The Back to Basics Jean

Mj 618_348_the back to basics jean
Photograph by Michael Pirrocco

The recent boutique denim revival turned what should be the single easiest decision in a man’s life (should I wear my Levis or my Levi’s?) into ordering dinner for two at a fine French restaurant. The guys behind Tellason, however, are making a very good case for why it’s worth going the extra mile. Tellason was founded in 2009 by a couple of pretty regular guys – stalwart Levi’s-wearers, in fact – who felt that trends like stretch denim and factory distressing were robbing men of the best part of buying a new pair of jeans: the one-of-a-kind look and unbeatable custom fit you get from wearing them in yourself. They decided there and then that men needed a new, well-made blue jean to believe in. Three years later, Tony Patella and his partner Pete Searson (hence: Tella-Son) are gunning to become the new Levi’s. Or, more specifically, a return to the Levi’s of a century ago, when jeans were sourced in America, built in America, and stitched together with care.

“We’re both minimalists,” says Patella. “We don’t want to own a lot of stuff. We want what we own to be quality. And we definitely don’t want someone in a factory determining what our wear patterns are with a piece of sandpaper, taking away half [the jean’s] life before I even buy it.” Like Levi’s a century ago, Tellason’s are made exclusively in San Francisco and are offered in just a few simple fits (four, to be exact). But the two things that distinguish them most from other premium denim brands are the very wearable real-guy fits, as well as their exclusive fabrics, sourced from hallowed ground in the denim world: Cone Mills’ White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina (Japanese Denim nuts make pilgrimages to the White Oak plant on a regular basis).

We discovered Tellason three years ago while putting together a reader’s guide to jeans meant to help you bypass today’s fussiness and embrace the jeans-for-life philosophy. The reason Tellason’s John Graham Mellors (taken naturally from Joe Strummer’s real name – Patella and Searson are as obsessed with The Clash as they are with denim) earned a spot right beside 501s and Gap 1969s was because we could tell they were an instant classic. At $200 a pair, it’s hard not to lament the fact that we could buy three pairs of stock standard 501s for every one pair of Tellasons. But the truth is, they’ll last five times as long. And the craftsmanship, denim sourcing, and thought that goes into their production matches that of jeans twice as expensive (yes, they exist).

We could go deep on the JGMs and describe them in jean geek jargon – 12-ounce selvedge denim, chain stitching, handmade leather label, and so on – but that just brings us back to that French restaurant. So how about this: five pockets, button fly, not too skinny, not too baggy, and, two years on, these jeans know the bend in our knee and the exact spot in our back pocket for our wallet to fit into so we can sit down with complete comfort. [$198;]

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