Product Review: Gustin Denim

I’ve had the good fortune of hanging out with the Gustin crew a couple of times, and a few weeks ago they were kind enough to offer me a pair of their jeans for review. There’s been a good deal of hype around Gustin’s jeans (mainly because of the killer pricepoint and unique denim options) but since the great monetary value comes with a waiting period of a couple months that means relatively few people have actually experienced the product firsthand. I’ll try and lay out a detailed review for those that want more information before they’ll consider buying, but the short answer is that they’re a fantastic value.

The pair I left with is a 13.5 oz. Cone Mills raw selvage denim in their straight fit. The cut is slim through the seat and thighs and is a true straight leg form the knee down. The fit is comparable to my 3Sixteen SL100x but without the slight taper below the knee (7.7″ measured opening on the 3Sixteens, about 8″ on the Gustins). I’d say that in my limited experience it is reminiscent of the Levi’s 514 cut. Although I would probably prefer a slight taper below the knee (7.75″ would be ideal, I think), I certainly don’t “need” it – the straight leg is a very classic style and gives a fairly “timeless” silhouette (although I admit that word is certainly overused). I will also get them hemmed after their first wash, and this will help reduce the bulk around the bottom as well. For what it’s worth, I have gotten several compliments on these jeans (most of which came from a very fashionable and “fabulous” neighborhood in San Francisco), and I’ve never been complimented on my denim before.

The rise on this pair is also comparable to my 3Sixteens – it is a bit higher than most denim on the market but I definitely like it where it is. For those that want a tapered, lower-rise jean, Gustin offers a very slim option as well. I might bite at something in between the two, but the slim fit measurements look a bit too extreme for me.

For my pair, the denim itself is fairly “average,” as far as high-end selvage goes. This standard Cone Mills denim isn’t really that unique – it’s a mid-weight, true indigo, regular-feeling, red-line selvage. However,  this shouldn’t be taken as a dig against the product. Gustin offers jeans in more fabrics than I knew existed – heavy, light, green, black, organic, and any other sample they can get their hands on. If you don’t see anything you like then simply wait a week or two. For the record, I’ve heard especially good things about their Japanese denim, and if the fabric swatches I’ve felt are any indication then I have to agree.

Gustin denim has some slight detailing that make it unique – half-lined pockets (which is why there is a line across them), reinforced belt loops (sewn on before the waistband to increase strength), and impressively sturdy hardware (seriously – really nice stuff). The selvage belt loop and minimal pocket detailing might be too much for denim purists but I find that they are not detracting and the overall aesthetic is still subtle. As for the construction quality, I said it before but I’ll mention it again – these are literally (not figuratively) made alongside other brands that cost significantly more, right here in San Francisco. There is no reduction in material or construction quality.

Now, the biggest difficulty when buying Gustin denim (besides the wait) is sizing. Since all of the denim is crowdsourced, the products are offered at a wonderful pricepoint because there is no need for holding inventory. However, the tradeoff is ease of returns (although Gustin is working hard to accommodate them), and for that reason sizing correctly is very important. As their website explains, Gustin jeans are made with a bit less vanity sizing than most brands, so some people may need to wear a bigger size than what they are accustomed to. On the other hand, many people suggest sizing down with raw denim to account for the stretching. Where does this leave us? For starters, I would not size down from your original size when buying Gustin jeans as this will result in a jean that is much tighter than you expect. I went true-to-size (31) with my pair, and they were very tight in the waist initially but have stretched out comfortably after a couple weeks of wear. Gustin’s chat board seems to come to a similar consensus. Of course, not all denim stretches the same amount and not everybody wants to deal with a super snug waistband, so again there is some uncertainty. I would suggest this: If you are a very constant waist size across the board and are used to buying raw denim tight and breaking them in, consider going true-to-size. If you are in-between sizes and/or don’t want to risk too-tight jeans, size up one. Don’t size down. Of course, that’s just my opinion – Gustin provides detailed measurements that you should definitely consult before making your decision.

All told, I think the Gustin team is putting out some wonderful jeans. If their cut looks like something that would work for you then I would wholeheartedly encourage you to try a pair. This is far and away the most inexpensive way to get the high-end denim experience. The only thing separating these jeans from the other big brands is about  $140.

PS – keep an eye out for new products in the coming weeks. I’ve seen some very cool samples that will hopefully be making their way to the website soon.