Is Custom Denim Really Worth the Investment?
Like most women, I’ve always struggled to find the perfect-fitting pair of jeans. The reality is that most of the jeans being sold out there—regardless of their price point—just don’t accommodate the wide variety of bodies looking to wear them. As a 5’5” lady with a small waist and thighs but a pretty serious, ahem, behind, searching for new denim has left me empty-handed and frustrated many times. Usually they’re just way too long, or they fit perfectly on my legs but are too tight around my butt and too loose around my waist. While the specific complaints may differ, I know that many of my friends endure similar dilemmas.
So, when one of my total denim-junkie guy friends recently started singing the praises of custom jeans, I was intrigued, but it also seemed like quite an investment of time and money. Would it be worth it to spend that extra time at appointments finessing the jeans, and then spending the extra money (anywhere from $500 to $700) to do so? I wasn’t convinced, but I decided to head to the experts at 3x1 and give it a shot.
Scroll down to hear about my experience!
Although 3x1 jeans are sold all over the world, their heart and soul is at 15 Mercer, their factory-cum-shop in New York City’s trendy Soho neighbourhood. When I asked the label’s founder, Scott Morrison, why he decided to launch 3x1 with the unique store in 2011, the industry veteran explained, “I wanted to build a concept shop that no one had ever seen in the denim industry. I wanted to revolutionise retail by putting the factory in the retail space and inspire people to get creative, appreciate the transparency of our process, and even tinker a bit in our world of design.” I headed down to 15 Mercer for my first appointment, where we would settle on the fabric, fit, buttons, and more.
Morrison was definitely on to something—stepping into the store with the glass-walled factory plopped right inside it immediately made the experience feel special. Obviously this was not going to be my average denim-buying experience. After looking around the store a bit and discussing different fits with 3x1’s experts, I settled on a black skinny jean—boring, I know, but also the pair I would get the most use out of. Why bother with a custom pair of jeans that you’ll only wear occasionally, right?
Looking for the best options available, 3x1 sources its fabric from all over the world. The fabric used for the brand’s women’s skinny jeans comes from a famed Turkish mill called ISKO. Although it’s considered a stretchier option of theirs, I still noticed that it felt tougher than your average denim. This made me a little nervous, but I was told it helps to retain the original shape, and it had an added slimming effect to boot. The waistband—called a two-piece contour—was also totally different than the straight-across ones I’m used to, and reduced the usual “gaping” I experience in that area.
One thing I learned while at 15 Mercer was just how important the stitching on jeans is—the number of stitches per inch, to be exact. Ultimately, the more stitches there are, the higher quality the jeans. While the denim industry standard is seven to nine stitches per inch, 3x1 opts for 11 to 13. This indicates not only that more time was spent on the garment but also that it will hold up longer. I was allowed to select the colour of my stitching and opted for basic black so that the jeans would be totally versatile.
With the fit, fabric, and stitching settled, we moved on to the really fun part: deciding on all the little details that aren’t usually left to the customer. First I had to choose between a button front or zipper/button combo. The 3x1 team uses the smoothest RiRi zippers, considered the best in the world and double the cost of a standard zipper, and they add a “locking pull” to them, which prevents your zipper from coming undone at inopportune moments. Hearing that, I was sold.
I then chose the stitching shape for my pockets (straight lines around the edges, as I was told it was most flattering), the colour of my front button (black), and my pocket fabric (a dark polka dot, as a little hidden surprise). My favourite part, though, was choosing the embroidery: I had my initials sewn into my back pocket in a light grey colour, and then my late dad’s initials sewn on the inside waistband.
With that, my job was done, and my choices were sent off to be transformed into what I hoped would be the perfect pair of jeans. Speaking again to Morrison, I asked him why he thinks custom jeans are worth it. “It’s really about creating something special that our customer can wear forever,” he explains. “We are more than a denim brand selling jeans—we invite our customers to an experience.” I couldn’t argue with that—this was certainly one of the most memorable shopping trips I’d ever had, and one that would leave me with something entirely my own.
A few weeks later, I went back to 15 Mercer again to try on the final pair and see if any alterations needed to be made. Other than needing to be hemmed a bit more (#shortgirlproblems), they fit me like a glove—a comfortable glove—and I got the nerdiest thrill out of the special embroidery. Do I think they’re worth the investment for everybody? Not necessarily, but am I myself a convert? Yes, 100%.
Realistically, I’ve probably spent the same amount of money on a bunch of flimsy fast-fashion jeans that don’t last nearly as long as these will. That and the fact that they fit impeccably and provided me with more than just a click-of-the-cash-register experience have me totally on board. If you really struggle to find jeans that fit or you’re looking to whittle down your wardrobe to only the best of the best pieces, I highly recommend giving custom a try.
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