To this day, the honoured tradition of American denim blazes a bright path of quality, and effortless style. But for the last three decades, that torch hasn’t been burning in the west; instead, it has been taken on by the unwavering hand of the Japanese in the east. This country’s innate passion for craftsmanship and perfection is envied the world over, and there are a select few in the Japanese denim world with whom the light of the denim future shines quite so brightly.
Full Count’s journey to the centre of the heritage denim world has been an interesting one; a journey made by the company’s founder Mikiharu Tsujita. From his humble beginnings selling vintage Levi’s XX jeans to baying customers, under the roof of Osaka vintage store, Lupine, to making jeans with the owner of that store and founder of Evisu, Hidehiko Yamane, Tsujita-san has always been driven by his passion for vintage denim. Of those early days Tsujita-san says “I wanted to make something better. Something I could continue making for a long time into the future.” And he did just that.
At the end of the year of 1992, he decided to go his own way, and founded a company with quality and tradition at its heart. Finding a name for the company seemed to come easily for Tsujita-san; stemming from a love of baseball, and equated to the position in which the fledgeling company now found itself, he opted for the name, Full Count. Tsujita-san recalls, “the image of a ‘full count’ is, you know, 3 balls and 2 strikes, right? So the very next moment you’re either going to strike out, or you’re going going to get a hit…it’s that charged moment when things are going to go one way or the other.” So, from one great American tradition to another, Tsujita-san’s denim brand had its own distinct identity amongst a fresh young group of denim makers, who would later be known around the world as ‘The Osaka 5’.
The early day’s of Japan’s denim boom of at the start of the 90’s saw the birth of long standing denim giants of the east, and such a hub of creative energy spurred on a competitive aspect of the denim community, which drove each brand to produce the best denim in the country, and even the world. For Tsujita-san, it was important not to overlook the the roots of denim, and to understand that path that had brought them to this point. And so, he used all of the knowledge he had acquired in dealing with vintage Levi’s XX jeans, and brought the world of heritage denim to life in the east. His brand was the first to use only 100% cotton threads, an important detail of heritage denim manufacturing which had long been overlooked in favour of poly blend cottons which are cheaper, and more time efficient to produce. The same can be said for the production of the denim fabric itself; Tsujita-san had to source the looms which were no longer in use, and carefully oversee the production of the first Full Count denim at the Shinya Mills, in Ibara. It won’t surprise you to learn that almost all of the denim for the brand is still produced in the same mills, where there are four looms reserved exclusively for Full Count’s use. Mr Tsujita’s painstaking attention to quality control not only conjures the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but also creates its own of ‘if it’s broke, fix it, and maintain it!’
Of course, one of the things which stands this brand out from the crowd is their use of hand picked, long-staple Zimbabwean cotton. Full Count’s denim has become synonymous with this cotton, and displays the lengths that Tsujita-san will go to so ensure that quality and authenticity take precedence over speed and convenience. “I decided that every element would be done with no compromise whatsoever”, he explains in a recent interview, displaying a key quality that has made his brand so beloved throughout the denim world. And to compliment this, very little has been changed in the last thirty years when it comes to their key designs, though the recent move to remove the brand’s golden arches has allowed the denim to speak for itself. Mr Tsujita’s desire in doing this is to provide his customers with a product that they can come back to time after time, and always have the same quality fit and finish, a benefit of assurance which is so hard to find in the denim world, but is worth its weight in gold.
Full Count aren’t merely a brand who concern themselves with denim history however, they are denim history! And future for that matter! Tsujita-san’s passion for finely crafted vintage inspired denim doesn’t restrict him to the history books, but instead he uses a keen aye and a modern mind to bring denim firmly into the 21st century. Modern silhouettes, and patterns of current pop culture icons find their way into Full Count’s denim practice, along with inspired collaborations, and playful additions to the collection including the ‘My First Jeans’ collection for toddlers, and the DIY arcuate kit of the 1100-19W WWII jean, all of which result in a brand which maintains a powerful identity as not only leaders of the modern heritage, but forerunners in denim’s bright future.
We’re still inspired every day by this brand after a long partnership, here at Son of a Stag, and we will look forward to another 30 years of some of the finest denim manufacturing that the world has to offer. Happy Anniversary, and congratulations, Full Count!