About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the HVAC/Plumbing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
As one of your resident Americana/Workwear nerds here at Dappered, I’m always on the hunt for the next great value-focused pair of jeans and basic tees. Practically every major mall brand and web-based retailer carries some sort of dark wash denim and a black cotton tee. What separates the winners from the losers? For me, it boils down to three things: fit, fabric, and construction.
Hailing from the Windy City, Dearborn Denim & Apparel is no longer a new kid on the block. They’ve been churning out killer clothing deals ever since they landed in the arena back in 2016, especially their sub-$70 jeans and sub-$20 tees. To make those deals even more incredible, you should know that everything Dearborn makes is cut and sewn in their Chicago factory. How is this even possible?!
Today we’re looking at their tailored fit stretch denim and their combed cotton t-shirt. How do these stretch jeans stack up against my bargain benchmark, Gustin’s The 1968? How does the tee stack up against my bargain benchmark, J.Crew’s Garment-dyed slub cotton crewneck?
Prepare for battle, Americana/Workwear nerds!
About Adam’s Scoring System, The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
Both reasonably priced. Both made in Chicago. Let’s do this.
Item Details – Tailored Fit Dark Wash Jeans – $65
- Brand: Dearborn Denim & Apparel
- Style: Stretch Denim
- Size: 33 x 32, Tailored Fit
- Color: Dark Wash
- Fabric: 10oz non-selvedge stretch denim from Mexico – 92% cotton, 7% poly, 1% spandex
- Details: Lightweight cotton pocket bags, YKK 45u zipper, and a custom top button
- Country of Origin: USA!
- Price: $65 USD
92% cotton, 7% poly, 1% spandex dark wash denim. Sixty five bucks.
Item Details – Combed Cotton Fitted Tee – $19
- Brand: Dearborn Denim & Apparel
- Style: Combed Cotton T – Fitted
- Size: Medium, Fitted
- Color: Black
- Fabric: 100% Cotton
- Details: Pocket
- Country of Origin: USA!
- Price: $19 USD
100% USA grown cotton. Under $20!
This all-American denim and t-shirt combo was ordered on a Wednesday and arrived on a Monday exactly three business days later. I consider this time-frame perfectly normal for a smaller company, especially given the world’s events right now in Summer 2020.
FYI: Dearborn Denim has a simple 30-day return policy for unworn, unwashed merchandise. Exchanges are free, but returns will set you back $7 USD to pay for the return shipping and restocking.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering and fast shipping.
Both items arrived folded up inside a simple, but nicely branded dark navy-blue poly mailing envelope.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Simple, no frills needed for jeans and a tee at this price point.
“This is my kind of town, Chicago is… My kind of town“
First Impressions – The Jeans
So, let’s focus on the denim first as that’s my usual forte. Being a huge denim nerd, I like to geek out on the hearty fabrics and construction details – buttons, rivets, zippers, stitching, etc. This stretch denim fabric is on the lighter side at roughly 10oz in weight (Levi’s and Gustin start at ~13oz) and sourced from a mill in Parras, Mexico. According to Wikipedia, Parras is home to a bunch of factories that produce denim, including one for Dickies. Who knew? This pair is woven from a unique blend of 92% cotton, 7% polyester and 1% spandex. That’s a lot of stretch fabric! Right off the bat, you’ll notice how light, flexible, and insanely comfortable these jeans are from the moment you slither into them. There is no break in period at all. Coming from my usual 15oz Japanese raw denim, this is like wearing athleisure! If you’re a gym rat or frequent sportsball player, you should really try these in person.
33 x 32, Tailored Fit on 6’0 and ~195 lbs
This specific shade of blue is perfect – a deep, inky blue without any bedazzling or those fake electric blue fades that usually get lasered on at the factory. This shade of blue will go with literally anything you throw at it. Dearborn says you should also expect the color to fade a bit in the high wear areas over time.
Some may prefer more taper below the knee on the “tailored” fit.
Also available in slim, relaxed, and boot cut fits.
The copper-orange stitching contrasts nicely against the inky blue shade. Most of the stitching is neat and tidy except for some wonky spots near the zipper fly and down along the hems. Speaking of the zipper, it’s a US-sourced YKK 45u self-locking zipper. However, the pull tab is on the smaller side and feels kinda cheap. I’d like to see a beefier option used to make the process more, zippy.
US sourced antiqued gold leaf-stamped top button and YKK zipper.
The waistband is chainstitched, while the rest of the pant is single needle stitched. The inseam is securely flat-felled while the outseam is overlock stitched – easy for local tailors to taper or adjust the width to your needs. The front pocket bags are made from a thin, bandana-like cotton but they’re sufficiently deep enough to store your keys, lip balm, and hands when you’re not awkwardly fidgeting with your face mask while waiting in line at Gaslight Coffee Roasters. The rear pockets are slightly tapered and are not reinforced with any rivets in the corners.
