Cuts Like a Katana: Comparing Samurai’s Standard Fits
A favourite brand for those seeking fast-fading heavyweights, Samurai Jeans boast some of the hardest and heaviest raws around. Fade lovers can choose Samurai denims confidently, but, if your experience has been anything like mine, the model numbers can be a little confusing. What do these three- and four-digit codes mean?
First, let’s be clear what numbers we’re talking about. The numbers on the patches are easy enough to decipher. The lot numbers tell you what year the jeans were produced. This system started with the brand’s first pairs released in 1998, which were given the lot number 0. If there is a three-digit number following the lot number, this is the SKU number, which helps the brand and its retailers track their stock. This means that the pair below was produced in 2021. The 000 SKU number means that the pair pictured below is probably a sample.
The numbers we’re looking at today are the ones that appear on the flasher and in online listings. The full model number of the pair pictured below is S5000VX21ozII. All we’re concerned with today is the first part: the S5000. This is the number that tells us about the fit, and that’s what we’ll be looking at below. The rest of the model number tells us about the denim, and that is a whole other kettle of fish. We’re not going to muddy the waters by introducing that into our comparisons.
We’ve looked carefully at the measurements, crunching the numbers so you don’t have to. We’ve grouped the fits into two categories: straights and tapered. In each category, we’ll start with the widest fit and progress to the slimmest. At the beginning of each section, we’ve provided charts showing the key numbers across the board in a single size (34W).
To make sure that we’re comparing apples to apples, we’re only going to look at the unwashed shrink-to-fit versions available in each of these fits. Let’s dive in.
Straight Samurai Fits – Raw
Vintage Straight: S3000
The widest of Samurai’s available fits, the 3000 cut combines a high rise with the widest leg that Samurai makes. If you put comfort before everything, if you’ve got body-builder’s thighs, or if your style icons wore denim in the 1930s or ‘40s, anything with 3000 in the model number will tick all your boxes.
Bhaskar put on a vintage fading clinic in Year One of the Invitational in his wide-legged S3000VX. The tranquil sea of sky blue that dominates the back of these jeans shows why serious faders need at least one pair of vintage Samurai straights in their collection.
Samurai’s most popular fit in Japan, the 510 rides the wide line separating vintage and modern straights. The comfortable fit works exceptionally well on curvy figures and pairs brilliantly with slide-on boots. If tapered fits give you the heebie jeebies, but if you don’t want baggy denim, you can narrow it down to either the 510/0510, the slightly slimmer 500. If both of these are too wide for your tastes, you should probably look at the 710.
We’ve yet to see a competitor do serious damage to a pair of Samurai 510s, which is surprising considering how many beautifully faded examples we’ve seen out there. We know that it’s just a matter of time before a serious contender crosses the line wearing Samurai’s flagship cut.
The difference between the 500, the 0500 and the 5000 cuts is marginal. They’re all medium rise jeans, and they all feature generous thighs and just a bit of taper below the knee. If your thighs need just that touch of extra room, the 500 will probably suit you best. If you like the extra room below the knee, the 5000 is a safer bet. If you tip towards the slim side both above and below the knee and if you prefer lighter denims, the 0500 will be perfect.
Shane Burrow’s muscular thighs made the S500AX a natural choice for him last year, and he beat the blue out of them, reminding us all why Samurai’s natural indigo-dyed pairs (look for AX in the model) are highly sought after by vintage faders. On the other side of the planet, the slimmer Mousam Gogoi rode a 21oz pair of S5000VX into a top ten finish, showcasing the incredible high-contrast fade potential of the 5000 cut when it is combined with Samurai’s heavier denims.
The 0500, exclusively available in Samurai’s 15oz Texas cotton denim, has all the makings of an exceptional competition pair. The denim with the famously rough hand is a perfect match with the barely slim straights. If the faded example below doesn’t make your eyes pop out of your head, just keep scrolling. The tapered fits below might ring your bell.
