Note from Okayama Denim: We wanted to sponsor a write-up on our new collaboration with Loop and Weft in the ODLW003 and, so, we were excited to give Alitxtile our newest collaboration in return for the following break-down. Hope you enjoy the read.
The mark of a great piece of clothing is when it makes you think: “why didn’t we make clothes like this before?” I have spent the last few months tracing down why jeans became so popular in the 1880’s which has me reflecting a lot on how innovative they were for the time. The success of the patent system in the United States in the 1800’s was a catalyst for attempts to make basic clothing easier to wear, more durable, better fitting, and better looking. The invention of rivets or overlocked seams are ubiquitous because they are an efficient and reliable way to secure clothing. This means, however, that such ways of making clothing are taken for granted and even when diversity is possible we find the fabrics, patterns, and construction to be somewhat homogenous. The T-shirt seems like it would belong firmly in this category. And despite the popularity of the both denim and t-shirts being worn together they have rarely if ever been combined in aesthetics or form into a single garment.
Denim is simply not a flexible enough material for use as a t-shirt nor is the cut of a t-shirt able to make space to make denim comfortable. So we can only lament that one of our favorite items of clothing, t-shirts, and fabrics, denim are mutually exclusive. Always worn together, but never attempted to be integrated—until now. What’s so appealing about this OD+Loop and Weft is that it gives new life to concept of mixing raw-denim and T-shirts.
Let’s start with fabric first then go to construction.
T-shirts, to fit and wear like a t-shirt, have to be extensible and so are always knitted. Since denim’s are woven twills it is quite easy to create a diagonal-overlapping pattern. But in a knitting context making such a fabric become more difficult. Look for instance at the following description of twill patterns in knits from 1974:
In contrast to woven fabrics, the structure of warp knit fabrics is more complicated. It is therefore not so easy to produce diagonal or oblique patterns in warp knit fabrics as it is in woven fabrics. However, warp knit fabrics have distinct advantages over woven fabrics, including the fact that warp knit fabrics are more extensible and therefore more readily accommodate the movements of a wearer of garments manufactured from warp knit fabrics. (Thomas E Patterson, in Patent: US3922888A)
In a complex dance of knitting where yarns from one course extent to another, one can create a fabric which distorts and bends in just the right places to create a diagonal patterns that recreates the look of a woven twill. But along with this, the fabric has the stretch-ability of a t-shirt.
Loop and weft, however, went a step above this using a double knit fabric where two different kinds of fabrics are knitted together. The outside has a rougher, irregular, patterns with the twill-knit while the inside is a jersey just like in one’s favorite t-shirt. You can see the contrast between the two sides of the fabric in the photos below:
The two-layer fabric means that the face of the t-shirt and the lining are completely different. The outside is rough and twisted and should fade beautifully while being durable while the inside is soft is comfortable. In terms of texture you can feel the undulating ridges on the face of the fabric. The face isn’t as stiff as woven denim and the little ridges give-way when you press down on them, but their presence is undeniable. The lining feels much more like soft jersey.
Loop and Weft has been exploring these asymmetric double-faced fabrics for a while now and I’ve consistently been a fan of them. Their thermals or French terry fabrics have thicker, rougher, stronger threads on the outside while the inside can be as comfortable as the softest T-shirt. I don’t see any downsides to it and after experimenting with them I feel that they make lesser fabrics feel a bit one-dimensional.
What really elevates this piece even further, however, is that other incredible fabrics included. The ornate-cuffs on the long sleeves are my favorite highlight:
The cuff is fashioned as a single piece
What Okayama Denim + Loop and Weft did here is interesting is because the entire cuff is knitted as a single piece separately from the rest of the fabrics. Usually when making a long-sleeve T-shirt you have two choices on how to sew the end of the sleeve. One is by overlooking and top-stitching the fabric used on the sleeve itself. The benefit of this is that it gives a clean look. The negatives are that it is harder to fit inside the sleeve a jacket, sweater, sweatshirt, or over-shirt and looks, well, really casual. The opposite method is to attach a different fabric, usually a 1x1 rib-stitch, to the end of the sleeve to make it hug the arm and fit cleanly inside a jacket or sweater. This make the sleeve fit tightly but also gives it a slight under-shirt feel when being worn alone. Moreover, the ribbed fabric as to always be doubled because otherwise the edges would be raw—you can tell this is the case by looking at the end of the cuff and noticing the fabric goes from the outside to the inside and can be pulled apart.
