20 Raw Denim Shirts Primed for the Podium
Once we’ve faded one piece of selvedge, we want to fade them all. For many of us, the grail of fades is the denim shirt. Fading jeans is relatively straightforward, but the perfectly faded denim shirt proves elusive for many.
Above-the-belt fades are, of course, trickier to produce than jeans, mostly because we are more likely to rotate through a collection of shirts than we are to focus on a single piece for months on end. The formula is simple, though: Find a perfect-fitting piece you love and wear it to death, forsaking others for at least a year.
Brands you’ll find on the list
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the best shirts primed for a full year of wear. We’ll look at well-known brands like Samurai, Iron Heart, The Flat Head, TCB and Studio D’Artisan, but we’ll also look at brands you might not have considered before, like Benzak, Rogue Territory and Blaumann.
The perfect fit is simply a matter of knowing your numbers. Check the measurement charts for each of the shirts listed below. If it’s not a perfect fit (even if you love the fabric or the brand), keep looking. If the fit is off, even by just a small amount, the other, better-fitting shirts in your collection will start calling your name.
When you’ve found the perfect combination of fit and fabric, you’re ready to register for the Redline Rally! All of the shirts on this list are eligible. Take some time choosing your champion, and remember that Rallygoers wring every drop of value out of their shirts by wearing them hundreds of times during the competition. If you’ve been looking for that excuse to reach for a top-shelf shirt, the Rally is the perfect excuse.
For most competitors, the fades are reward enough, but if you need more motivation, there are some incredible prizes from sponsoring brands like Wesco Boots, TCB, Tellason, Self Edge, Burg & Schild, and many more. Push your piece hard enough, and you might find yourself in the winner’s circle. Rev your engines and get ready for the Rally! The fun begins on June 1st, 2024.
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The Flat Head Denim Western (10 oz.)
If the sleeves were a touch longer, I’d probably have two of these hanging in my closet. The styling is simply perfect, with a tight trio of yellow mother of pearl snaps at the cuffs and slanted pockets that tip towards each other without skewing the clean, modern design. If the fit is right, snap one up.
If you prefer more classic workwear styling, try their 12 oz. Work Shirt.
Iron Heart IHSH-33 (12 oz.)
Conspicuously well-made, Iron Heart’s denim westerns are, for many, the standard by which all others are judged.
The contrasting yellow thread used in the triple stitched yokes makes this version immediately recognizable as a serious piece of kit. It’s notoriously stubborn, but the fades, when they finally arrive, are well worth the wait.
Iron Heart Pale Rider (1.1mm Horsehide)
This horsehide western shirt is an outlier on this list of raw denim shirts, but we have very good reason for including it here.
For the first time, we are allowing unlined, natural leather pieces into the Redline Rally. The Iron Heart x Simmons Bilt Pale Rider is the reason we made this change. We desperately want to see how these horsehide beauties can develop if given that full-year treatment.
The most expensive item on this list by a wide margin, this shirt will repay its hefty price tag and then some if worn day in and day out. A rugged character piece beyond compare, the Pale Rider has truly legendary potential, but only if it’s given its due.
Studio D’Artisan Aishibuzome (15 oz.)
We’re suckers for denim with brown weft, and that goes double when the combination is natural indigo and kakishibu. The two mix and fade magically, and we’re intensely excited to see what kind of fades this SDA denim will produce.
Be aware that, at this weight, this shirt will not fade easily. It will need some coaxing. With a bit of elbow grease, you’ll bring out its best—and SDA pieces at their faded best are true (and rare) works of art.
Samurai Denim Western (10 oz.)
Samurai’s takes on the western shirt feature the boldest styling of any of the items on this list. They play with the western shirt’s conventional pointed yokes and pocket flaps, making them sharper and asymmetrical.
If you’re looking to make a denim statement, this one’s got three exclamation points. We’ve never seen one of these really pushed hard in the Rally. Be the first to do so and you’ll definitely turn heads.
But if those pockets don’t do it for you, give their slightly more conservative 101 Denim Western a try.
Full Count US Army Pullover (10 oz.)
Full Count’s emphasis has always been on comfort and wearability, and this shirt is as comfortable and wearable as they come.
It’s substantial, but it also breathes and moves easily, feeling soft against the skin. It’s not fussy. Wear it all year round and treat it carelessly. It’ll still look and feel great, and the vintage design will definitely capture attention.
Full Count also has a beautiful classic Western Shirt.
Indigofera Ryman (8 oz.)
This rinsed lightweight western might not be primed for crazy combs, but, for those who either prefer or need to wash their shirts regularly, this instant classic from Indigofera will jive perfectly with that approach.
Indigofera boasts some of the best snaps in the game, and they’ve loaded this one up with almost 20 of them. If you like serious hardware and classic mid-century western styling, you can’t do much better than this.
If you really want to rock the boat, Indigofera’s 14 oz. Gunpowder Fargo makes tsunami-sized waves.
The Real McCoy’s 8HU Denim Serviceman (8 oz.)
An homage to the classic American work shirts designed to withstand the rigours of the eight-hour workday (8HU = Eight-Hour Union), Real McCoy’s Serviceman is as true-blue working man’s vintage as they come.
It’s almost too good to get sweaty, but to see its true colours, you’ll need to put in a long string of eight-hour days.
If the classic work shirt isn’t your bag, you can also check on the availability of their equally good Denim Western.
Benzak BWS-01 Work Shirt (8 oz.)
One of the biggest bang-for-buck shirts on this list, the BWS-01 is made from denim milled for Benzak by Japan’s Collect Mills. You’ll have to spend considerably more to get into anything better than this beauty.
It’s a no-nonsense work shirt, with plenty of room in the button-down pockets for whatever you need to carry. Oodles of chain-stitch runoff for bonus points.
