Eternal has been in the western denim enthusiast consciousness since at least 2005, when the brand’s Superfuture thread was started, sparking interest and discussion. Yet in recent years they’ve returned to obscurity, overshadowed by newer and flashier brands like Tanuki, and the increasingly wild fabrics developed by brands like Oni and Pure Blue Japan. Many older denim fans have gravitated toward more traditional repro brands like Warehouse, Ooe, TCB, and Conners. This seems to have hurt brands like Eternal, which fit into neither of these categories. They’re nowhere to be found at stockists that once carried the brand’s jeans, like Blue In Green, Blue Owl, and others. They don’t even have a working website at the moment.
But in fact, Eternal offers some of the best mid-range Japanese jeans on the market, and one which ought to be in the short list of brands to recommend to newcomers. Despite being familiar with the brand since at least 2012 or so, I’ve only just now tried Eternal.
Most Japanese denim enthusiast brands lean in one of two directions: vintage Americana, and Japanese heritage. These tend to direct the branding and image identity. Vintage Americana-inspired brands would include Flat Head, Sugar Cane, Strike Gold, Warehouse, Iron Heart, Stevenson Overall, Dry Bones, and TCB. Brands with distinctly Japanese imagery and mythos would include Momotaro, Samurai, Pure Blue Japan, and Tanuki.
With these jeans, Eternal falls into the latter category, but only slightly so. Their branding is subtle and neutral, almost minimalist. This makes Eternal able to easily fit into a variety of fashions without incongruity. There are no flashy back pocket arcuates, pocket bag prints or other flourishes, just a simple yet elegant pair of jeans. This is in contrast to much of what Eternal and their parent Maeno Corporation produces, which has a much stronger Japanese vibe quite different from other Amekaji brands.
Holistically, Eternal seems a lot like Flat Head without the motorcycle and 50s influence. Most notably, you see it in the denim: It’s a 14.5 oz unsanforzied fabric, dyed extremely dark with about thirty dips in the indigo vat, and like Flat Head’s denim it has an uneven, wooly texture, and is known for strong vertical fading and high contrast. But examining the inside of the fabric, and comparing to to my unworn Flat Head 3009s, the color and weave is clearly a bit different, so it’s not the same denim. Eternal’s denim also has a raspberry colored selvedge line, in contrast to the salmon selvedge on Flat Head.
Eternal’s jeans offer some of my absolute favorite fades. A lot comes down to personal preference, but I do not like the trends of increasingly oddball and over-engineered denim – weird-colored wefts, ludicrously slubby or neppy fabrics, strange weaves, and so on – that seem popular on Reddit and other newer venues like Instagram. Many of these fabrics barely look like denim to me, especially when they’re extremely thick. Eternal’s denim gets it right – it’s darker than vintage denim, with potential for stronger fading and contrast, but it still has a clear pedigree from vintage fabrics, and doesn’t look so weird that it no longer resembles denim.
Other features are things you’d expect to see on vintage repro style jeans: rolled belt loops, rolled pocket edges, copper rivets, hidden rivets in the back pockets, zinc buttons, and 100% cotton stitching, to name a few. The 811 mixes and matches these various vintage details without reproducing any one in particular, similar to Flat Head. Some of the hardware flourishes of Flat Head seem a bit nicer than Eternal – Flat Head’s iron buttons, domed hidden rivets, and copper rivets, to name a few – but Eternal’s choices match the subtle aesthetic of the brand.
One thing I like about these 811 jeans compared to my Flat Heads is that they use lemon-colored threads more widely, and I prefer the color of this stitching to the orange threads common use on repro-style jeans. Nothing beats faded lemon threads alongside a deep-dyed denim, so these jeans should look terrific in every respect when broken in.
The front pockets have deep opening that make them comfortable and easy to use, unlike many Japanese jeans I’ve handled that had tiny front pocket openings (I’m looking at you, Flat Head.) The pocket bags are thick and sturdy, and should hold up well, even if they’re not quite as heavy duty as 3Sixteen’s gold standard in pocket fabric. They’re definitely more durable than Flat Head or Samurai pockets.
Finally, the leather patch is made from deerskin – my favorite patch material! – and stamped with Eternal’s logo: elegant and understated, sure to develop a nice patina over time. Eternal’s patch is, in fact, my favorite of any denim brand.
