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Going to start doing some product reviews on this thing right here. For now, I’ll simply highlight the stuff I find and like so much I can’t help but share. Maybe one of these days I’ll start getting free swag to review. That would be pretty rad. But until then, reviews such this one will be unsolicited and based solely on the level of my delight/dissatisfaction in the product/company/service.

First up on the block is STRATA Denim, the line of jeans from Jacksonville-based clothing company STRATA Clothing. STRATA satrted in Jacksonville Beach and has developed a big following in the local surf community. Stickers were popping up all over town, well before I learned exactly what they were about. The company is run by two brothers, Jerry and Jason Rodriguez. The Rodriguez brothers started making t-shirts and recently expanded to denim. Wovens are coming soon. I met Jerry a while back and we’ve been discussing possible BURRO X STRATA crossover tactics ever since, but I’d yet to try out any of his wares.

So, the jeans. Initially I was skeptical. I’m a bit of a denim snob. I’m not saying I have the best collection, but I can appreciate a good pair of jeans and I know a thing or two about them. I was worried that the cut and wash on a pair of jeans designed to appeal to surfers wouldn’t be what I was looking for and that for a company as small as they are to be able to afford to put them out, they had to be cheap and made in China. One thing they don’t stress enough in Marketing school is trialability. This is a key element for apparel and pants especially. Good clothes make you feel good. If the materials and fit are right, they can make the image in the mirror match the image you have of yourself in your head. But if there are off, they can make you look just plain weird and awkward. Nobody wants that. For a brand to successfully sell jeans online it has to have a powerful enough image and position to overcome the uncertainty in the customer’s mind.

Luckily, Icon Boutique right next door to Burro Bar and Chomp Chomp is a retailer of STRATA Denim and Clothing. I went in a couple of months ago and got Dave’s slightly less unbiased opinion. Dave is really great about supporting local brands but I was still a little surprised to find that he carried STRATA’s jeans seeing as how his target market is somewhere between the skate and hip hop crowds, both of which traditionally favor baggier cuts. He was impressed with the quality if not the fit but suggested that someone such as myself might be into them.

I grabbed a pair in my size without noticing the different washes and fits. They were either the Black/Grey Minister 255s or the Black Minister 422s, I can’t tell and the hang tags don’t really identify which is which so unless you hold them up to each other, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. The 255s are 99% cotton and 1% stretch while the 422s have 2% stretch. Without testing both, I can’t say whether the difference is noticeable but you can definitely tell that they give more than regular jeans. The stretch makes them great for active lifestyles like biking and skating. I was pretty stoked on the range of motion they allow and have since become my go to pair for everyday stuff. The more I wore them, the more comfortable they got which is largely due the the stretch material. What I like best is the overall fit. They are slim straight jeans so they aren’t too skinny and they aren’t too baggy. There is just enough room around the crotch and thighs for a guy with big ol’ treetrunk legs such as myself to be comfortable all day long. I can work and bike in them and not worry too much about chafing or having my movement restricted. And there good-looking enough to wear out for almost any occasion.

Being stoked on the jeans as I was, I wanted to learn more about the process. Obviously, made in America is a part of our ethos at BURRO but I personally to do not take a hardline 100% ethnocentric attitude towards all foreign manufacturing. If something can be made with quality for a more affordable price overseas and the workers are paid fairly for their labor, it only makes sense to outsource it. It’s actually a good thing sometimes. I won’t get in to a long discussion about it but the issue I wanted to resolve was where and how the jeans were made. STRATA Denim is actually made in Peru. The boys happen to be Peruvian and as it turns out there is a special kind of cotton called Pima that originated there. Lacoste also does its production there so they started having their clothing made at a factory they both have personally visited and approved. From there they were able to find a denim manufacturer. The denim is imported as it is in most cases and the jeans are made on site. The workers are paid very well for their services and the price is right to be able to retail the jeans for around $60, which is actually quite the bargain for selvaged jeans. Jason is actually currently spending several months in Peru while Jerry handles the business stateside. This results in constant contact and oversight into the production process and a high level of quality control. In other words, a great product!

STRATA is currently testing out new denim samples for the next wave of jeans. In the future they plan on releasing a premium level raw Japanese denim jean and possibly an American manufactured ultra-premium offering as well with new fits in 2013. The denim they use now is raw also, so don’t be surprised if they require a little breaking in before they reach optimum comfort. They’re not supposed to be washed so you can either put them in the freezer to deodorize them or have them dry cleaned for the first 6 months.

On a side note, I stopped into Icon yesterday to take advantage of their remodeling clearance sale and copped a pair of the Dark Blue Indigo Minister 568s that I am wearing now as a matter of fact. They are much stiffer than the ones with stretch so they’re a better compliment to a button-up for a night out rather than paired with a t-shirt for cruising around on the bike. Icon still has a few pairs left that you can snag for like $30 while supplies last. Go get em!