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A Case for Quality: Levis vs APC (pictorial)

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by Lel, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. Lel

    Lel Senior member

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    Now there's a heavy belief among Styleforum that buying clothing can be seen as an investment, in that in buying better made clothing it will last longer and therefore need to be replaced less. Now, I don't discount this idea at all, but it has it's limits. Obviously just because an item cost 10x more does not imply it will last 10x longer nor will the cheaper item burst in flames after the first washing, the truth is somewhere in the middle and varies depending on what clothing item it is. However I am not implying that quality only equates to durability, for an expensive knit can easily only be slightly more durable than a lesser quality knit, but there is a balance.

    To be honest, I never bought the "investment" argument because at the end of the day I still put a lot of wear and tear into my clothes because I actually wear them, and often. However if there's one area that the quality=durability balance dips in our favor is denim. Now the majority of the SW&D is fairly confident in the quality of many of our jean brands. However I do notice a prevailing attitude amongst the MC forum as anti-expensive denim, often lumping in many SF-brands with typical designer denim brands (TR, 7FAM, etc). I guess it's just post like these...


    This thread

    ...that inspired me to do this thread. Now with jeans, I feel as if durability as a factor of quality is much more necessarily than say a suit. I mean, I can own a closet full of Uniqlo suits and do just fine without them bursting at the seams every other week vs. owning a closet full of Oxxford for the sake of better durability, so I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the price to quality ratio is much higher in items such as jeans and shoes vs. knits, suits, etc. Obviously you're saying "Duh" but attitudes expressed in the quote above do really highlight how often people can dismiss good quality.

    Now I have worn my Levis 511 and my APCNC on and off for roughly the same amount of time and felt that documenting the wear to compare the two would be helpful for many forumites. Now obviously APC quality is better than Levis quality, but seeing it in pictures helps understand just how much better quality can be. Pictures in the spoilers below.


    *note: I am neither a photpgraher or a denim expert

    Levis 511 - Sized Up 1 (29)

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    APC - New Cure Sized Down 1 (27)
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    (Hole caused only by a longboarding accident)
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    (Hole caused by natural wear and tear)
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    (Crotch, signs of wear but no tearing or crotch blowouts)
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    Uniqlo - T-0001 sized Up 1 (29)

    No wallet tearing.
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    Fit pictures just for reference.

    APC
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    Levis
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    Both have about 2 years of regular wear, and maybe half a year of irregular wear. As you can see, the APCs are a much tighter fit and they have been through just as much if not more abuse than the Levis have, yet despite that there is minimal denim damage. the all star year is the Uniqlo denim, which has some longeitivity perhaps in the amount of stretch in the fabric? Either way, as you can see, there are no/minimal wallet tears on the Uniqlo ones while even my APCs have suffered.

    Now obviously APCs aren't the gold standard for nice denim, and I'm not implying that they are. And obviously, it's no surprise that APC denim is superior to Levis. I suppose I just wanted to actually show what I feel *quality* is rather than just type it out. The real question now would be how well a pair of Somet/KMW/Iron Hearts can stand to frequent use and abuse and how much they would compare to APC. Perhaps the threshold for denim durability is only slightly above APC and beyond that it doesn't get *much* better.

    Out of all luxury clothing,denim is the easiest to show quality. I can point to my pictures and say "See how much more durable they are?" That's objective. With other items, it's much more tricky. Band of Outsiders aren't amazing shirts, they just fit very well and have decent fabric. I never thought they were anything special, but lately I took a bit of a shoppring spree when in Europe and bought some cheap stuff of the H&M's and Zaras and Uniqlos. While the fit and design is still there, the fabrics are noticeably worse. I guess I got so used to how my shirts felt that regular shirts just feel rougher on my skin, breathe less easily, etc. However this type of "quality" is far more subjective and can't really be captured in pictures. And while I don't expect many luxe designers to be more "durable" I do expect some standard of attention to fit, and comfort of the material used. Just subtle details that are difficult to catch in lower end clothing.

    Thoughts, comments?
     
    2 people like this.
  2. Blackmaged

    Blackmaged Senior member

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    The fact that the Uniqlo denim isn't in shambles doesn't surprise me, really. Don't they source the material from the Kaihara mill?
     
  3. Hkstyles

    Hkstyles Senior member

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    yes they do. Ppl should seriously take advantage of uniqlo before their prices raise/quality cheapens.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2011
  4. cyc wid it

    cyc wid it Senior member

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    Samurai/Levi comparison would probably be the best from a "making a point" perspective.
     
  5. GusW

    GusW Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    You carry way too much stuff in your pockets. :)
     
  6. rapefruit

    rapefruit Senior member

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    Did you wash all pairs the same number of times? It's a pretty important factor but I'm guessing they've all been washed regularly.
     
  7. Spencer

    Spencer Senior member

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    Those Levi's are threashed! APS's and Uniqlos look real good.

    Good thread.
     
  8. oldSFer

    oldSFer Senior member

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    Do not say 'for' and mean 'because'.
    Do not start a sentence with 'Now'.
    Not on the internets.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2011
  9. whodini

    whodini Senior member

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    Kaihara's a great old mill but it's important to put into perspective the fact that their denim isn't the same across the board. I think sometimes people assume that brands like TR or 7fam are using some random Chinese mills when really they're sourcing their denim from respectable mills like Cone and and Kurabo. It's just that in Uniqlo's example (and arguably with most SF-respected brands) they're clearly spending most of that $40 into the fabric than the label or location of fabrication.