Horween leather patch at the back.
Finally, the miniature leather patch around back is sourced from their hometown heroes at Horween and the top button is an antiqued gold leaf unit also sourced from a US factory.
Jeans Score: 3/5 Stars – Needs better stitching QC, a beefier zipper, and rear pocket rivets.
First Impressions – The T-shirt
Switching over to the t-shirt, I’m immediately impressed with the fabric weight. It’s heavier than my favorite from J.Crew, yet still really soft in hand. The neckline is a hair taller than average and double stitched, which should help prevent the dreaded floppy bacon neck situation. The one thing I’d change here is swapping out the rather large and scratchy brand and size tags for a tagless screen-printed option.
Great fabric. Tag is scratchy.
Also, something to note is the stitching along the inside panels is just OK at best with lots of wavy spots and loose threads. Not a deal breaker, especially at this price point, but just something to be aware of.
Tee Score: 3/5 Stars – Needs cleaner stitching, would prefer a tagless design.
Fit, Sizing, and Comfort – The Jeans
For reference, I am 6’0 and ~195 lbs. and normally wear a 33×32 in J.Crew, Gap, Bonobos, and Gustin.
As you can probably tell from the photos, I’ve been Netflix and Snacking while quarantining at home. I might have put on a few extra pounds, but thanks to Joseph Shivers and DuPont for inventing spandex, these jeans fit really well. The Dearborn tailored fit has a medium rise, slim thigh, and a slight taper below the knee. Personally, I prefer a sharper taper below the knee compared to what the Dearborn tailored fit offers, but this “Average Joe” fit should please a large majority of people. If you’d prefer a slimmer fit or a more relaxed fit, they have those, too.
Measurements for my size 32×32 pair were taken with the jeans laid flat, using the Blue Owl method:
- Waist: 17.5″
- Thigh: 11.75″
- Knee: 8.5″
- Leg Opening: 8″
- Front Rise: 11″
- Back Rise: 15″
- Inseam: 32.5″
Comfort? These turn it up to 11. You will not find a more comfortable pair of jeans.
Jeans Score: 4/5 Stars – The tailored fit will make a lot of people happy, but I like more taper.
Fit, Sizing, and Comfort – The T-Shirt
I have to be honest. I done goofed. When ordering the tee, I accidentally chose the “fitted” slim fit while conveniently forgetting that I’ve been lightly padding my father figure over the past three months. As penance, what you see is what arrived even though it’s not the right fit for me. Buyer beware. Fitted means trim and feels on par with J.Crew’s slim fit. If you’re on the thinner side of medium, this will be your jam. If you’re a Marge (medium/large) like me, but still prefer a trim fit, opt for the classic fit medium for a little extra breathing room.
A size medium, fitted, on 6′ / 195. Fitted = true trim fit.
Measurements for my size Medium were taken with the shirt laid flat, using the Blue Owl method:
- Shoulders: 17″
- Chest: 21″
- Sleeve: 7.5″
- Length: 27″
Comfort? I feel like a tenderloin wrapped in butcher’s twine right now, but I imagine the classic fit is very comfortable. The neckline isn’t too big and sleeve length is perfect for me. Tag itches.
Tee Score: 4/5 Stars – Assuming you have the right size, it should fit and feel great. Tag sucks.
If I’m honest, I didn’t have high hopes for Dearborn Denim & Apparel when these items first arrived. The prices they’re sold at just don’t line up with what I expect quality goods to sell for. However, I am genuinely surprised how decent both the jeans and t-shirt are at this price point, especially considering they’re mostly US-sourced and sewn. Sure, they both have some flaws, but at this price point? Meh.
Will the jeans replace my go-to selvedge denim? No, but I’d certainly think about picking up a pair for lounging around the house, running quick errands, etc. At the end of the day, these are pretty basic stretch jeans. I’d say they fall somewhere on par with Amazon’s Goodthreads brand and Target’s Goodfellow & Co brand in terms of what you get for your dollary doos. If you’re in the market for a pair of lightweight, instantly comfortable jeans AND you value made in the USA manufacturing, you should absolutely check them out.
The tees are pretty legit for the price and you should probably snatch some of these up while you can. Just make sure you get the correct fit! I’ll probably pick up a few of them to do some long-term testing to see how they hold up to frequent washing and drying. Keep an eye out for that update in the future.
Avg. Score for Jeans: 4.25/5.00 Stars – Jeans are pretty, pretty, pretty good!
Avg. Score for Tee: 4.25/5.00 Stars – These t-shirts are great for the price!
Shout out: Big thanks to reader Brian C. for the tip on Dearborn!