Heavy Raw Denim Western Shirts To Snap Up Denim on Denim Looks

Buying Guides » Denim shirts

Our Top Picks of Well-Made Raw Denim Shirts For Denimheads Who Want that Cuff-to-Cuff Canadian Tux

Our addiction to denim runs bone-deep. We rise through levels of denim enthusiasm, and while many of us begin collecting with a vow to never wear more than two pieces of denim at a time, the blue stuff is simply too powerful to resist.


Of course you do. And the guide you’re reading now is really good. We’ve just one that’s even better. It lists 20 of the best raw denim shirts that’re made-to-fade.

We end up with more pairs of jeans than we can count, and most of us have at least one denim jacket (the average is probably closer to three or four). It’s only natural to want the shirt to complete that Canadian tuxedo, and the best makers out there are happy to oblige.

All of the hallmarks of well-made goods are there in denim shirts. The fabric brims with character, there are those trademark heavy stitches (often in neat double or triple rows) on the inside that let us know we’re stitched in for the long haul. Most importantly, they’re made to fade. 

Steve McQueen, undisputed master of the denim western

We may have to spend a considerable amount of time buttoned into the shirt to see the results we’re after, but a well-made denim shirt more than rewards us for our patience. As much as we love our flannels, chambrays, and dobbies, when we find the right denim shirt, we’ve found a home.

No shirt has as much power to make us forsake the rest of our wardrobe like a well-made western. 

The sections we cover in this guide:

If you want to know more about why we created these guides, please read our Manifesto. If you want to understand the criteria we apply for each item, read our definitions of ‘well-made’ and ‘essential’.

An honest disclosure: Our guides are reader-supported. This means that we earn a small commission when you click on some of our links and buy something. It doesn’t cost you anything. Availability and price of the products we recommend are subject to change.

Why a Well-Made Denim Shirt Is Essential

Denim shirts don’t have as long a history as the chambray or the flannel, but they’re an absolutely essential piece in the well-made wardrobe. Especially once they’ve been faded to perfection, they can move through the rotation with ease, giving a casual and rugged touch to just about any denim-based outfit. 

Still not convinced? Let’s start with Exhibit A.

Well-Made Denim Shirts Are Timeless

There are definitely outliers, but most denim shirts fit into either the work or the western categories. We’ve already covered the history of work shirts in our heritage work shirts guide, and we brushed up against heavy-duty snap-up shirts in our guide on CPOs and overshirts.

In this guide, we’ll focus on heavy raw western shirts. The denim western shirt is as true-blue American as they come, but it’s history is considerably shorter than that of the work shirt.

Levi’s started making denim jackets in 1880, but, for some reason, they steered clear of denim shirting. It wasn’t until the 1920s that an enterprising clothier started producing denim shirts commercially. Miller Brothers had started their life as New York-based hatmakers, but one of the brothers headed west and settled in Denver, Colorado, where he started a western outfitting brand, Miller Stockman Supply.

One of Miller’s employees, a former garter salesman named Jack Weil, helped Miller create his new brand’s distinctly western identity. Unbeknownst to Miller, though, Weil had an ace up his sleeve. He started a new company, Rockmount Ranch Wear, and brought a new version of the western shirt to market. 

Weil’s Rockmount became the first company to offer snap-up shirts. The diamond-shape snaps and the iconic sawtooth pocket design were Weil innovations (as was the bolo tie, but we’ll forgive him for that). The shirts spread like brush fire (especially on the rodeo circuit), and brands like Levi’s and Wrangler started producing their own iconic versions of the western shirt.

The rugged look soon caught the eyes of Hollywood producers, who were looking for gritty and well-worn clothing that could help them scrub some of the polish off of their western stars. Denim was a perfect fit for the new breed of westerns, and moviegoers were soon clamouring for denim shirts and jackets worn by their dusty heroes of the silver screen. 

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the denim shirt began to move away from its cowboy roots. Icons like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford all wore denim shirts in and out of character, moving denim westerns further and further into the mainstream. When the dust had settled, the well-worn and well-made denim shirt was still standing—a proud and permanent icon of manly style. 