Manufactured by Apparel Namba in Kurashiki, Japan – the same sewing company that made Flat Head’s jeans, denim shirts, and denim jackets – the jeans are extremely well constructed with quality machinery.
I don’t believe that Eternal makes their jeans the exact same way as Flat Head. Flat Head makes their jeans in a system of small house factories in Kurashiki, where there are dedicated houses and workers performing a single task or two – one house for cutting from patterns, one for sewing the legs, one for sewing the back pocket, one for attaching hardware, and so on. You can read more about the process in this article I wrote some years ago. Apparel Namba manages and oversees this process.
Most likely, these are made in Apparel Namba’s more conventional workshop/factory with many workers and machines all under one roof. Although many of the same machines are likely used on both Eternal and Flat Head, it looks like a different machine is used for Eternal’s overlock inseam. Examining the sewing, these jeans have a *slightly* more “industrial” feel compared to Flat Head, but I feel the overall quality of construction is a little better than my Flat Head 3005s.
Reading the Eternal thread on Superfuture, it seemed that some people had issues with quality on Eternal jeans over the years. This may even have led to the brand’s decline in popularity, as it did with Skull Jeans and a few others. However, much of this can probably be chalked up to the cotton thread construction rather than actual defects, and the tendency for cotton stitching to decay when the jeans are washed infrequently. I see the cotton stitching as a feature, not a bug, and I’m prepared to deal with small repairs when it wears away in certain spots.
I’m glad to say there are no construction issues here. The stitching is neat and regular, and looking at the crotch seam – the integrity of which is a great way to judge sewing quality – everything looks well made with no warning signs.
Finally, the jeans feature many vintage Levi’s sewing features, such as the V-stitch at the top button, and single chainstitched waistband.
I bought my 811s in size 31, the same size I wear in Full Count, Samurai, 3Sixteen, and most other brands (though I wear 32 in Flat Head.) The jeans came one-washed, which deserves special mention. Usually, one-washed jeans are either roasted in a drier to remove all the shrinkage, or else line-dried with shrinkage remaining. Eternal got this right: the jeans were stiff and crunchy, clearly not tumble dried as part of the process. I washed them just to be sure all the shrinkage was gone, and was pleasantly surprised that they hadn’t shrunk any further. You can confidently start wearing these right away without the need for further soaking.
The 811’s inseam measures 34”, the perfect length for me to wear with a single cuff. The hem is about 8”, so a good, versatile size that will go with engineer boots and sneakers alike. The waist is right around 31″, though I think it could stretch more if necessary. (I always wear a belt, so that eliminates undesired waist-stretching.)
The jeans have a nice, slim-straight fit overall. The leg is most similar to the Samurai S0500xx, but not too dissimilar to the Full Count 1108 and Samurai S710.
Where things get a bit iffy with the 811 is the fit above the top of the thigh. These jeans are surely the clunkiest-fitting pair I’ve ever worn, in terms of how they fit through the hip, with a strangely loose and boxy fit. They’re very comfortable, but feel a whole size too big in the top. Sizing down isn’t really a good idea, at least not for me, because the leg and waist fit just right.
I don’t have a very sizable butt, which doesn’t help things. The rear end of these jeans seems much more stretched-out than the rest of the jean. (Admittedly, this is a bit tough to see in the photos, where my shirt is hanging down to the point that sticks out the most.) The fit just isn’t as good in the top compared to my Flat Head 3005s – which are definitely not tight in the top by any means, but have a nice, proportional appearance. This is going to vary a lot depending upon the individual, but I’m unhappy enough with how this looks that I’m not sure if I want to keep these or not.
Eternal’s jeans are one of the better low-key values out there. These jeans offer excellent construction, beautiful denim with some of the best aging potential out there, and subtle details. The 811 is a fine pair for the raw denim curious and seasoned veterans alike – if you don’t have issues with the top block fit.
It’s a bit more expensive than some options like Japan Blue, but in my opinion the fit, construction, and fabric are all superior, so I’d encourage you to spend a bit more and see what these jeans can do. These jeans are also a good alternative to Flat Head – they offer similar fabric and fading potential in a cut that’s arguably better than most of Flat Head’s fits, and at a better price.
Really, the only negative is the clunky top block fit. If you can fill it out reasonably well, then you’ll appreciate a pair with Eternal’s pleasing combination of vintage vibes and modern subtlety. These are a great pair of jeans, and one that deserves more attention in a sea of cartoonishly slubby and neppy fabrics.