Ditching Heavyweight Denim? Guide to Lightweight Selvedge

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My Picks for Best Lightweight Raw Denim Jeans

For years, heavyweight denim has been all the rage in the raw denim scene. But denimheads are starting to look towards lightweight denim as well. 

Traditionally, the average weight of denim has been around 13-14 oz., and most repro brands stay within that range.

Recently, we’ve also seen a growing amount of selvedge denim at 12 oz. or less across the board. That’s exactly what you’ll find in this guide.

Why You Should Consider Lightweight Denim 

Wearing heavy denim has almost become a rite of passage, and higher weight has come to mean higher value. But in terms of comfort, lightweight denim clearly outshines its heavier alternative. 

Sure, there are exceptions—like Iron Heart’s 21 oz. denim, which is surprisingly soft and wearable. But generally, lighter weights offer superior comfort, especially during warmer seasons and in hot climates.

Lightweight denim provides a perfect solution—combining comfort, style, and the potential for beautiful fades.

This guide will walk you through the best lightweight raw denim jeans available, helping you find the ideal pair for your needs.

If you’re new to denim or need a brush-up on your vocabulary, you can learn about the differences between lightweight and heavyweight denim here.


Japan Blue J308 (Classic Straight, 9 oz.)

If you’re looking for denim that’s cool, comfortable, and still packs that raw denim punch, this is it. Designed with a unique curved waistband and crafted from premium Côte d’Ivoire cotton, these jeans are set to become your warm-weather favourite.

Fit: Classic Straight

The classic straight fit offers room to move without making you look like you borrowed your dad’s jeans. The curved waistband is specifically designed for Western body types, ensuring a better fit and more comfort.

Fabric: 9 oz. Japanese Selvedge

Made from 9 oz. Côte d’Ivoire cotton, known for its exceptional quality and softness. This lightweight denim offers great breathability thanks to the light yarns, keeping you cool even when the sun’s blazing. And with the rope-dyed process, you can still look forward to those beautiful, unique fades.

Details

  • Lightweight Construction: At 9 oz., these jeans give you the raw denim experience without the weight.
  • Selvedge and Inseam: Classic selvedge ID on the outseam and blue thread on the inseam.
  • Zip Fly: For quicker action, I guess.
  • Minimalist Design: Clean lines and minimal branding, letting the superior fabric and construction speak for themselves.

Verdict: Best Super Lightweight Selvedge

The Japan Blue J308 9 oz. jeans are a summer essential for denim lovers. The combination of Côte d’Ivoire cotton and Japanese craftsmanship results in a pair of jeans that are not only comfortable and breathable but also capable of developing stunning fades.

The 9 oz. denim is also available in other cuts, including the J508 loose fit


BENZAK BDD-707 (Classic Straight, 12 oz.)

I’ve known Lennaert (aka the founder of BENZAK) ever since he launched his quasi-eponymous brand, and this is my favourite among all the beautiful jeans he’s put out.

Fit: Classic Straight

The BDD-707 features a classic straight-leg fit, perfectly balancing comfort and style. It’s a timeless silhouette that works for almost any occasion.

Fabric: 12 oz. Unsanforized One-Washed Selvedge

This unsanforized 12 oz. right-hand twill (RHT) is a lighter version of BENZAK’s renowned 14 oz. special #1. With a loose weave construction and irregular yarns, it offers a gorgeous vintage-like look. 

The one-wash treatment provides immediate comfort and reduces break-in time, giving the denim a deep blue colour with lighter tones that will further evolve with wear and washes.

Details

  • BENZAK’s Signature 6th Pocket: A functional and stylish addition that sets these jeans apart.
  • 4-Button Fly: Explicitly designed with four buttons on the fly plus a top button, staying true to BENZAK’s commitment to detail.
  • Vintage-Inspired Patch: Features a lovely bull logo patch made from jacron, adding a touch of vintage charm.
  • Made in Japan: Entirely crafted in Japan, reflecting superior craftsmanship.
  • Hefty Pocket Lining: 8 oz. chambray pocket lining adds durability and a premium feel.

Verdict: Best BENZAK (period)

The BENZAK BDD-707 jeans combine vintage aesthetics with modern comfort. The blend of low-tension unsanforized denim and one-wash treatment results in a pair of jeans that are not only visually stunning but also comfortable from the get-go. Perfect for those who appreciate meticulous craftsmanship and a classic fit.