Like a bronc buster, the shirt’s cowboy roots can’t be shaken off easily, but style icons have re-interpreted and re-contextualized the shirt so many times that it’s no longer a pigeon-holed piece. With the aid of passionate makers, it’s fused effortlessly with every scene in which denim plays either a starring or supporting role. 

As we’ll see below, the world’s best denim brands know that our love affair with the denim western is far from over.

Well-Made Denim Shirts Are Adaptable

The western denim shirt is far from the most adaptable piece we’ve covered in these guides. It can’t really be dressed up. It lends itself extremely well to tumbled and rumpled layered looks, but it can become much too much of a good thing if we wear more than two pieces of denim at a time.

The truest of the true-blue denim enthusiasts know that denim is the king of fabrics. They would dream of nothing less than three pieces of denim at a time. To these die-hard enthusiasts, we tip our cap. We commend your commitment. 

However, we stand by the advice we’ve offered frequently in these guides: more than two pieces of denim at a time is overdoing it. Since we assume that you’re wearing jeans, this means max one piece of denim above the belt at a time.

Jackman knows that simple layered looks are key

Layering a denim shirt under a denim jacket only works if it’s the middle piece in a heavily layered ensemble. Even then, it’s best to just leave the denim shirt at home. It’s an either/or situation.

Best practice depends on where your shirt is in its lifecycle. If the shirt is new or relatively new, it’ll work best when paired with a pair of well-faded jeans. Reverse this equation if you’ve put the work in and faded a denim shirt to perfection (or if you purchase one that’s been washed to produce a nicely faded look). Unless there’s contrast between the top layer and the bottom one, you’ll end up looking like you’re wearing coveralls. 

A denim shirt can be worn untucked (either buttoned or unbuttoned) or tucked in (either buttoned all the way up or with a few of the snaps undone). You can roll the sleeves up, or you can show off those snaps and buckle them right down to the wrists. 

It can be worn with tees or henleys underneath, or it can be worn next to the skin. It can be layered underneath leather jackets, blazers, or button-up cardigans. If it’s loose enough and if the weather’s cool, it can also be worn over slim-fitting sweatshirts or sweaters. 

The more you find ways to work it into your wardrobe, the more it’ll fade, and the more it fades, the more adaptable it will become. Once it’s arrived at that denim heaven stage, the sky will be the limit. 

Back to guide overview

How to Identify a Well-Made Denim Shirt

Nearly every maker—good or bad—has produced some version of the denim shirt. Mass-produced denim shirts might look the part, but they go to pieces when you put them to the test. If you’re ready to form a lasting bond with a well-made denim shirt, here’s what to look for. 

What It’s Made of

If you’ve been wearing denim for a while, and particularly if you’ve developed a palate for the good stuff, you know what quality denim looks and feels like. You can probably spot the stuff from across the room. 

What we’re looking for is character in the denim. Rather than a bland sea of undifferentiated blue, we want to see some play between the dark indigo overtones and the lighter weft on the back face of the denim. The closer we get, the more we can see this dance taking place.

Close-up of some trademark Iron Heart texture

The shirt should feel slightly rough to the touch. It might even have a slightly hairy texture (you can see this if you look carefully at the picture above). When you take it off the hanger, the weight should surprise you. If it is raw and heavy, it will probably be as stiff as cardboard the first time you put it on. 

For the true heavy raw denim experience, look for shirts north of 10oz. If you expect to use the shirt in warm weather, something lighter might be a better fit, but this will limit your ability to get those gorgeous fade patterns you might be after. 

Anything north of 11-12 oz. is getting into heavyweight territory. If you’re patient enough to ease it through its long break-in period, the fades will be spectacular, but the work to get it there will be more difficult. 

Raw and heavy shirts tend to look a little boxy at first. Try to picture how it will look after you’ve put it through the ringer a few times, and try to imagine how the shirt will feel when the denim relaxes. 

As with jeans, the more times you go through the process, the better you will become at predicting how a new shirt will feel and fit after you’ve put it through its paces. If you want to be sure that the shirt will become a fade masterpiece, our advice is to start with one of the well-made and essential pieces we’ll highlight below. 

