Okayama Jeans has its own uniqueness especially from the production process that prioritizes environmental interests. Of course we know, besides sneaker, jeans are one of the mandatory fashion items. Even though many people think that the best quality of jeans in the world are made from the United States, the reality is not like that. Not many people know that in one area in Japan, the Okayama district is a place that is a heaven for jeans lovers.
In addition to seeing a range of weaving craftsmen, there are three large companies of jeans that are the backbone of denim weaving in that area. They are Bobson, Big John, and Betty Smith.
The Story of Okayama jeans
Okayama’s revival as a denim mecca began in the action of a single company, Maruo Clothing which later changed its name to Big John. Maruo was the leader in Kojima’s biggest export at the time – school uniform. However, after the war, cotton was not widely available so Maruo made uniforms from cheap synthetic fibers called vinylon.
This went well until the Toray and Teijin textile power plants began selling better polyester called Tetoron and locked Maruo out of supply. Suddenly the school asked for a Tetoron uniform, and Maruo’s vinylon uniform business went bankrupt.
After postwar, Maruo also produced winter jackets and sold them to the shop on the Tokyo Ameyoko black market named Maruseru. As an additional source of income, Maruo took on contract work from Maruseru to cut back old American jeans that were thrown to fit the Japanese body. Maruseru then had an idea of how to solve his supply problems for jeans: Maruo had to be able to make jeans himself, of course cheaper than imports from America.
With the destruction of the school uniform business, Maruo risked the entire business to become a jeans manufacturer. It must have felt like a crazy step at that time because almost no one in Okayama had jeans. In 1967, Maruo convinced Cone Mills in North Carolina to send them short rolls and B-grade rolls, which they later made into products called Big John. This brand later became the best-selling jeans brand in Japan during the 1970s – even beating American jeans namely Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler.
Okayama Jeans and Osaka 5
Despite having three big jeans companies, Okayama’s known as a jeans-producing region was also influenced by the presence of Osaka 5. Osaka 5 is the five biggest owner of a jeans company in Japan that has a special relationship with jeans craftsmen in Okayama. The five were Hidehiko Yamane from Evisu, Shiotani Brothers from the Warehouse, Mikiharu Tsujita from Full Count, Shigeharu Tagaki from Studio D’Artisan and Yoshiyuki Hayashi from Denime.
Osaka 5 ordered special jeans with a limited edition to the jeans craftsmen in Okayama, which they will market to the whole world. The reason why they entrust the needs of eco-sensitive products to denim craftsmen in Okayama is because of the track record of the craftsmen there have been recognized throughout the world. Through this marketing strategy the name Okayama Denim is increasingly known to the world, especially after the 1990s.
Now, the Kojima government has designated Okayama as a tourist area with jeans themes. Over there you can be spoiled with an atmosphere of all-blue denim and even blueberry ice cream with a color that is very similar to the color of Okayama jeans.