I met Yutaka at BerBerjin, the vintage workwear shop that he manages in Harajuku, Tokyo. He got the tease for vintage Levi ’ s® in his teens. In school he played soccer and had one day off, Sundays, the sidereal day he reserved for visiting vintage shops. To learn more he studied Boon, a japanese fashion magazine for collectors, every calendar month. “ I saved my educate lunch money to buy a pair of 1960s 501s, ” Yutaka remembers. He bought the jeans at one of the vintage shops in his hometown of Kochi. His love for Levi ’ s® fanned a lifelong passion and his future work .
Naoki Kawamata, who lives in the Ibaraki prefecture in Mito City, has a exchangeable story. He besides saved up during high school to start his Levi ’ s® collection. “ I bought my beginning vintage 501® jeans during a field trip to Kyoto, ” he told me when we met at the Levi ’ s® Haus of Strauss in Tokyo. “ They were a pair of 1953 501s. ” A ten late while attending college at the University of Nevada, Reno, Naoki traveled to the motherlode of denim flea markets, the Rose Bowl. There in Los Angeles, he scored a vintage 501® dating to 1901—the year Levi Strauss & Co. added a second gear back pocket to its shank overalls .
Naoki and Yutaka, like many japanese collectors, enjoy wearing the vintage clothing in their collections. Naoki was dressed in a couple of Levi ’ s® orange Tab jeans that he personalized with patches. He has become adept at repairing early Levi ’ s® jeans that are now part of his daily wardrobe. Machine-stitched holes lined with interfacing are a common repair on many of the 501® jeans on racks at Yutaka ’ s store. Along with jeans, Yutaka loves early Levi ’ s® denim riveted jackets. At our meeting, he wore a vintage 1950s Levi ’ s® jacket with two front pockets, pleats and copper rivets at the sleeve openings—better known among collectors as a “ Type Two. ”
Both men have continued collect and buy Levi ’ s® dress over the years. Yutaka sharpened his shop skills scouring flea markets in Kochi, and by and by in Tokyo, where he moved after high educate. He approached the owner of Berberjin in Harajuku about work and was finally hired in 1998. Yutaka has been buying for them always since, sourcing Levi ’ s® clothing from individual collectors and dealers a well as flea markets.
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Naoki bought the prize Levi ’ s® jeans in his collection 20 years after buying his first pair in Kyoto. “ I bought a 501 from 1890, ” he shared, the same year Levi Strauss & Co. gave the shank overalls the 501® Lot number.
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In 2015, Naoki and Yutaka published, The 501 twenty : A collection of Vintage Jeans. The co-author record details the features of early 501® jeans and their changes through the years. Written in Japanese and English, the photo-filled koran is a big reference tool for vintage collectors and Levi ’ s® fans alike .
I wrapped up my conversations with Yutaka and Naoki by discussing how the vintage denim market has slowed in holocene years. “ There used to be four vintage jean shops in Kochi, ” says Yutaka, “ nowadays there ’ mho only one. ” But the slowdown hasn ’ t dampened their sleep together for denim. today, the two men are working on a newly book project and another find to dig into the design details of the universe ’ randomness beginning copper-riveted jean riveted clothes—Levi ’ s® .
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