The world’s heaviest jeans are a pain in the ass, and the back of your knees, and your waist and—for anyone relying on the forgiving nature of denim to squeeze into a smaller size—your ego. They feel like wearing cement-dipped canvas; you don’t fold up the cuffs so much as thumb-wrestle them into submission. And a pair of these denim-clad torture devices can be yours for $495—if you can find them.
“It’s like wearing three pairs of jeans at once,” says their creator, 29-year-old Brandon Svarc. The jeans geek owns Naked & Famous, a Montreal-based niche brand of denim goods. Dapper and motor-mouthed, Svarc is well versed in the jargon of his trade. “They’re 32-oz., indigo, rope-dyed, Japanese selvedge denim,” he says as he stands a pair of the heavy jeans on their cuffs. “Guaranteed uncomfortable or your money back.”
Started in 2007, Naked & Famous is best known for its line of Canadian-made hand-sewn jeans retailing for roughly $150. Yet in the interest of jeans geekery, and due to Svarc’s flair for marketing, the company will occasionally veer off in odd directions. In 2011, it produced glow-in-the-dark jeans ($200); the current line includes raspberry-scented scratch-and-sniff jeans ($150), as well as jeans made of a cashmere and silk blend.
Charging half a grand for a pair of jeans that can stand up on their own may sound like the height of haute couture folly, in league with a Christian Audigier rhinestone-encrusted $250 T-shirt and a $725 Dolce & Gabbana iPhone case. And yes, Svarc is willing to concede the inherent gimmickry has helped the jeans fly off the shelves. But he is far more idealistic when he speaks of his decision to make something that is practically unwearable.
“Some people ask why the hell you’d make the heaviest pair of jeans in the world. I ask them, why do people climb Mount Everest? It’s because it’s the tallest mountain in the world. I think all human beings love superlatives, whether we know it or not. This is my superlative.”
To be fair, the jeans were also a product of Svarc’s own inadequacies—“I’m a skinny dude, I need heavy clothing to make me look properly sized”—and what might be called a denim arms race with Osaka-based Samurai Jeans. “We produced a pair of 18-oz. denim jeans in 2008, and a 21-oz. pair in 2009,” Svarc says (the ounce count refers to the weight per square yard). “Then Samurai did a 24-oz., and we were like, ‘Holy s–t, that’s crazy,’ so we did a 24-oz. to match. Then we did a 26-oz. in 2010, and these ones at the end of last year.”
Such thick-gauge material is typically used to make carpets, sails and military tents. The jeans were manufactured in Japan after exhausting all options in the U.S. and Canada. The denim was simply too thick for machinery in North America. “I got sworn at in eight different languages putting them together,” he says. The label was made with leather used to make saddles, and sewed on by a friend of Svarc’s who makes golf bags.
The 132-pair run of the world’s heaviest jeans have nearly sold out from high-end shops such as Holt Renfrew in Canada, Colette in Paris and Selfridges in London. Nolan Flansburg, 21, a project coordinator at an Edmonton-based construction firm, bought one of the last pairs from Svarc’s website, tateandyoko.com, a week ago. “It’s difficult. When you sit down it hurts, especially behind the knees,” he says. “I’m sitting down right now and it’s a bit uncomfortable.” Nevertheless, he’s wearing them all day to soften them up. “They can’t stand on their own anymore,” he reports.
There is a benefit to those customers who brave the harsh break-in period. The thick, white underlying material will reveal itself as the jeans begin to fade. “With rope dyeing”—a process in which denim is twisted into rope before being coloured—“it’ll fade in the knees, lap creases and ankle bunches to reveal a beautiful honeycomb interior,” Svarc says. “They’ll fade really beautifully.”
There are no Naked & Famous plans to go even heavier. Instead, Svarc’s next geek-inspired bit of gimmickry will be jeans treated with a thermochromic wash that will change colour depending on body temperature. Sounds hot, if not so heavy.