Japan had no style. They had only uniforms and guidelines for what to wear, rigidly structured by social class, and enforceable by law.
In 1947, Japan was introduced to jazz and rock and roll for the first time on GI radio. Tall, healthy American soldiers strolled inland from naval ports in blue jeans. It was a stark contrast to the post-war depression and it was a window into a freedom and energy that the archipelago had never known - a confidence that many craved to emulate.
Pairs of denim jeans began appearing at black market stalls. It was the beginning of Japan’s obsession.
By the 50’s and 60’s, Japan was importing denim to resell. Homegrown Japanese denim manufacturers sprung up, emulating western styles with labels like Big John and Edwin. But Levi’s were the most coveted. The real deal.
But starting in the late 60’s, American manufacturing began to move overseas and the quality suffered. The general American consumer, happy with the low price tag was unaware, but the Japanese began to notice.
By the 80’s, there was an unseen army of Japanese collectors scouring flea markets, thrift stores, and rummage sales for 50’s and 60’s denim. Armed with denim field guides, millions of pairs were quietly shipped back to Japan and sold in boutique vintage shops, reaching an unsustainable fervor - pairs routinely pulling in thousands of dollars apiece.
Seeing the change on the horizon, a small society of these vintage denim enthusiasts in and around Osaka got together to discuss the future. The rest of the world was catching on, the flea markets were picked over, and the deep pockets had reached their bottom. The vintage bubble was about to burst, but that change also brought an opportunity.
Nowhere in the world were jeans being produced in the once meaningful way they had been.
Together, the group of men sought to produce denim on their own - a new product, a Japanese product, but one that honored the American heritage of blue jeans - built to last and worn for life.
The brands that emerged are the Osaka 5 - the vanguard of the revitalization of selvedge denim.
One of those men is Mikiharu Tsujita. Having previously worked at Lapine (with Mr. Yamane of Evisu), he wanted to go in a different direction than the rest and in 1992 started Full Count to pursue it. While Evisu developed into a fashion brand and other Osaka 5 members dove deep into the archives of workwear, Tsujita’s interest remained in the decade that married the Machine Age with old world craftsmanship - the period when denim transitioned from its workwear roots to the blue uniform of rebel culture.
Taking to the design table his collection of Levi’s 501XX (1947-1953) leather patch classics, Tsujita determined to figure them out. What was it that made them so much better?
Importing one of the original shuttle looms used by Levi’s in the 60’s solved the problem of correcting the weave, but the magic formula was in the cotton fibers themselves. The significant rise of industrial harvesters in the 50’s had shortened the fiber staples and introduced imperfections that resulted in flatter, weaker jeans with less life. Full Count sought only the original merit.
To solve this, Tsujita scoured the globe and discovered a cotton industry in Zimbabwe, still picked by hand, that preserved the integrity of the fiber. The cotton is very similar to 1940’s American cotton and produces a soft, yet sturdy hand.
Full Count was one of the pioneers to introduce Zimbabwe cotton to the industry, a revolution in the heritage market that is used commonly today. Because the fiber length is thin and long, it is possible to make a more durable, uneven thread with little margin at the seams. The yarn’s clearance leads to a lightness and stretch that’s like a second skin and wicks moisture away.
While most jeans use polyester threads at the seams, Full Count uses only cotton, fading with the jeans. A total of twelve different kinds of yarn are used for each pair to ensure unrivaled durability and comfort. Not pre-shrunk, Full Count jeans are worn-in to individual perfection.
These are jeans that honor the the culture and construction of America’s heritage blue gold.