When you think of firsts in Japanese denim, one name stands out: Big John. The label began in the 1940's as Maruo Clothing Inc., starting like many other firms in the Kojima area with the manufacture of uniforms. After World War II, the fabric producers that Maruo relied on stopped producing and so the company was forced to take their business in a new direction. In the 50's they began to import used American clothes and fabrics, using them to both sew new garments, and tailoring the too-big American peices for the smaller Japanese public. Surprisingly the ragged, re-sewn garments sold like hot cakes, especially denim jeans.
Maruo Clothing had good business selling American jeans in Japan, so when import restrictions were lifted in 1963 they began to bring in American denim to sew their own jeans. In April of 1965 the first pair of Japanese sewn jeans was made, but the Japanese market, who was used to worn denim fabrics by this point, wanted something softer. In October they began producing the world's first one-wash jeans to satisfy this demand. In 1967 the brand Big John saw it's launch with the import of White Oak Cone selvedge denim. The jean first made under this new brand, the M1002, has seen many iterations throughout Big John's history.
In 1973 Big John collaborated with Kurabo Mills to create the first made-in-Japan denim. It took eight trial runs to create a fabric they were satisfied with, and thus named the denim "KD-8", or Kurabo Denim 8. With this denim the first entirely made in Japan pair of jeans was created, called the M1002 Japan-Model. These jeans, however, were not the vintage reproduction jeans that Japan is known for today. In fact, they weren't even selvedge. In the 1980's Big John developed purposefully uneven yarn, and using shuttle looms, created the both the world's first vintage reproduction slubby denim, and Japan's first domestically made selvedge. This was the beginning of the vintage and replica craze both in Japan and abroad. The jean made with this denim was dubbed RARE, a line which continues to be produced today.
In the 2000's Big John began to move into the Japanese fashion denim scene. They began producing low rise jeans and skinny fits for both genders. Today they continue to produce these modern fits with vintage fabrics. In 2010 Big John celebrated their 70th anniversary. For commemoration they are diving into their archives to reproduce some of their classic jeans. They also dug up some very cool photos of their work in the 60's and 70's which can be viewed here on their site. We're excited to be offering Big John for their incredible history, and above all their quality jeans.