If you have any interest in reproduction workwear or Japanese denim, you’d have heard of Samurai Jeans – hardcore denim fans will all be familiar with Samurai’s famous leather patch depicting the very short duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro. A relatively new brand as far as hardcore Japanese denim makers go, Samurai Jeans was created in 1997 by Toru Nogami, aiming to push the boundaries of reproduction workwear and introduce Japanese elements into Americana jeans making.
I’ve always thought of Samurai Jeans as quirky and distinctly Japanese, a true hobbyist brand, and to be honest I find Samurai’s products to be more interesting compared with its Osaka 5 predecessors. By the mid-2000’s, Samurai Jeans had arrived on the Western raw denim scene, being stocked by BiG and sponsoring the first jeans-wearing competition on Superfuture. I remember purchasing my first pair, the 710, in 2009 and following their bi-annual releases of special edition jeans with keen interest. No other Japanese denim maker was as prodigious or as adventurous as Samurai Jeans when it comes to creating outrageous denim and taking inspiration from their own Japanese roots.
Well, my Samurai drought is now over!
Let’s take a look.
The SJ42CP Heavy Chino Pants is a relatively new addition to Samurai’s line-up, and the fit and pattern is different to their standard denim models. These pants are patterned after early century military officer pants and are made with a very heavy version of the chino cloth.
The Chino Pants are made with unsanforised cloth, but only available as once-washed. The industrial wash has eliminated any further shrinkage in these pants, which takes the guess work out of sizing. Refer to Denimio for the size chart; I would recommend sizing one up.
The rise is medium to high, with the back-rise relatively shorter compared with typical vintage officer pants or reproduction jeans.
There is generous room in the seat and thighs, but the fitting is not loose.
The taper from the knee down is significant, and the resulting silhouette is quite different from vintage military chinos.
By military reproduction standards, these Chino Pants would be considered a slim-tapered model, though it is comparatively roomier than the slim-tapered jeans most brands are producing nowadays.
To be honest, this pair of chinos fits me better than any of Samurai’s denim jeans, haha!
The inseam length is quite long (YAY!), and allows me to double cuff these pants even when fully shrunk. For reference I’m 185 cm tall.
These Chino Pants proved to be very comfortable even during its first wear. There’s no nut cracking or thigh chafing at all.
In the photos above and below, I’m wearing my coin pouch in the left pocket and my wallet in the right pocket – notice how the back pockets are well sized, comfortably holding work-wear calibre leather goods without much distortion in shape!
Overall, this pair of chinos has a fairly modern fit. It is not ‘slim’ at all, but also does not have the baggy appearance of most reproduction chino pants. I believe these Heavy Chino Pants will fit most people quite well.
The main character in our story is, of course, the heavy weight chino cloth. It is made with 100% cotton, woven slowly on a shuttle loom, coming in at an astounding 15 oz unsanforised.
Sure, 15 oz would be considered medium weight for denim……but, as far as chino cloth goes, the majority I’ve come across all weigh in between 9 oz to 12 oz.
The cloth has been sulfur-dyed a caramel colour. Officially this colour is named by Samurai Jeans as ‘khaki’, but it’s much closer to brown duck in tone. Blue and black versions of this cloth are also available for these Chino Pants this season (’17 AW).
The weave is dense, moderately slubby and very textural!
Over the years, I’ve never been particularly interested in chino cloth because what had been available were all so… boring. The few chino pants in my closet were made by John Lofgren (he did a great forest green pair a few years back) and Left Field (technically not chinos, as they were made with duck fabrics.) I have to say, Samurai’s heavy cloth really is a world-beater when it comes to chinos.
The selvedge features Samurai’s signature silver lamé – this was known as the ‘katana selvedge’ back in the day.
Samurai’s fabric design philosophy has always been focused on thickness of cloth, texture in the hand and the potential for various types of serious fading.
Even this ‘khaki’ chino cloth is no exception – it is advertised to be able to fade well! I will keep you posted about this.
The handfeel is quite pronounced, though it is not rough on the skin at all, even after the first full day of wear. Run your fingers over the fabric and you’ll know it is pretty special. There’s a lot of ridging and verticality to its texture.
