Bayard Winthrop, American Giant’s founder and CEO, remembers the good old days of American blue jeans. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, American brands like Wrangler, Lee, and Levi’s were still known around the world for durable denim, all made locally. But from the ’90s onward, thanks to various free trade agreements, much of denim manufacturing shifted overseas, which often resulted in lower quality products, Winthrop believes.
When Bayard launched American Giant in 2011–a brand known for its high-quality, American-made products–he began with cotton garments, like sweatshirts and T-shirts, that are designed to last years. But classic American denim was always on his mind and it’s taken him this long to create a pair of jeans that he felt was up to his standards.
Today, the company launches its first men’s denim line. Bayard and his team spent months using an Apple-like prototyping process to perfect this design, create the right fit, and produce the best possible material, which balances thick cotton with stretch. “Jeans are an incredibly complex garment,” Winthrop says. “We wanted them to be the right weight and made from a durable material, but we also wanted them to be both flattering and comfortable. We surveyed customers and iterated on the design more times than I can count.”
The denim is made at Mt. Vernon Mills in Georgia. “American factories just have more stringent regulations than those in many other countries,” Winthrop says. “And this factory is well known in the industry for being sustainable.” The jeans are then cut and sewn in a Los Angeles factory.
I saw an early version of the jeans, which I had my husband try on. They’re made from a thick, durable-looking denim, but the material is not rigid. They’re not skinny jeans, by any means, but they are cut in a way that is flattering and slimming. They cost $138. The company is now working to create women’s jeans, which will launch in the next few months.
Perhaps reports of denim’s death were greatly exaggerated.