Al gets flack from Yelp, but Yelp is pretty useless for a lot of things. He has done some cool stuff over the years, though sometimes I've found his quality to be lacking compared to other "workshops".
The denim is not bad (I used to wear it a lot, until the slimfit got to be uncomfortably low rise),. but it's just not to the level, in terms of being "interesting", as that used by any number of Japanese repro companies. I like it because the Japanese denim has that black blue color that I like, but the color is not particularly complex, and the denim itself is pedestrian. I always bought the Japanese denim when it was $210, then $260, but I also know a lot of retailers, and usually got it for well under $200. At the current prices for the Cone denim, I prefer something like 3Sixteen, which is just as well made (pretty much the same group of LA factories, with about the same spec levels, make all those made in USA jeans), and for $360, I can get any number of Japanese brands for that or lower, at American retail, many of which are making jeans with cuts that are more "modern" now. Previously, Japanese repro jeans were not well cut for North American and European body shapes, but with more and more making jeans for specialty retailers like www.blueowl.us, SelfEdge, and BlueinGreen, there are now choices. If you want, at that price, and if care, you can also get jeans with all sorts of bells and whistles that I personally don't care about, like selvedge at the fly.
I agree with most of what you say, but I wouldn't write off RRL denim as simply pedestrian. I agree when it was $210 it was a better deal a few years back, but with inflation and intricacies of running a billion dollar company that offers hassle free unlimited returns, will have additional expenses that a niche brand like N&F, Flat Head or PBJ don't have to deal with and I don't mind paying a premium, even if it sometimes a huge premium. Plus, I don't think RL wants their RRL jeans cannibalizing sales from the PRL/D&S China selvedge jeans that are $185. Just like with luxury cars, there will be a 20% yuppie tax.
Personally I don't really go for the Repro brands anymore compared to a few years ago. I am looking for more subtle jeans these days without irregular texture and highly streaky fades that repro brands like to emphasize. In fact I dislike most denim with a slubby and looser weave.
Nobody can really blame someone for buying a Subaru instead of a Lexus if they are well informed and don't need any embellishments.
All sanforized denim shrinks 2-5%.