The Art of Imperfection - 'Wabi-Sabi'

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese ideal, centered around the idea of finding beauty in imperfection as well as transience, modestey, impermenance or incompletion. Wabi-Sabi is a concept which is easily applied to the clothes we wear and the way we wear them. There are many items of clothing where age and wear accentuate their best features, telling the story of where, when and how their owner has worn them. Denim jeans, leather footwear, luggage, knitwear and outerwear all improve and gain character with age and use. Sadly, this is not always appreciated and many clothes are sent to landfill when they could easily be repaired or even have their flaws appreciated as unique enhancements to the garment.

Edwin ED-55, raw denim vs washed denim.

Denim jeans in particular are a great example of 'Wabi-Sabi' in fashion. The way that the indigo dye permeates the cotton threads used for weaving denim leaves the core of each fibre it's natural white colour. This gives rise to the jeans fading at points of abrasion, where the indigo dye is literally rubbed away and the white cotton cores are exposed. This fading is entirely individual to each wearer, for example, if you keep a wallet in your back pocket, the denim's fade will reflect this. This fading will also occur at other points of abrasion, such as around the pockets, behind the knees and on any turn ups. Whilst it's easy to go out and buy pre-faded jeans, 'Wabi-Sabi' should ideally be authentic. Buy your jeans raw and fade them naturally with wear and washing, the jeans should tell the story of the wearer and hold his or her memories in the way that they've faded.

Selvedge denim - denim woven on an old fashioned shuttle loom, is another way for denim to be considered 'Wabi-Sabi', the looms used to make the denim are often very old, making them prone to 'chatter'. This 'chattering' leaves the finished denim with small slubs and imperfections in the weave. Not only does this make the denim more characterful and unique, it also gives it a sense of authenticity. Denim woven on selvedge looms, is woven in the same way as the denim worn by gold miners, cowboys and construction workers for almost a century and a half.

Selvedge from a washed Levi's Vintage Clothing 501xx

Another material used in clothing which has beautiful aging properties is leather. Leather has been used for centuries in the manufacture of shoes, wallets, belts, even trousers and jackets. As leather is a natural material, any weathering and wear causes it to develop a unique patina, darkening  it at points of wear such as creasing, scuffs and bumps. The leather also absorbs moisture, dirt, dust and any oils or care products used on it, each of which adds to the story behind the product.

Left - a brand new Red Wing Moc Toe, Right - a worn in one full of memories and looking infinitely better.

In order to develop a true sense of 'Wabi-Sabi' in your style, it pays to invest in good quality products which will stand the test of time. Japanese denim, American leather goods and expert hand construction are all hallmarks of quality to look out for. Where this type of clothing is built to last, it may seem like a large initial outlay. However you should bear in mind that, if cared for properly, these items will last you a lifetime. Most of which can also be repaired time and time again and even passed on to the next generation.

Regent stock many products which are built to last. Some of the best examples are our range of Red Wing boots, Edwin denim and Driza-Bone outerwear as well as a range of other items from brands like Vetra, Orcival and

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