The Invitational is Underway
“Wear a pair of jeans for a whole year,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. For right now, let’s not focus on who “they” are, but accept that, so far, “they” have been right. The Indigo Invitational is a little more than a month underway and my Benzak’s are racking up the miles. There has been a flood of update photos from all over the world, people with shocking fade progress, and others just starting to see the fruit of their labor. It’s enough to make you second guess, “if you’re doing things right.”
Fading can be slow and frustrating. I liken it to coloring your hair or losing weight. At first, you don’t see the grow-out/changes because you’re so close to it. That’s kind of what it’s like to wear the same jeans every single day. I totally get that this is a fade competition over a year. Is it so wrong that I want to see the fades happening, as I am sure many competitors do as well?
If you read my interview with our editor during the Contender Series, you know I am competing in the Indigo Invitational Y2 in Benzak Denim Developers “W-01 Straight Special #2.” These jeans are a true testament to how well selvedge denim holds up over time. With 44 wears on my jeans, I figured it was time to write a review for these Benzak female cut jeans.
First, A Bit About Benzak
Benzak is a European denim brand based out of Amsterdam. Born out of a passion for style and garment development/production in 2013, Benzak focuses on craftsmanship and creating timeless products. With the production of their first female cut in September 2019, they are already making progress and poised to take on more of the female fader market with more fabrics set to release next year.
I had the opportunity to try on my first pair of Benzak jeans in Amsterdam, and as cheesy as this may sound, it felt pretty freaking rad. I am a sucker for a good pair of simple, well-made denim, and Benzak did not disappoint. From the simple, no-frills leather patch on the back hip to nearly non-existent arcuates, these jeans are simplicity at its best. I fell in love with these jeans from the moment I saw them.
The understated patch inside the waistband displays the band’s iconic sewing machine logo, which is about as “lavish” a detail you’re going to get with these jeans. I also really love that the inside of the zipper has a patch with “Benzak” on one side and the size on the other. These are subtle embellishments that go a long way not to distract from the denim or the jeans themselves.
Also, I can’t be the only one with a terrible memory, so being able to quickly see the size when someone asks about the fit or I need it for some reason gets these jeans extra points. Oh, and the hidden selvedge ID in the front coin pocket is money.
From the day these babies arrived at my front door, I was dying to put them on. I had never owned a pair of raw denim without any elastane in them to give the jeans “stretch.” They felt stiff and unrelenting. While intimidating, I was ready for the change. The denim feels thick yet soft to the touch, not unlike some pairs I have seen that will literally stand on their own. The jeans are entirely different from my experience with my Naked and Famous and Railcar denim.
As for the denim itself, this women’s cut pair of Benzak’s tout 15 oz. Vintage Italian Indigo Selvedge. The denim is woven by Candiani Denim and is beautiful, dark, and is reminiscent of denim of the ’50s. I love the vintage look and feel of it. One of these denim’s more unique features is that they used a thicker weft yarn than the warp, which produces softer feeling denim on the jeans’ inside. Extra comfort? For this girl, and her first time having no stretch in her jeans, it helped more than I thought it would.
I’m 44 wears in, and the fade’s electric blue is starting to shine through on my honeycombs and whiskers. The slight roping that is visible is beautiful, and my knees are starting to show some wear. Without any washes or soaks, the waist has stretched slightly, which has made the top block a little baggy and unflattering, but hopefully, with a wash, things will tighten back up.
Word on the web is favorable for Benzak, and I have to agree that these jeans are incredibly made, slow faders meant to withstand the test of time. Being the first women’s fit that Benzak has made, I am impressed. There is a lot that they got right, and I don’t want to discredit Benzak. To be fair and balanced, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my main complaint.
The top block, sigh, honestly I wish it were less bulky. I actually convinced a girlfriend of mine to buy a pair of the Benzak W-01 Straight Special #2 as well, and she has said the same thing. The denim is made to “exhibit subtle curves and a snug look and feel,” according to Benzak, and I agree that they are snug. The legs are slim-straight, which can be troublesome as a female when trying to get jeans that fit your waist and legs. Without more research on my behalf, I am not sure what the right solution would be. An alternative option is undoubtedly some added stretch, although you would have to be okay with stretch denim.
That said, the fit overall is comfortable. It did take a few days and a few nights of unbuttoning my jeans to feel this way. If you don’t like a tight waist, I would suggest sizing up in these, do keep in mind you will get some stretch, creating a baggier top block. Overall, I would say be patient and buy true to size to let the jeans form to your body.
The jeans are exceptionally well made, no loose stitching internally, thick pocket bags, and the same quality you would expect based on external appearance. The chain-stitched hem speaks to the experience and attention to detail Benzak pours into their products.
I was super impressed with the price point of these jeans. Considering the mill’s reputation and overall construction quality, I’m starting to realize I got a killer deal on these jeans. My Indigo Invitational competition pair ran roughly $175. You’re getting an awful lot of quality at this price point. I have purchased other jeans that have cost me about the same if not more, and by day 30, I have seen more fading and the unfortunate start of crotch blowout. Thick thighs may save lives, but they destroy denim. Overall, I am really impressed and think the finished product is well worth the price of admission.
Who should buy these?
These would be an excellent fit for women with a more straight build, an inverted triangle build, or even a slim build.
Who Shouldn’t buy these?
I would steer clear if you have an athletic build unless you really like sizing up. If you want the look of a fitted skinny jean, these may not be for you; these jeans will fit more blocky and have less of a body-hugging appearance.
Final thoughts. Why? Try? Buy?
While I love these jeans, I recognize that love might be driven by sentimentality, being that they are my first non-stretch pair of raws, and they are, after all, my Indigo Invitational competition jeans. Objectively, these would definitely be nice to “Try.”
Why “Try” and not definitely “Buy?” If you are new to the denim game and want a solid, non-stretch, selvedge pair of jeans, these are a great option with added comfort from the unique warp/weft construction and some more feminine features. Even if you’re more seasoned in selvedge and want to explore a new female-specific cut, hell, these are an excellent option for all the same reasons, but at a lovely price point.
That said, The fit was close to great, but really just came up short for me. It’s really my only complaint. If you are looking for a more tapered fit or more intricate details, it might be worth moving on. These are a good entry-level pair of selvedge or a beat around pair with solid construction and understated value for the price.
If you wear it well, it will be well worn.
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