Great-fitting, great-looking jeans are something of a unicorn – for good reason. Like a bespoke suit or handmade boots, traditional denim – woven on a shuttle loom out of heavy cloth that’s often stiff at first – conforms to the wearer’s individual shape. But unlike the handful of cities known for custom footwear and suiting, there’s only one spot in the world where you’ll find more than 40 stores selling selvedge denim in one spot: Jeans Street (Kojimaajino) and its surrounding blocks in the seaside Kojima district of Kurashiki, Japan
. It’s in Okayama Prefecture, off the typical tourist track, but easily accessible – about halfway between Kobe and Hiroshima, and a well-worth-it day trip from Kyoto via bullet train. (A blue line on the road leads from Kojima’s train station to Jeans Street.)
“Once you wear Japanese denim maybe 25 times, it’s you
,” says Kiya Babzani, who, along with his partner, Demitra, in 2006 founded Self Edge
, a San Francisco designer jeans boutique that now has outposts in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Portland, and San José del Cabo, Mexico. In other words, old-school denim essentially becomes a second skin – wearing in
instead of wearing out. “Specifically, that’s what denim fans chase hard,” he says.