If you prefer a tapered fit, the 12 oz. denim is also available in the BDD-710.


Sugar Cane 2009 (Slim Straight, 12 oz.)

Looking for that perfect blend of heritage and modern comfort? The Sugar Cane 2009 Slim Straight jeans might just be your new favourite. Crafted with a unique mix of Zimbabwe and Texas cotton, these jeans bring you the best of both worlds in terms of feel and fades.

Fit: Slim Straight

Inspired by the iconic post-war Levi’s 501, also known as the ‘1947’, these jeans feature the same classic five-pocket design but with a slimmer fit and a lower rise. A modern silhouette without straying from timeless denim traditions.

NOTE: Due to the low rise, the fit looks best on slimmer builds, like on Johan from Second Sunrise.

Fabric: 12 oz. Japanese Selvedge

Made from a blend of Zimbabwe and Texas cotton, this 12 oz. denim is double ring-spun, ensuring both the warp and weft yarns are of the highest quality. The result? A fabric that’s not only durable but also softens beautifully over time, offering exceptional fades that tell your unique story.

Details

  • One-Washed: Pre-washed for immediate comfort, no need for that initial break-in period.
  • Double Ring-Spun: Both warp and weft yarns are ring-spun, providing superior strength and a smoother finish.
  • Selvedge Detailing: Classic selvedge ID on the outseam, showcasing quality craftsmanship.
  • Button Fly: Keeps things authentic and old-school.
  • Minimalist Design: Clean lines and minimal branding, letting the superior fabric and construction speak for themselves.

Verdict: Best Heritage-Inspired Slim Straight

The Sugar Cane 2009 Slim Straight jeans are a nod to denim history with a modern twist. The blend of Zimbabwe and Texas cotton results in a comfortable yet sturdy fabric that fades beautifully. Perfect for those who appreciate the craftsmanship and heritage of classic denim but want a fit that’s right for today.

If you want the actual 1947 fit from Sugar Cane in this 12 oz. denim, Hinoya sell it here.


Studio D’Artisan SD-502 (Loose Straight, 12 oz.)

Studio D’Artisan, one of the pioneers of the Japanese denim scene, has been crafting exceptional jeans since 1979. With a focus on traditional techniques and meticulous attention to detail, SDA continues to set the standard in the world of selvedge denim.

Fit: Loose Straight

The SD-502 features a breezy loose straight fit, offering ample room for comfort without sacrificing style. It’s ideal for those who appreciate a relaxed silhouette—plus the looser fit is obviously more airy in the heat.

Fabric: 12 oz. One-Washed Japanese Selvedge

Crafted from 12 oz. unsanforized original SDA selvedge denim that’s been one-washed for immediate comfort. This fabric showcases the rich heritage of Japanese denim, offering long-lasting yet comfortable wear right from the start.

Details

  • Leather Patch: Classic and durable, adding a touch of authenticity.
  • Button Fly: Traditional button fly for that genuine vintage feel.
  • Punch-Through Rivets: Well, of course.
  • Selvedge Coin Pocket: Subtle yet stylish, with selvedge on the coin pocket (no peek-a-boo).
  • Detail-Driven Construction: Raised belt loops, hidden rivets, chainstitched construction, and back pocket arcuates highlight SDA’s commitment to craftsmanship.

Verdict: Best Vintage-Inspired Loose Fit

The Studio D’Artisan SD-502 jeans are a testament to the brand’s long-standing heritage and dedication to quality. With a loose straight fit and rich detailing, these jeans offer a perfect blend of comfort and classic style. Ideal for those who value the legacy and craftsmanship of one of Japan’s oldest denim brands.


Fullcount 0105SSW (Wide, 11.5 oz.)

Fullcount has long been celebrated for its focus on Zimbabwean cotton, renowned for its softness and durability. The 0105SSW jeans are no exception, bringing you the comfort and fade potential of the brand’s flagship denim in a lighter weight.

Fit: Wide Leg

The loose, wide fit is perfect for those who want a relaxed and trendy silhouette. It’s designed to be easy-going and casual, providing maximum comfort and style.