The pockets, waist band and fly have all been backed with Samurai’s signature bleached cotton twill cloth with interwoven beige coloured Jacquard symbols. Among the symbols you’ll find Samurai’s logo, a shuriken and the Mon (emblem) they use for the brand. This pocket cloth is sturdy yet soft against the skin.
Samurai Jeans advertises these Chino Pants as being sewn by true sewing artisans. Examining these jeans inside and out, I have no doubts as to the quality and workmanship of the sewing workshop which is producing these pants.
A sturdy, light-brown coloured thread is the main threading used throughout, mainly as a single needle stitch. Double row stitching feature along the pocket seams and the belt loops.
Whether it’s the lock-stitch or the button hole construct, the stitching is regular, precise and very dense. The stitch-work here is honestly better than even many reproduction Japanese jeans.
Double chain-stitching is utilised in the seat and along the inseams – again, very nicely constructed!
This Chino Pants feature the standard five belt loops, with the third (middle) loop being off centre. Impressively the top end of the belt loops are actually tucked into the waist band itself, between the outer chino fabric and the inner white twill lining.
Bar-tacking is concisely used to reinforce all the pockets.
The back pockets and the coin pocket are all welted. The construction here is quite impeccable, despite the appearance of some wrinkling due to the industrial washing process.
Of interest, the coin pocket isn’t made with the white twill pocket cloth, but is instead made with the chino fabric. The pocket is single stitched and then lock-stitched on top – it ain’t breaking any time soon!
The fly and crotch areas are sewn very neatly, and again reinforced with bar-tacking.
The chain-stitched inseam leads down to a lock-stitched hem, which is typical of military chino pants. Again, the sewing is very precise despite many layers of this heavy, dense chino cloth.
Hardware & Peripherals
The 5-button fly features Samurai’s signature metal donut buttons.
These buttons are high quality and fully customised, featuring the Chinese character (kanji) of 侍, Japanese pine flowers and Samurai Jeans’ emblem. 侍 has the literal meaning of ‘to serve’, and in Japanese society refers to the (now-abolished) Samurai social class.
The metal buttons have been antiqued, though the back studs remains polished. The back studs, again, are fully customised.
Samurai’s signature pocket cloth makes an extended and welcomed appearance on these chino pants, used for all the large pockets as well as for lining the waist band and fly.
Samurai Jeans has always made sure to include many little details on their pants, and this pair is no exception. An Union-ticket style woven tag is sewn onto the waist band with a product number.
Another tag, featuring the trademark, is sewn onto the right-sided back pocket.
Truth be told, this pair of chinos has scored higher in my review process than many of the Japanese jeans I’ve examined over the past few years.
One very important factor that greatly contributes to the utility of these pants, from my personal perspective, is that I can actually wear them to work. Being patterned after military officer pants, this pair of chinos is certainly more dressy than jeans and is significantly more work-place friendly.
However, the rugged selvedge chino cloth and Samurai’s expert sewing means that these pants remain, truly, workwear!
These are jeans, but not jeans, haha~
The chino fabric, as I mentioned earlier in this review, is a real winner. How it will age remains to be seen, but as far as first impressions go this has to be, in my opinion, the nicest chino cloth I’ve come across.
Yes, I know this is not a reproduction military chino cloth, but that’s not the point here: Samurai Jeans has always been about pushing the boundaries of workwear reproduction and infusing Japanese design elements into their garments, philosophies which are well represented by this pair of Heavy Chino Pants.
The fit is nice and modern – slimming but not tight, roomy but not loose. I feel it works well for my body shape, and I would gather it would look good on most body types depending on how you size your pair. This is not a vintage reproduction fit though, so if you’re a strict military or workwear reproduction type of hobbyist, this pair (and most of Samurai’s garments) won’t be for you.
At USD $223 with free express shipping worldwide, Denimio is the best shop to purchase Samurai’s Chino Pants. In my opinion, the value proposition here is fantastic – a bit more expensive than chinos you could purchase at the local mall, but we’re talking about one of the very best chinos in existence here!
Unless your budget is below $200, you really must try these Heavy Chino Pants. I’m actually quite tempted to get the other colours too!