What to look for in a well-made denim shirt: 

  • 100% cotton (steer well clear of stretch)
  • Selvedge is a very nice to have, but not a must have
  • Solid colour (made to fade)
  • One wash (at most)  
  • Heavy (10 oz. + for best fade results)
  • Depth of colour (a play between dark warp and light weft)
  • Classic styling

How It’s Made

If you’re tipping the scales with a heavy western denim shirt, the construction needs to be absolutely bulletproof. Heavy denim fades beautifully because it holds creases and stands tall in the face of abuse. 

Lighter denim bends like a reed in the wind. Heavier denim stands firm like an oak. The heavy stuff bears the scars of its encounters, while the lighter stuff absorbs blows, accommodating stress and strain. 

Because heavy denim won’t budge an inch, it places tremendous strain on the fabric (this is what produces the fades) and on stress points at the major seams and on the pockets. This is why we need the stitching to be on point. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but heavy denim pieces are far more likely to come apart at the seams than their light counterparts. So, when we say well-made, we don’t just mean heavy. The heavy shirts on this list are all made by makers who have extensive experience working with heavy fabrics. They’re not one-offs or experiments. They’re the real deal. 

Look for flat-felled seams on the inside of the shirt. Flat-felled side seams are a must, and flat-felled seams on the sleeves and around the armhole are a great touch. 

Double or triple stitching along the yoke is quite common in the well-made space, but it’s not a must. Some of our favourite shirts lean in conservative directions, so the makers have opted for only one row of stitching on the yoke. This is by no means a sign of an inferior shirt. It’s just a design choice.

All stitching should be extremely tight. Tug at the seams a bit. If you see any give, hang the shirt back on the hanger.  

You should look for the same attention to detail and rugged durability in the hardware. All the shirts we’ll be covering in this article have snaps, and, when you’ve tried on a few shirts in this space, you’ll quickly learn how to identify a quality snap. It should come together with a tremendously satisfying click.

Finally, even if the shirt is made of heavy denim, it should still have the look of a finely tailored garment. Western shirts should fit quite close to the body, so something that looks boxy or shapeless on the hanger probably won’t fit the bill.

This is an important category, but it’s also one that many of us rush into when we are on our first raw denim buying rampage. Give yourself time to explore your options. If none of the shirts we cover in this guide are a perfect fit, sit on your hands for a while. Watch the new releases from the brands and stockists we cover. Something will ring your bell eventually. You’ll be glad you waited. 

Construction details to look for in a well-made denim shirt: 

  • Flat felled seams
  • Chain stitching at all major seams
  • Bar tack stitches at pocket stress points
  • Chain stitch run off (nice to have)
  • Double or triple stitched seams
  • Heavy duty hardware (satisfying click)
  • Should fit quite close to the body

Why It’s Made

The best western shirts are not just made to add yet another piece of denim into your wardrobe. They’re made passionately with a particular type of wearer in mind. Makers who care about what they produce want you to get the absolute most out of their shirts, and this means getting in the saddle and riding them into the sunset.

The earliest examples of western shirts were highly ornate. They came in loud garish colours. They were often embroidered with flowers, horses, or other western motifs. They were loud pieces for gruff men of action.

The denim western lifted the pattern and some of the iconic features from vintage western shirts, but it spoke in a very different design language. The icons who made the denim shirt what it is today did so without need of any of the fancy trappings. They fused the western shirt with workwear culture, re-interpreting it as a simple and unadorned classic. 

This Nudie Gunnar shirt was faded by Nils Johansson from Sweden

To do true justice to the heavy denim western, do more than break it in. Break it down. Push it to its absolute limits. Wear it day in and day out and inscribe your daily work on every inch of it. You’ll end up with a shirt that will more than look the part. It will be the genuine well-made article.

Back to guide overview

Well-Made and Essential Denim Shirts

Most of us have at least a denim shirt or two kicking around (relics from our pre-raw days). These shirts are mostly thin, hastily constructed, and they came to us pre-faded or with only traces of the indigo remaining (if any at all). 

As denim lovers, we need to push these shirts to the back of the closet and make space for a pinnacle of the category. We need something we can slide over our shoulders day in and day out, moving that fade ball forward a few inches at a time. Here are eleven pieces that will make that difficult fade work more than worthwhile.

Back to the list

Iron Heart ISH-246-NIN

We’re leading with Iron Heart because they’ve stamped their name all over this category. Those with any experience wearing the brand know that Haraki-san brings his trademark non-nonsense and no-compromise approach to everything they produce, and their shirts are no exception. 

