Tobacco Motorwear Indigo Selvedge Riding Jeans Review

Riding jeans for denim snobs

Tobacco Motorwear Indigo Selvedge Riding Jeans
Tobacco Motorwear Indigo Selvedge Riding Jeans.Seth Richards

Jeans are practically an American uniform. Levi Strauss filed the patent for his hard-wearing work pants in 1873, and perhaps more than any other single garment, they’ve become a reflection of their time period and their end user: from the 19th century California miner to every rock star ever, to Jerry Seinfeld and his faded dad jeans. You can grab a pair of Faded Glorys from Wal-Mart for eight bucks or a hand-dyed pair from Pure Blue Japan for literally 100 times that. Jeans are everyman’s apparel—from the pauper to the robber baron.

Jeans always have a lot of appeal to the motorcyclist, and there's nothing more stylish or convenient. Back in the day, they were pretty much the only practical option. Riding your Honda CB160 to college English in a pair of leather trousers would have been unrealistic. Unless you were Jim Morrison.

These days, there are far more protective options for the motorcyclist, but a pair of jeans is still awfully convenient—if you’ve already got ’em on, no sense changing into something else to get on the bike, right? Except that jeans are pretty much worthless in a fall. There are plenty of riding jeans that look good and are far more protective than the average pair of Levi’s.

Unfortunately, a lot of riding jeans either look like something Andrea Iannone would wear clubbing in Ibiza, or something Tim Allen wore in the ’90s.

For the motorcyclist and denim snob who wants a riding-appropriate pair of raw selvedge denim, Tobacco Motorwear's riding jeans are worth a look.

Tobacco jeans
The Tobacco jeans have a classic five-pocket design, button fly, and leather label.Seth Richards

If the words “raw” and “selvedge” mean nothing to you, then it’s unlikely you’ll want this pair of riding jeans. In fact, you should probably stop reading this review right here. For $360, you’re getting high-end, made-in-America denim. Yes, any old pair of pants will cover your shame, and there are a lot of less expensive Kevlar-lined jeans out there that will do the job just as well. The Tobaccos are for riders who are seeking quality selvedge denim.

Raw denim lovers know that compared to cheap distressed jeans from the mall, a quality pair of denim really lasts. It’s not uncommon to wear a single pair of high-quality jeans everyday for years before they give up the ghost. It’s all about the quality of the fabric.

The Tobaccos are hand-assembled from premium 13.5-ounce Cone Mills denim. And that’s a big reason why they’re so expensive. It’s the same American-made fabric (woven on vintage shuttle looms) that’s used by similarly priced non-riding jean brands like Raleigh Denim. The fabric starts life fairly soft, unlike some raw denim that takes a couple of months to break in.

It’s a shame the Tobaccos will get covered in bug guts. Maybe motorcyclists will start a new trend of bug-splattered jeans. We’ve seen weirder things in denim trends.

The jeans aren’t too slim and fit true to size. They’re not quite as low rise as, say, a pair of A.P.C. New Standards, which is good for the motorcyclist when seen from behind. Still, you might consider giving the mirrors a glance before getting in a racing tuck, if you know what I mean. All waist sizes come with a 36-inch inseam.

Riding jeans
Yellow is the telltale sign of Kevlar. Note: I had my pair hemmed by a local tailor for about $20, but they used a white thread on the backside of the hem. Be sure to tell your tailor to use the proper thread.Seth Richards

For the price, I’d like to see Tobacco up the protection level. The jeans are partially lined with DuPont Kevlar to make them moto appropriate, but more Kevlar is nearly always better, and any added bulk would be negligible. As it is, the lining extends from waist to knee in front, and covers the seat in the rear. I’d like to see the lining in the rear extend at least above the back of the knee.

Seams are the weak points of any garment in a crash. The outside seam on a pair of pants is particularly in the danger zone. On the Tobaccos, there’s nothing preventing that seam from blowing just as easily as on any other pair of jeans. Adding a Kevlar strip stretching the length of the outside seam would help.

In keeping with the “normal jeans” look, the Tobaccos don’t include pockets for armor. It’d be nice to add pockets just to give riders the option of using super-slim protectors like Dainese’s Proshape or Rev’it’s SeeSmart protection.

Ultimately, the Tobaccos offer more protection than your trusty A.P.C.s or 501s and they look just as good: no weird Euro pockets, goofy reflective hems, or effete washes that look like something a tween girl picked up from Aéropostale for her first day of seventh grade.

And I’d be surprised if Iannone would ever wear them clubbing.

Verdict: Tobacco Motorwear Indigo Selvedge Riding Jeans

Grade: B
Summary: Tobacco proves great denim can be great riding denim, but larger areas of Kevlar and pockets for armor would help justify the price for a larger population of cyclists. Still, they’re by far my favorite pair of riding jeans in terms of style.
Sizes: 28 x 36 in. to 44 x 36 in.
Colors: Indigo, black
Price: $359