    I think there are a couple of more points worth mentioning or clarifying for the MC crowd or the beginner:
    - $xxx over the price of a $40 pair of jeans won't guarantee you a better experience. A common train of thought I see is "SW&D tells me to spend $200 on jeans and then I'll be happy" when that simply isn't the case. It's like with anything else, it's more about what you're actually buying than just the price tag.

    -While Lel puts down some great evidence and food for thought, it's a unique personal experience. I think it's a great one to string along with other anecdotes because it's well-documented but I think we've all seen cases of "my pair of XYZ lasted a million years" vs. "that's impossible because my pair of XYZ had a crotch blowout in two weeks, all of the buttons popped off, and my wife left me."


    I think it's pretty surprising that the APCs held up that well. I know Lel states that APC isn't the gold standard of denim but I still find the results surprising because the Levi's were probably from Cone while APC is milled in some factory Tunisia? I always forget. Like I wrote with Kaihara, Cone isn't all high-end goods but APC's denim doesn't exactly come from a well-regarded source.

    Interesting thread nonetheless, Lel.
     
  10. willpower

    willpower Senior member

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    Thanks for going to the trouble to post this. I've never beat up my jeans as badly as you have. I've had some Levis for 2 years which I wash inside out with Woolite Dark and they're almost the same as they were when I bought them.
     
  11. Timbaland

    Timbaland Senior member

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    Were all the jawnz raw? That could also factor into the comparison. I know the APCs were, not sure on the other 2.
     
  12. NOBD

    NOBD Senior member

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    Nice pictorial, Lel. I find it quite hard to compare APC (experience with only one pair) to Levi's (worn throughout my life), but I'm not really impressed by the quality (in this case: durability) of APC. The buttonholes, for instance, were almost torn (my gf saved them by partly resewing them); I've never had that issue with any of my Levi's. I like APC for the simple design and the decent fit, and might buy them again, but not because of their durability. Just one man's experience though.
     
  13. ironduke

    ironduke Senior member

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    Buy Japanese/Asian Levis and quality would be much better, I have heard!
     
  14. NewYorkIslander

    NewYorkIslander Senior member

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    Wow man, you wear you jeans HARD. I have APC New Standards for like 5 years now, and they don't even come close to that. Still very dark with some fades, but barely a wallet fade. I haven't thrown them in the wash yet though, dry cleaned them once after an apartment fire and once before that.

    Some important questions though were mentioned:

    Were these raw when you bought them?
    How did you clean them? How often?
    What were the Country of Origin for the Levis and Uniqlo?
    How do you wear your jeans? What do you do in them most of the day? Sitting in an office/working at a construction site? Teaching in a classroom? All will wear them considerably differently.
     
  15. xCrunchx

    xCrunchx Senior member

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    woah 5 years no wash :O is that a record?
     
  16. Peter1

    Peter1 Senior member

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    Interesting comparison. I've found that Levi's quality is actually better than it needs to be, given the price point. One thing I didn't see was any evidence of blown seams -- Levi's use really good thread. So what it seems to come down to is fabric quality.

    I'd argue that quality is just as important and noticeable in suiting, but in a different way. A quality suit will hold its shape much longer than a cheap one, fabric and stitching aside.
     
  17. Alfa159

    Alfa159 Senior member

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    Not if he barely wears them...
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2011
  18. TheDroog

    TheDroog Senior member

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    Very cool thread Lel.

    I'm both surprised and not surprised by the results of your jeans experiment. Large companies like Levi's spend a lot of time and money on quality control, often more than boutique brands, so at the beginning of your post I was almost certain Levi's would turn out the harder-wearing pants. What I notice is that none of the fray points on the Levi's occurred at the seams/threading, which means QC did its job. The weakness in the Levi's, as you pointed out, is in the fabric itself. The APC denim takes a better beating. My experience with clothing is higher price points often correlate with higher quality materials. A Uniqlo merino sweater ($40) starts pilling after a couple of wears. A Brooks Brother merino sweater ($90) might not pill after years of wear -- they use higher quality wool. In this case, the APC denim is higher quality in terms of longevity. (All this said, most people won't wear their jeans to shreds like you do...)
     
  19. NewYorkIslander

    NewYorkIslander Senior member

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    I don't wear them as regularly as some of you guys do...


    I agree with this to a point. At some point, even with denim, you're paying for a name. Look at JCrew. They seem to be the kings of this since shifting almost all of their manufacturing to China. They overprice regular items so that even when they go on sale, and people think they're getting a steal at 40% off, they still make a killing, arguably making more off of product sold during sales than they do when the item is not on sale. If it costs them $5-$10 to make a sweater between labor, materials, and shipping, mark it at $79.99 sell a few, then mark it down to $39.99 and sell thousands, they're doing alright. Part of what makes people have a keen eye for this kind of stuff is knowing what good fabric and good construction are. Most people have no idea and trust merchants' reliability and product in correlation to their prices. Hope that made sense.
     
  20. Jay Gatsby

    Jay Gatsby Senior member

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    You were inspired by a thread from jeromestyles?
     

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