s no competition whatsoever in regards to my participation. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m walking in with a pair of funky colored lightweight Levi’s. Those guys and others practically create ART with their denim fades and have quite literally selected some of the fanciest pants in existence to compete in. It’s an honor to even be allowed to participate.
TA: Like me, you’re a father of a couple of young ones; my children will definitely puke or piss on me at some point during the Indigo Invitational; it’s happened before. How do you think dad-tivities will contribute to your fade patterns, and do you think the littles pose any threats to the contest?
JT: Haha, I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’m going to try my best to use it to my advantage. The Alaskan Explorer and Boulder Colorado Adventurer have nothing on this dad-life! With a four and half-month-old baby in the house and COVID-19 raging outside, I wash and sanitize my hands A LOT, and while it’s probably not a best practice, I do enough up drying my hands on the thighs of my pants often – that’s gotta be worth something, right? Just kidding, of course.
Despite working at home and having a low-impact profession – I do wear my jeans hard. I’ll be taking walks through the neighborhood in them, regardless of the temperature outside. I know the bros in SE Asia get those high heat/high humidity fades, so this is my attempt to simulate that, and we have some pretty challenging footpaths in the neighborhood, so I’ve got that going for me.
.. And you know I’ll be crawling around on the floor with the kiddos, so make sure to look for my knee fades. I’m actually thinking about doing yard work in them – usually, I’d use a castoff Goodwill pair – but I might as well get all the wear on this pair, right?
As far as the piss and puke… I am going to TRY to spot clean this pair more often than the Gustin pair and previous 501 pair – both of those took a fair number of washes over the past few months to do baby fluid incidents and a five-year-old’s occasional muddy shoe transgression.
TA: Washing; soaking; neglect; what’s your plan for 365 days of the same jeans, hail, sleet, and ball-sweating heat?
JT: Yes. Lol. I’ll put them on day one and wear them for a week or so, maybe two. Assuming they’re not already disgusting, I’ll do a basic quick soak – if they’re already nasty, I’ll mix in a little Castile soap. Air dry only. Then the name of the game will be neglect for as long as possible. My strategy will be plain soaks, soap soaks, occasional gentle machine washes, always hang dry. Shortly after my son was born this past April, I thought I’d fucked my 501s after tossing them in the dryer. They came out SNUG.
TA: I think many guys are just hoping to make it the full year of the Indigo Invitational, regardless of winning a prize, and pat themselves on the back for sticking it out to the end. Will the accomplishment of finishing and sweet faded pair of jeans be enough, Jason, or is there something you really hope to win?
JT: Oh, I’m just playing along for the experience. The accomplishment will be MORE than enough. That being said, I’ll always take free gear if someone wants to see me wearing their label 😉
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