The silhouette is at once modern and classic, the construction is as tough as nails, and their denims are the gold standard, with their 12 oz. shirting denim being a favourite among fade enthusiasts for very good reason. 

Iron Heart do simple things exceptionally well, and this shirt is indigo-bleeding proof of that. There are no embellishments or eye-catching details. It’s just the western shirt perfected. They have a number of versions of the denim western, but the natural indigo one is king of the hill. The rich royal blue has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

  • 12 oz. selvedge denim
  • Dyed with natural indigo
  • Milled and Constructed in Japan
  • One wash (very little shrinkage)
  • Black permex snaps
  • Dark gold contrast stitching
  • Felled seams throughout
  • Chain stitch run-off

The Natural Indigo Western is a limited release, so only a few sizes are still available. The shirt has been a popular one for the brand, so it’s likely to return later this year. 

Other Iron Heart denim shirts to consider: 33-T (12 oz. selvedge dyed with synthetic indigo), 33-BLK (12 oz. black selvedge), and the 218 Johnny Cash III (12 oz. superblack selvedge. 

Division Road ships from the USA. If they are sold out, or if you are looking for other places to buy Iron Heart, try: Iron Heart (UK and US), Corlection (AUS), Self Edge (US), Franklin & Poe (US), Brund (Denmark), and Statement (Germany)

Back to the list

Indigofera Selvedge Copeland

Indigofera might not be the largest raw denim brand in Sweden (that distinction goes to Nudies), but they go out of their way to lay claim to being the best denim house in Scandinavia. Their jeans have helped, but it’s their eye-popping shirt lines that have done most of the heavy lifting for them.

Their Copeland takes a few of the hard edges off the western, adopting a rounded pocket and doing away with the pointed yokes, but the pocket stitching brings the shirt’s Southwest roots front and centre.

It’s the heaviest shirt on this list (14 oz.), which means it’s often used as an overshirt. The combination of rope-dyed indigo warp and the black weft means this hefty shirt will take some coaxing to get it to that nicely faded stage. Not for the faint of heart. 

  • 14 oz. Nihonmempu Japanese denim 
  • Rope-dyed indigo warp
  • Black weft yarns
  • Branded brass snaps
  • Copper rivets
  • Assembled in Portugal

Other Indigofera shirts to consider: The Copeland is also available in Rust Moleskin (a striking contrast against dark denim), 29 Handdip (a 13 oz. deep indigo), and they have the Manolito (a lightweight and modern button-up western). 

Franklin & Poe ships from the US. If they’re sold out, or if you’re looking for other places to buy Indigofera, try: Denim Heads (Czech Republic), Burg and Schild (Germany), Brund (Denmark), Rivet and Hide (UK), and Standard and Strange (USA)

Back to the list

Samurai Blade-Star (Type 2 Denim Shirt)

If your first question when looking at a garment is “How does it fade?”, you’re probably already familiar with the Samurai badge. More than any other brand, their first priority is how their products will look when they’ve been heavily used and abused. 

Even better, they engineer their fabrics to get to this stage remarkably quickly. Their denims trot out of the stable and quickly break into a break-neck gallop. 

The details will make the ride all the more enjoyable. It’s dramatically pointed double-stitched front yokes and asymmetrical back yoke line up perfectly with the ninja star snaps. And there’s a piece de resistance: a wooden neck button. Like so many of Samurai’s pieces, it’s a bold and distinctly Japanese take on a western form.

  • 10.5 oz. Japanese selvedge denim
  • Made in Japan
  • Indigo dyed
  • Chain stitch construction with run-off
  • Wooden neck button
  • “Blade-Star” snap buttons
  • Exposed silver selvedge absolutely everywhere

Other Samurai denim shirts to consider: Samurai also has a Type 1 Denim Shirt (same 10.5 oz. denim, but rounded flaps and yokes).

Corlection ship from Australia. If they are sold out, or if you are looking for other places to buy Samurai, try: Okayama Denim (Japan), Denimio (Japan), DC4 (Germany), Son of a Stag (USA), and Statement (Germany).