If you want something heftier or something with more stylish pockets, try Benzak’s 10 oz. Scout Overshirt.
Stevenson Cody CD-3 Western Shirt (7 oz.)
As far west as you can get without settling for non-selvedge, the Cody’s yokes, which extend all the way to the sternum, are a yeehaw hollered into the barn rafters.
Thanks to its easy-to-wear weight, this shirt should be easy to move to the center of your collection. Keep it there and it will become a frayed and faded honkeytonk hero.
While not eligible for the Redline Rally, the washed-down version of this shirt is a ready-to-wear true-blue classic.
TCB Dude Rancher (8.5 oz.)
For budget-conscious selvedge shoppers who don’t want to sacrifice on quality on Japanese pedigree, TCB has long been the go-to brand. Everything you love about made-in-Japan heritage style is here, and for a fraction of the price of other Japanese brands.
The Dude Rancher is one of the best sawtooth western shirts around. Though it can’t match TCB’s Ranchman (linked below) for popularity, it is a little easier to find, and it has everything we look for in great selvedge western shirts.
TCB’s extremely popular Ranchman is worth waiting for. It sells out quickly, so be ready to pounce when they restock.
Warehouse Lot. 3038 Denim Western (8.5 oz.)
With subtle contrasting tobacco-coloured thread and matching copper snaps, Warehouse’s modern western is subtly but indisputably brilliant.
What makes this shirt unique is the open bottom hem (rather than being folded and stitched, it’s left unfolded. Wear the hell out of this and the bottom will fray beautifully.
Rogue Territory Selvedge Canvas Work Shirt (15 oz.)
We’ve snuck in another non-denim shirt, but nobody will be the wiser. This has all the features you’d look for in a great denim workshirt, and the stiff canvas should help this shirt produce stunning contrast fades if pushed hard enough (it won’t crack without considerable effort).
The asymmetrical and rounded chest pockets will become an even more striking feature as the shirt ages. Truly legendary fade potential for those who have the guts to take this bull by the horns.
Blaumann Dark Western (8 oz.)
Blaumann know they are on to a good thing with their modern western design. They offer a virtually identical shirt in a number of fabrics (all of them good), but it’s most in its element in indigo denim. It’s muscular and shaped long through the body and arms for European frames.
Freenote Denim Calico (9 oz.)
One of the sharpest made-in-America westerns out there, Freenote’s Calico is right in the sweet spot. It’s heavy enough to fade dramatically at the elbows, but not so heavy that it feels like wearing armor. The bone snaps are the pièce de résistance.
The Calico is also available in 9 oz. Black Selvedge with matching black diamond snaps.
Tellason Topper (7.5 oz.)
This fusion of work and western shirts has been a pillar in Tellason’s catalogue for years. The combination of useful pockets makes it immediately recognisable and always a practical choice.
Despite its relatively light weight, this shirt will produce beautiful fades if you can keep it dry. Keep the marinara sauce at arm’s length.
Though it’s far too heavy to wear as a shirt, if you’re looking for a proven fading champion, look no further than Tellason’s 16.5 oz. Coverall.
Nudie Jonas Dry Black Selvedge (12.75 oz.)
The most modern take on the western on this list, Nudie’s Jonas, made from a crisp black selvedge, doesn’t loudly announce itself as a western shirt.
Dominated by sharp lines rather than curved ones, the shirt is all angles, but it’s got true-blue western credentials on the back side. That yoke is unmistakably western.
They also offer their Jonas in their premium Ace Selvedge, though it is a Nudie Member exclusive. If it ticks all your boxes, it might merit signing up.
Mister Freedom Longshoreman (8.5 oz)
A pullover inspired by archived pieces worn by sailors and longshoremen in the 1930s, this shirt features the only zipper you’ll find anywhere on this list.
We’ve seen pullovers faded to perfection in the Rally, and this one has the potential to surpass them all. If the classic button- or snap-up shirts leave you wanting, this one might be a welcome addition to your collection.
For more subtle western styling, try Mister Freedom’s 9 oz. Appaloosa.
RRL Buffalo Western (7.6 oz.)
While you pay a premium for the RRL label, you also get the best-looking western pockets on this list.
Southwest Americana is the foundation that Lauren built his premium vintage menswear label on, and his legendary design sense is on full display here. Slim fitting and sharp as a whip crack.
You can skip to the faded finale with their Dark Wash version (not eligible for the Rally).
Eat Dust Western Denim Shirt
Arguably the boldest pocket design on this list comes from Antwerp. The Belgian lifestyle brand makes unmistakable pieces. See their pockets even once and you’ll be able to spot them from a mile away.
This middleweight denim western (they don’t list the denim weight) is finished with marble snaps. It’s that rare combination of distinctive design and an extremely reasonable price tag.
If you’re looking for something a little heavier, we can also highly recommend their 13 oz. Chore Coat.
Shockoe Atelier Denim Western (7 oz.)
Closing out the list is this modern take on the classic western from Virginia’s Shockoe Atelier. This lightweight denim won’t produce striking contrasts, but, with a steady year of wear, this one will be a true-blue stunner.
Shockoe offer free lifetime repairs on their pieces. Go ahead, get it dirty. Wear through the elbows. They’ll be there to patch it up when it starts to break down.
Shockoe also do a very good Denim Jacket that breaks free of the conventional styles.
Got a Shirt or Jacket? Register for the Redline!
The Redline Rally is a year-long fade competition. There is no better way to generate above-the-belt fades than joining the Rally. Year Three kicks off on June 1st, 2024.
Like the Indigo Invitational, the Rally helps you move one piece to the center of your rotation and do some real damage. Even slow faders produce results if they stick with the program.