The ODLW003 takes a different approach—what I think is essentially the “selvedge” version of a L/S cuff. The cuff is not a cut and knit fabric doubled over like a ribbed knit found in many L/S undershirts but knitted separate as a single piece—a technique last seen on L&W’s San Joaquin Henley. If you look at the edge it is fully fashioned with the fabric coming to an end naturally without having to double the fabric or be overlocked on the inside. It has a tighter and cleaner look then a open-end sleeve but is much more visually appealing to me than a ribbed knit. Knitting the cuff separately means that it can be given the ornate pattern above with four different kinds of knitted patterns changing into each other.
On the arm, the single layer of fabric feels lighter than a traditional L/S t-shirt yet the look is more like shirt because of how aesthetically substantial the cuff is. This combination of the single-knitted cuff and the twill fabric is to my knowledge unique to this collaboration and is the first time these fabrics have been indigo dyed like this.
The other fabric included is a ribbed knit for the neck. The ribbed-knit is constructed out of two threads which are twisted together. This 2-ply aspect, L&W say, should make the neckline more durable given the abrasion it receives. The neck also contains thick binder to give it structure:
Depending on how you count just the main fabrics on the piece included 3-4 different kinds of knits. And then the entire T-shirt is garment dyed in indigo which really turns up the impact of the textures to my eyes.
On top of that the ODLW003 contains a cotton herringbone Loop and Weft tag on the neck and a canvas Okayama Denim tag on the inside body-seam with their signature red stitching:
The aforementioned fashioned sleeves are also constructed in such a way that there is no seam from the middle of the should blades until the start of the cuffs. So if you move your arms forward there is nothing but a single piece of fabric for each arm. So while the front is like a raglan-sleeve this modification of a raglan into a back-yoke makes it feel like it has more freedom of movement. The yoke, to my eyes, has the added benefit of giving it a more structured look like that of a shirt:
The rest of the T-shirt has no over-locking in the sleeves or the sides, so the inside of the T-shirt is flat and smooth. I definitely prefer this from of construction to anything else as I find overlocked insides to chafe when exercising or moving around a lot. All the sewing threads are also cotton so the garment dyeing applied to the rest of the t-shirt has left them a indigo blue too. I initially thought that the cotton threads made the shirt feel a bit less extensible but after a few days they fit and have stretch really well. I think this combination of looks, fabrics, construction, and color work especially well together.
I think I’m just a bit surprised that it is possible to take a L/S T-shirt and make it feel so, well, proper. This doesn’t look like just a T-shirt: the fabric and construction all add-up to a shirt that looks grown-up. Yet its lack of shoulder seams and flat-seams and jersey lining make it as comfortable as any t-shirt. Add onto that the fading of the indigo dyeing, which should give these all the appeal of raw-denim, and these genuinely feel like something just entirely new to me. There is just so much to differentiate it from a “normal” L/S t-shirt that I’m a bit astounded by how its possible to continually change how we make our clothes.
Raw denim brands really have come into their own now and carried on the innovations that have been so important for making clothing, well, just better. Not unlike when riveted jeans were patented, there seems to be such a variety of exploration in fabrics, construction, and dyeing methods that both create novelties as well as recapture lost techniques that I can’t help but feel optimistic about where we are.
We don’t need to go much past the specs on the OD + L&W t-shirt to see that. A knitted fabric that has the look and feel of a twill on the outside but the comfort of a jersey on the inside, dipped in indigo so it fades like denim, constructed with flat-locking so it wears as comfortable as athletic-wear, a yoke which gives the structured look of a shirt while making the sleeves more flexible, and cuffs which are knitted piece by piece with an ornate design. That’s a good idea, that’s a really good idea.