Back to the list

Blaumann Jeanshosen 011

Don’t let their rickety and untranslated German webshop fool you, Blaumann Jeanshosen are some of the finest denim craftsmen in Europe. The brand was started in 2013 by a trio of German denimheads and textile industry insiders who wanted to put German denim on the map. They’ve done this and then some.

Their jeans sit firmly at the centre of their small line, but it’s their western shirts that have turned our heads. They’ve sourced the denim from Japan (from Kuroki Mills), but everything else (from the buttons and rivets down to the thread that holds the piece together) comes from Germany.

The shirt is a crisp European take on the American classic. You won’t find any flashy details or ornamentation here—just carefully stitched denim snapped up with copper fasteners. No bells or whistles—just a perfectly executed workwear piece that will keep getting better with age.  

  • 8 oz. Japanese denim
  • Milled by Kuroki
  • 100% cotton
  • Made in Germany
  • Everything but the denim is sourced from Germany
  • Unwashed (ready to fade)
  • Copper snaps

If you live in Germany or a handful of other European countries (Spain, Austria, the Netherland, and Denmark), you’re in luck. Blaumann’s German website has a few other shirts to consider: Blaumann 104 (Ecru western) and the Blaumann 088 (beige western), and they’ve recently released a 10 oz. Kuroki-milled Western that is exclusively available in Germany through Manufactum.

B74 ship from Germany. If you’re looking for other places to buy Blaumann, try: Stuff (Germany) and Blaumann Jeanshosen (German webshop with limited delivery options).

Back to the list

Iron & White Western

Iron & White is a one-man European denim brand. Designer Simone Lombardo cut his teeth in the small but dedicated denim-loving subculture in Milan, Italy. He wanted a very particular kind of denim shirt, but he couldn’t quite find what he had in mind. He was determined to fill this gap in the market with a creation of his own design.  

With a sketch in hand, he set out in search of the right denim. He found his weaver in (of all places) England. Though the denim isn’t selvedge, it is very heavy (tipping the scales at 13 oz.), and it’s remarkably soft for how thick it is. It might be some of the best non-selvedge raw denim we’ve ever seen.

@TheBeardedUnderdog sporting his Iron & White western

Simone has more than proven his worth with his shirts, which have started popping up with increasingly regularity in our denim feeds. It’s no mystery why. It’s one of the sharpest silhouettes going (the combination of expert Italian tailoring and Simone’s incredibly sharp eye for design). It’s bold and aggressive—exactly what a denim western should be. 

Like a young Julius Caesar on the warpath, Simone will soon be able to say: Veni, Vidi, Vici.

  • 13 oz. English raw denim
  • 100% cotton
  • Unsanforized
  • Made to measure available for an extra $60
  • Constructed by hand by a Milan tailor
  • 17 mm vintage brass snaps (20 of them!)
  • For best fade results, either cold wash by hand or dry clean

To reach Simone, send him a private message on his Instagram account or send him an email. At the time of writing, he has enough of the English denim to make 25-30 more shirts. Word to the wise: strike while this iron is white hot.  

Iron & White is exclusively available through direct order.

Back to the list

Shockoe Atelier Western

The pride of Richmond, Virginia (the former capital of the Confederacy), Shockoe Atelier chose the tobacco leaf for their logo to signal their recognition of the deeply troubled history of the South. They don’t glorify this history in any way. If anything, they want their brand to stand for the new South—one that is emerging slowly and, in places, painfully.

They’ve assembled a diverse team from a hodgepodge of nations, and they proudly say that their clothes are made by hand by immigrants, with a deep nod to the notion that America is a relatively new nation built by hands of all colours.

Their western shirt is one of the stand-outs in their small line of passionately made denim. They source their denim from the US, Japan, and Europe, and they’ve gone with a gorgeous 11 oz. rinsed slub denim from Japan’s Collect mills for their western shirt.

The shirt’s strongest drawcard is its simplicity. Instead of pocket flaps, Shockoe’s artisans have added a triangular double row of stitching on the open pocket. The yokes are similarly subdued, creating a piece that perfectly balances the rugged and classic with the modern and the elegant. 

