Review: Unbranded 301s. 2 months wear, 3 months drawer

One of the questions I see most often online about raw denim is “I want to buy a pair, but my budget is tight. What would you recommend?” The most common answer I see is “Unbranded.”

When I started seeing beautiful pictures of Unbranded’s products months ago, and learned that I could get a pair online for $78.00 online, I was intrigued. Enough so that I was willing to order three pairs of them to get the correct size. Fortunately, the popular store I ordered them from had a convenient return policy: I could buy them online and return them in-store.
On Unbranded‘s website, they currently say: “We think overpriced over-marketed jeans are silly. That’s why we stripped our jeans down to the core essentials… great denim, perfect trims and solid construction.” As a fan of Raleigh Denim and Tellason, I am no stranger to paying over $200 for a pair of jeans. But because I haven’t worn anything else for over a year, I have pretty high standards.
Initial Impressions
The first thing I noticed about the Naked & Famous owned Unbranded 301’s was that they were solid. Weighing in at a hefty 14.5 ounces, the denim itself felt stiff and thoroughly starched. A lightly bleached-white weft on the underside interweaves with a rope-dyed warp, and the stitching at first glance appears to be solid and consistent throughout.
This closeup on the coin pocket shows inconsistent stitching:
The other rivet is not stitched onto the primary jean layer in the same way.


Copper rivets and buttons arrive bright and shiny, but tarnish quickly– A function of their smoothness. A more uneven finish would allow a more natural aging process. But after a few months some rivets retain their factory sheen, while others have become tarnished like a warped, un-rusted penny. If I gave them a few more months of wear, I expect that they would gain some consistency.

Hidden copper-rivets reinforce hind pockets, alongside stitch-reinforcement. I haven’t seen the frontside of these rivets yet, but the backsides are slightly different from the exposed rivets on the front: They have an external circle on the underside that is lacking on the exposed rivets. This may mean that the rivets are different, or that the craftsmanship is inconsistent.

Leather Patch and Trademarks
The leather patch is one of the thinnest, cheapest-looking leather patches I have seen in my history with Raw Denim. I was unable to determine where it was sourced, but it is even thinner and flimsier than GUSTIN‘s choice in leather patch.. It bears no trademarks, nor does the rest of the jean. A small, blank piece of white cotton fabric is stitched into the inside near the center-back beltloops where a label would be. These places that typically bear a company name are intentionally left blank by Unbranded as a part of their “Unbranded” campaign, and the trademark’s absence is certainly noticeable, and frankly, refreshing.
Shoddy stitching like this one is common at ends.

A close inspection of the denim on arrival shows nearly every stitch is coming loose at the ends. The triple-chainstitch of the waist ends about an inch before the waist-button on bot sides, the denim appears to be fraying near the buttons and the belt-loops. and back pockets. I suspect this is because the stitches are entirely machined without the capability to knot the ends, or requirements for workers to make quotas may prevent them from performing small steps like this.

The outseam has a nice two-color stitch: Dark gold and navy.

The outseam of the legs has a nicely executed doublechainstitch, one dark-gold, the other a shade just off of the blue of the denim. The hemline is a solid chain-stitch, with the trim along the inseam coming loose at the ends. Belt-loops are secured with simple stitch reinforcement that is somewhat inconsistently placed: On one beltloop, it is perfectly centered on the uppermost waist-chainstich. On the next, it is uneven and slightly sloped against it. The next is slightly below the chainstitch, and the next two are centered again. These inconsistencies do not appear intentional, they seem to be mild manufacturing defects. I have not noticed this sort of inconsistency on more expensive pairs before.

Looking closely at the belt-loops, you can see the denim falling apart.
The stitching and denim itself is also coming loose on the beltloops as well, I suspect because the denim was cut and unsecured with additional stitching to reinforce it before making the beltloop. I have noticed this on more expensive jeans, however, and consider it a minor detail.
Overall Design
While most aspects of the Unbranded are well executed, or at least tolerable, this one is not: The front pockets of these Unbranded’s are unbearably small. My Samsung Galaxy S II sticks out of the pocket slightly, and positions itself uncomfortably against my hips when I wear them. Wefty’s ridiculously oversized Samsung Galaxy Note would probably run into the belt if he tried to park it in the front pockets. An iPhone may fit, but would still be uncomfortable. Overall, the craftsmanship is mediocre, but considering for the price point, bearable.
Final Impressions
These guys fade very quickly. Reddit User jealousTransient posted two weeks ago  beautiful results from a pair of UB 101’s that he had worn biking after 1 wash, 1 soak, and only 4.5 months of wear. The reason for these fast fades is the denim dyeing method: I suspect low amounts of sulfur in the rope dyeing process prevented the indigo from fully fixing to the cotton. that means these jeans leach a lot of dye onto other articles of clothing. But it also means that the core of the warp-fibers are white, and it doesn’t take much to expose them. That means fast fades. Higher sulfur content can cause the denim to turn a greenish hue, however, that is more obvious in lighter denims.

You can wear Unbranded and get wonderful results, but the overall craftsmanship is not the same as a more expensive pair of jeans. I generally agree with my brother: If you want a pair of high quality denim, you generally should expect to spend at least $200. But for about the same price as Unbranded, GUSTIN is currently offering pre-orders through Kickstarter of a much better constructed, lighter weight pair. At the time of this posting, orders are being accepted for a 12.5 ounce japanese selvage. While their fit offerings are currently limited to a straight-leg cut similar to the UB 301, their plans to expand is sure to give Unbranded a run for their money long term. Shipments are not expected to happen until March or April, but in my opinion it is well worth the wait. Waiting for similarly priced different cuts, however, may not be worth it: there is no telling how long the wait will be, nor is there a certainty that more fits will come. TL:DR: If you are considering the UB 301, I think you are better off with GUSTIN. If you want the UB 101 or UB 201, go ahead.

While the overall quality of Unbranded may not be very good, one thing is certain about them: They fade fast, and results can be beautiful! These early honeycombs took only two months to form.

All in All
Unbranded is a mixed bag. They currently dominate the under-$100 pricepoint of Raw Denim, and for good reason: They are readily available, fade fast and often beautifully. But they also showcase mediocre craftsmanship. For a similar price, I like GUSTIN‘s offerings more: Though limited to one cut similar to the UB301, they have a variety of denim weights and sources to choose from, and are assembled in San Francisco versus Unbranded’s factory in Macau. But I may be biased, as I have had interactions with the guys behind GUSTIN.

But if you are looking for a pair of Raw Denim that will fade fast, that you can wear when you don’t want to ruin a nicer pair, you don’t mind poor craftsmanship on details likely to go unnoticed by most, and you don’t mind that they are made entirely outside the United States, Unbranded may be just what you are looking for.
Below are some Fit-Pics. I plan to wear them once every two weeks in the future: on apartment cleaning day.

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