Fabric: 11.5 oz. Original Selvedge Denim

Made from 100% Zimbabwean cotton, this 11.5 oz. selvedge denim is unsanforized and one-washed, offering a softer, more comfortable wear from day one. It retains the incredible fade potential of Fullcount’s heavier denim, making it an ideal choice for anyone who loves a good vintage fade.

Details

  • Veg Tan Leather Patch: Adds a classic touch and ages beautifully with wear.
  • Punch-Through Copper Rivets: The original way that’s just cool.
  • Peek-A-Boo: A subtle nod to quality craftsmanship—and a nice way to show off that selvedge.
  • Japanese Contruction: Raised belt loops, hidden rivets, and chain-stitched construction underline Fullcount’s meticulous approach to denim.

Verdict: Best Relaxed Fit and Vintage Fade

The Fullcount 0105SSW jeans offer a perfect blend of vintage charm and modern comfort. The lighter weight and wide fit make them ideal for those looking for a relaxed, stylish option. With their focus on Zimbabwean cotton, these jeans provide a smooth, comfortable wear that will develop unique fades over time.


Kato Hammer (Straight, 10.5 oz.)

10.5 oz. lightweight denim with 4-way stretch. Really? Yes, we’re dead serious about this one, and so is Kato.

Fit: Straight Leg

The Kato Hammer is a straight-leg fit, providing a comfortable and contemporary silhouette that pairs well with any casual look. If you want something slimmer—which will be comfortable too in a 4-way stretch—check out the slim-tapered Scissors fit or the slim fit Pen

Fabric: 10.5 oz. Japanese Selvedge Denim with 4-Way Stretch

This is no ordinary denim. Kato has made selvedge denim with 4-way stretch their trademark; something no other raw denim brand offers. This means there’s stretch in both the warp and the weft yarns, providing next-level comfort and flexibility without compromising the ability to fade beautifully.

Details

  • 4-Way Stretch: Unique to Kato, offering unparalleled comfort and mobility.
  • Crafted in Japan: Developed at one of Japan’s oldest denim mills, likely Kurabo, known for its pioneering denim production.
  • Vintage Shuttle Looms: Fabric woven on these looms ensures high-quality, durable denim.
  • Made in Los Angeles: Each pair undergoes a meticulous 60 to 90-day process of cutting, sewing, washing, and testing.
  • 4-Button Fly: Explicitly includes four buttons on the fly plus a top button for a complete closure.
  • Premium Finishes: Selvedge detailing on the coin pocket, punch-through rivets, and an overall minimalist design showcasing superior craftsmanship.

Verdict: Best Stretch Raw Denim

The Kato Hammer Straight jeans redefine comfort in raw denim with their innovative 4-way stretch. Perfect for those who seek both style and functionality, these jeans offer the flexibility and comfort of stretch denim while maintaining the coveted fading properties of traditional raw denim.

If you don’t want stretch, Kato has a 12.5 oz. denim that you can get here.


Unbranded UB322 (Straight Fit, 11 oz.)

Unbranded started as a sub-label of Naked & Famous, but today, the brand defined by its absence of branding has firmly established itself in the denim world.

Fit: Straight Leg

The UB322 features a straight fit, offering a classic and versatile silhouette that’s easy to wear with just about anything.

Fabric: 11 oz. Japanese Stretch Selvedge Denim

This 11 oz. denim includes a bit of stretch, providing added comfort while maintaining the rigidity and fading properties of traditional selvedge denim. The fabric is sourced from Japan, known for its high-quality denim production.

Details

  • No-Fuss Jeans: Despite the minimalist branding, you still get premium details.
  • Leather Patch: Simple and unbranded, adding a touch of classic appeal.
  • Button Fly: Traditional button fly for an authentic denim experience.
  • Hidden Rivets: Reinforce stress points without sacrificing the clean look.
  • Union Special Chain-Stitched Hems: Hems that are built to rope over time, adding to the jeans’ character.
  • Japanese Selvedge Denim: Showcasing the iconic selvedge edge.

Verdict: Best-Value Lightweight Selvedge

The Unbranded UB322 jeans offer a compelling package: high-quality Japanese selvedge denim, essential details, and a comfortable fit—all at a bargain price. While they’re cut and sewn in China, the quality surely rivals gateway brands like A.P.C., making these jeans a smart choice for any denim enthusiast.


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