  • 11 oz. Japanese slub denim
  • Woven by Collect Mills
  • Rinsed once before assembly (minimal shrinkage)
  • Constructed in USA
  • Pearl snaps
  • Squared-off yokes
  • Open pockets with triangular contrast stitching

The western is the only denim shirt that Shockoe Atelier offers, but they offer an Olive Western (in a 10 oz. olive twill from Japan’s Kuroki Mills). 

Shockoe Atelier ships from the US. If you’re looking for other places to buy Shockoe, try Stuff (Germany).

Back to the list

RRL Slim Fit Western

Ralph Lauren’s americana badge both suffers and benefits from its association with it’s parent brand. For label lovers, Lauren’s name recognition adds a certain degree of prestige. For those steeped in the well-made scene, though, there’s an association with labour practices that most of us would rather avoid. 

That said, the label has a handful of pieces that must be reckoned with, and this western shirt is one of them. It’s not the cream of the crop in terms of either materials or production, but it’s elbowed its way onto this list on the strengths of its looks. The boot-stitch arcuates on the pockets arrest the eye without screaming for attention, and the concho button at the neck gives the piece a distinctive Southwest charm.  

If it’s good enough for Robert Redford, it’s good enough for us!

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking denim shirt out there at any price. It might not stand up to prolonged abuse as well as some of the other shirts on this list, but it’s more than tough enough for your average city slicker.

  • Japanese denim (non-selvedge)
  • Probably around 11-12 oz.
  • Indigo dyed
  • Assembled in China
  • Concho neck button
  • Boot-stitch pocket embroidery
  • Bar-tack reinforced pockets

If you want to skip to the end of the process, RRL offers a pre-faded Slim Fit Western as well. 

RRL ships from the US. If you’re looking for other places to buy RRL, try: Stag Provisions (USA) and B74 (Germany).

Back to the list

TCB Ranchman

TCB, or Two Cats Brand, are the first choice for many denim enthusiasts who have a more-than-common hankering for vintage fades.

The brand takes pains to reproduce iconic pieces from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, putting only the subtlest of trademark touches on them.

They strive for the perfect balance between durability and beauty, and, those who’ve ever worn one of their denim pieces will tell you: they’ve done exactly what they set out to do.

They butter their bread with their jeans and jackets, but their Ranchman shirts, with their immediately recognisable ‘40s slanted pocket design, are just as essential.

The shirt is a little simmer than the archived vintage pieces it was based on, but the puckering (thanks to the Union Special stitching) will line up perfectly with your vintage fade dreams, and it won’t take a huge chunk out of your budget.

  • 8.5 oz. Japanese selvedge
  • Woven on vintage looms
  • American cotton (grown in California)
  • Made by TCB craftsmen in Japan
  • Stitched on vintage Union Specials
  • Universal silver lip shell snaps
  • Asian sizing, so check the measurements carefully
Picture courtesy of Denimbro

Other TCB denim shirts to consider: Ranch Shirt (iconic ‘50s sawtooth pockets) and the Black Ranchman (same shirt but in black)

TCB ships from Japan. If you are looking for other places to buy TCB, try: James Dant (USA), The Shop (Canada), Brund (Denmark), Burg & Schild (Germany), Store du Nord (Netherlands), Redcast Heritage (Spain), Second Sunrise (Sweden), and American Classics London (UK).

Back to the list

Mister Freedom Dude Rancher 101

Not everybody craves the heavy stuff. Even if you’re a die-hard heavyweight fan, chances are there are a few months of the year when wearing heavy denim shirting becomes too much to bear.

If it’s a lighter denim shirt you’re after, Mr. Freedom’s take on classic western shirts from the ‘60s and ‘70s will ring your bell and ring it hard. The man behind the brand, Christophe Loiron, does Southwest Americana so well, so this is right in his wheelhouse. He’s even named the shirt after Route 101 (the beautiful stretch of highway that weaves its way along America’s western seaboard.

The M’s on the pockets and the diamond-shaped stitching on the huge reinforcing patches covering the elbows (and then some) both bear Loiron’s unmistakable flourished signature. They make this a stand-out piece that’ll be the first thing you reach for on those dog days of summer. 