Tapered Samurai Fits – Raw
A Touch of Taper: 710
The 710 could go either way. While we’ve classified this as a tapered fit, the taper is so subtle that this pair will be right down main street for fans of slim straights. Those who prefer tapered fits tend to find these too generous below the knee, so, if you’ve come here in search of Samurai’s best tapered pair, the 0511 or the 003 might be more your bag. Before you start scrolling, though, feast your eyes on these.
Muhammad Rizky left no doubt when he crossed the line in his 25oz pair of S710XX25oz-GDs in Year One of the Invitational. With deep-cut whiskers and combs and not even a sniff of stacking, he earned himself a gold medal.
In our humble opinion, Samurai’s fast-fading 19oz Kiwami selvedge has been Samurai’s best denim since the brand debuted it in 2003. Samurai’s reputation among fade fanatics is built on the back of this denim and fades like the ones produced in last years Invitational by Chris Clark. When combined with Samurai’s slimmest straight cut (or, if you prefer, widest tapered cut), the results speak for themselves.
Grown-Up Taper: 0511
This is one of the few times that the model number gives you a clue what kind of denim they’ve used. Whenever you see a zero before the three-digit fit number (as with the 0500 and the 0510 above), you’re looking at Samurai’s 15oz Texas cotton denim—a deeply underappreciated loom-state middleweight. As you can see with the pair faded beautifully by Emil (aka @weftyarn) below, it doesn’t take long to get this pair moving. After a little less than six months worth of steady wear and regular washing, his pair is showing exactly what this combination of fit and fabric can do.
The 0511 leaves plenty of room in the thigh and top block, tapering gently. It’s what Emil calls a grown-up taper, and we think that’s an apt description of this cut. The 0511 fits most body shapes comfortably, but it works exceptionally well on men with a bit of meat on their bones who don’t want to be swimming in denim around their ankles. If this describes you, and if you’re looking for a trim-fitting middleweight to compete in, the 0511 should be at the top of your list.
Up and Down Slim Taper: 003
The last fit on our list, the gracefully tapered 003, is slim from top to bottom. Though this pair is occasionally listed elsewhere as a slim taper, the Samurai bosses insist that this is an up-and-down slim straight. We’ve placed it here because it’s slim enough around the ankles to fit in the tapered category and because its snug fit from top to bottom makes it an unlikely choice for those who prefer classic straight fits.
The rise is as low as they get for Samurai, and the thighs will be very snug if you’ve got any meat on your bones. If, however, you’re working with a compact frame (like Witsarut above), the 003 can end up fitting much like a 710. For reference, Witsarut is 5’7 and 143 pounds.
The Cutting Room Floor
Our search criteria meant that we had to exclude almost as many cuts as we included. Samurai frequently collaborates with other brands and retailers and regularly produces cuts exclusively for the overseas market. Because we’ve only looked at their raw cuts, we’ve had to exclude some of the brand’s spectacular recent releases, like the comfort tapered S140, S211, and S520 and the slim tapered S713 and S0255.
This also meant that we had to exclude their updated and once-washed versions of their standard cuts (designated with an II at the end of the model number). You can see comparisons of these updated cuts below, with the straight fits on the left and the tapered ones on the right.
Updated Samurai Standards – One Wash
|Size 34||3000 (II)||5000 (II)||710 (II)||511 (II)|
We could go on, but an exhaustive list of Samurai’s available cuts would sprawl over a dozen pages or more. If the pair you’re looking at isn’t included on this list, you can use the numbers we’ve provided as a reference. Remember that we’ve used Size 34 as our standard throughout this list.
As always, the best way to find the perfect fit is to head to your nearest Samurai-stocking retailer (we can recommend Redcast Heritage, Rivet & Hide, and Self Edge). Try on every pair that catches your eye until you find the perfect fit. If this isn’t an option, and if this will be your first time trying Samurai cuts, pick an online retailer (like Okayama Denim) that has a generous return policy.
Remember as well that all the pairs we’ve covered in detail above are unsanforized and unwashed. You can expect them to shrink approximately 4-6% when you introduce them to water. Once you’ve washed or soaked them, you won’t be able to return them, so if you’re trying an unwashed pair, be sure to include shrinkage in your calculations.