This blog post about ‘the Big Three’ of jeans is an adapted excerpt from Blue Blooded, and it was written by co-author of the book, Josh Sims. If you don’t have Blue Blooded already, you can get it here.
References to the past breathe new life into Mister Freedom’s denim productions, whose workwear-inspired wares and western slacks draw from original vintage patterns. Just as important is founder Christophe Loiron’s refreshing take on denim as one of many modes of authenticity.
Christophe Loiron may have a point when he argues that all the best clothes—jeans included, of course—have already been done.
To me the wheel has already been invented. We just put tires on it today. If you’re not inventing a floating vehicle, you’re only as original as your choice of hubcaps,” says the California-based Frenchman and founder of Mister Freedom.
The firm is one of the preeminent vintage menswear dealers and also produces its own clothing line in conjunction with Toyo Enterprises’ Sugar Cane denim line.
“I like learning from the past, so I use old references and my interpretation of historical bits when designing,” Loiron adds. “I believe it’s important to share information about what/how/ why you make something, otherwise you’re just peddling wares. My internal mechanism of imagination would bore everyone, so I prefer to ramble on about history, and things that concern us all.”
Are Mister Freedom Garments Costumes?
Loiron’s workwear-inspired wares reference a dressier take on the Old West, but also more esoteric touch points like the Apache gangs of late-nineteenth-century Paris, always citing his sources as he goes.
That his clothes should have such a cultish following is clear from its very distinction: rarely would he produce a garment one would find in a more or less similar style from another manufacturer.
For some, Mister Freedom—which takes its name from a 1969-William Klein movie, albeit before Loiron had even seen it—verges on costume. But not for Loiron.
We are all costumed,” he argues. “Some just prefer a flavour-of-the-month costume.”
He doesn’t think that a guy showing up in eighteenth-century pirate garb is necessarily less natural than a fashion-blog clone sporting what is just the hippest costume.
It’s also about what you can pull off, and what you should leave to others. The line is where you put it. “As long as you feel good and don’t embarrass your partner, who cares?”
Perhaps that is why denim is just part of the Mister Freedom world: a pillar, but not the very foundation.
The Inspiration for Mister Freedom in Loiron’s Native Country
Certainly, Loiron’s background lends itself to this conclusion. He explains that, in his native France, ever since the ’60s and ’70s, when large quantities of jeans began being imported into the country, denim has largely been considered a fashion product.
Indeed, lifestyle brands like Chevignon and Chipie would be among the first to buy into slubby Japanese-made denim. The cloth and cut have not been regarded as something of historic import for its association with workwear, since France had its own long traditions in utility clothing, like the use of cotton moleskin or velour d’Amiens to make its bleu de travail jackets and pants.
Hand-picked suggested further reading: How Designer Jeans Broke Through the Mainstream
This is in part why, when Sugar Cane first approached Loiron in 2006 to design a pair of jeans it would then make and sell in Japan, what he came up with—the now collectible 7161 Utility Trousers—was so divorced from the standard conception of ve-pocket western jeans they were once referred to as “Frankenjeans.”
They were a product of his approach of working from a detail, fabric swatch, or old photo to create a ‘new vintage’ garment rather than a reproduction.
Why Christophe Loiron Loves Denim
Loiron admits that he has many reasons for loving denim: indigo’s fading property (though he is outspoken in his disregard for pre-washed and distressed denim), its workwear history, and its place in the building of the United States, where, Loiron says, “some still consider denim to be the uniform of rebellion.”
But he also takes a more skeptical stance on its business potential. “There is a lot of money to be made in five-pocket jeans, and it’s fairly easy to join the feeding frenzy for a brand,” as he explains.
Denim’s definitely more accessible than getting into Savile Row suiting.
“But people will buy what’s manufactured and advertised. Hollywood has also helped a lot, and in design offices, there is no inspiration board that hasn’t been pinned with a photo of Brando or McQueen.”
Indeed, Loiron is refreshingly cool on denim itself. He wears it, he says, because he’s been comfortable doing so for most of his life, because he can—his job doesn’t require him to dress formally—and because jeans are a “no-brainer in the morning.” But he also says that denim is just one kind of textile in a world of equally intriguing textiles.
Denim to me is primarily a cotton twill fabric, not a lifestyle, nor an obsession,” he says.
“It’s definitely easier to look like a lumberjack or cattle rancher or ’50s biker than to partake in any of their daily activities,” he jokes, “and denim helps the consumer get a bit of the credit associated with old-school hard work and ‘rugged manliness.'”
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