  • 7.25 oz. 2 x 1 selvedge twill
  • Milled and constructed in Japan
  • 100% indigo dyed cotton 
  • Yellow/orange contrast stitching
  • Side gussets
  • Chain stitch run-off
  • Painted snap buttons (will chip with age)

Other Mister Freedom denim shirts to consider: Black Dude Rancher (same shirt, but in black denim), Prairie Shirt (darker 7.5 oz denim with diamond snaps), Appaloosa (8 oz. herringbone modern western), and the Garrison Shirt (12.4 oz. military-inspired denim overshirt).    

Mister Freedom ships from the US. If you’re looking for other places to buy Mister Freedom, try: Franklin & Poe (USA), Rivet & Hide (UK), Clutch Café (UK), and Second Sunrise (Sweden).

Back to the list

Stevenson Cody Washed Down Indigo

This is the lightest of the bunch. Stevenson Overall Co was, until 2005, an extinct American workwear brand—one of the many badges that couldn’t quite cross that bridge from the roaring twenties to the down and out thirties. 

An American denim connoisseur by the name of Zip Stevenson (no relation) stumbled upon an old Stevenson invoice in the early aughts and, along with a Japanese partner, re-started the brand. They’re driven by a simple workwear ethic: they want to make clothes that are “quiet, subtle, beautiful, simple, and well made.” Music to our ears.

They’ve been competing in a crowded market ever since, and they’ve managed to elbow out some space for themselves thanks to their ability to release simple and timeless collections. They do basics as well as anybody, but when they swing for the fences with a bold piece, like this denim shirt, it’s almost always a home run. 

The Cody utilises 6.5 oz. denim made from Zimbabwe cotton. It’s as soft as it is light, and it feels as good as it looks (which is saying a lot). The buffalo horn front yoke and the rounded and slanted pockets make this a piece that captures attention immediately and holds onto it for dear life. It may be pre-faded, but we’ll forgive you if you make this shirt the centrepiece in your summer rotation.

  • 6.5 oz. Japanese denim
  • Milled and constructed in Japan
  • Zimbabwe cotton
  • Dyed with indigo
  • Woven on vintage shuttle looms
  • Belnap stone snap buttons
  • Rinsed (minimal shrinkage)
Picture courtesy of H.T.S. Riverside

The Stevenson Cody is also available in Black/Black (Black weft and warp for an everlasting black).

Franklin & Poe ship from the US. If they’re sold out, try: Rivet & Hide (UK), Clutch Café (UK), Self Edge (USA), Cultizm (Germany), Son of a Stag (USA), Denimio (Japan), and Maplestore (Australia).

Back to the list

The Flat Head Real Aged Western

Like the RRL, this Flat Head western makes us bend our rules. We are strong advocates for self-fading, but sometimes a piece comes along that makes us wish we weren’t such sticklers. We’re closing this list with one of them. 

Flat Head seem to have put their financial troubles behind them, and their new pieces (this being one of them) are as eye catching as anything the brand has done for the past few years. It’s clear that, despite their stumbles, they haven’t lost a step. 

Their version of the denim western pulls you in with the sharp contrast between the fathomless blues and the sections of the shirt that have been hand-aged. The Flat Head artisans drew on archived denim shirt fades, and they’ve done their work exceptionally well—as we’ve come to expect from the brand.

They’ve just started the process for you. It’s up to you to bring this beauty over the line.

  • 10 oz. selvedge denim
  • Milled and constructed in Japan
  • Hand-aged to look like archived denim fades
  • Selvedge ID details
  • Butterfly shell snap buttons
  • Chain stitch construction
  • Elegantly curved back yoke

Flat Head seems to have cut down their line from a few hundred pieces to a few dozen. The streamlining should be good for the brand, but it also means that this is the only denim shirt they’re offering this season. 

Iron Shop Provisions ships from the US. If you’re looking for other places to buy Flat Head, try: Flat Head (Untranslated Japanese Webshop), Corlection (Australia), Self Edge (USA), Denimio (Japan), Rivet & Hide (UK), and DC4 (Germany).

Before You Snap Up, Layer Up 

Denim shirts work great against the skin, but they cry out to be layered with a cotton-soft underlayer. For great layering pieces, check out our guides on henleys and tees.

If you’ve got a hankering for that double denim look, be sure to check our list of essential raw selvedge jeans, and be sure to cinch the whole piece together with a patina-ready belt. Happy trails.