Reviews

Worth the Weight: SOSO 33oz Breaker of Legs Review

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January 12, 2022

In 2019, with just weeks to go before the start Year One of the Indigo Invitational, SOSO dropped something absolutely massive on the denim scene. It was, at that time, the heaviest denim in the world, and, until Naked & Famous release their 40oz denim, SOSO holds the crown and sceptre. I’ve long been curious about the denim, so I ordered a pair and asked Johan and Jannis to tell me a little about the pair’s origin story.

It all started with a chance encounter in the hallways of a Thai university. Jannis and Johan were both studying marketing at the University of Bangkok. They started talking, and it turned out they were both from Stockholm. They quickly became fast friends, and, over beers, they talked about doing something more productive with their time than drinking in the local tavern. They were both deeply passionate about denim, so they decided on a lark to start a denim brand.

They asked around until they found somebody who could put them in touch with a denim importer, who showed them samples of some of his denims—including some raw offerings. It was an eye-opening moment for the two Swedes. They knew they wanted to do something with the fabric, but neither of them had any tailoring experience, so they started looking at local sewing factories. The first two were a bust, but the third one showed promise.

Johan (left) and Jannis (right)

Their first pairs were less than satisfactory, but Johan and Jannis were convinced the Thai tailors could build better if given a better blueprint. The third SOSO Brother, Fredrik, had been working in a Stockholm denim shop for years. He knew the hallmarks of quality construction, so he was able to help his partners provide more precise instructions. They worked every cut, stitch, and sundry, making small changes with each iteration. 

In 2012, they finally had something they could confidently stamp their name on. They launched the brand with a narrow range of cuts but a wide range of sizes. The jeans in the middle of the size range sold quickly, but the SOSO Brothers were left with a stack of unsold pairs in the smaller and larger sizes.

They quickly decided to transform SOSO into a custom brand. This would help them reduce waste, while also helping them solve one of the common issues that raw denim customers have: standardized inseams. The SOSO Brothers were convinced that the option to customize inseam measurements would help set them apart from other brands in the space. 

When they re-launched as a custom raw denim brand, they were swamped with orders from denimheads all over the world. As happy as they were with this success, it was a double-edged sword. The new customers were enthusiastic about the ability to customize their raw denim, but they were an exacting bunch. They gave a lot, but they asked for a lot in return. This forced the brand to mature quickly by responding to concerns and critiques on the fly.

SOSO’s ongoing process of improvement, and particularly how they respond to customer issues, has been like catnip for denimheads looking for a brand with a human rather than a corporate face. It’s a very special feeling when you see a reasonable suggestion for product improvement implemented. It feels like they’re plugged into not only their customers but also the broader denim-loving community. They’re listening and learning, and they show this by taking three big steps forward whenever they take one step back.

They’ve chosen a difficult path, and, through a combination of persistence and adaptability, they’ve made leaps and bounds in the past few years, and they’re far from finished. They’ve got some big changes coming down the pipe focused on how and where they source their denim and assemble the finished product. These changes, like so much else they do, are a direct response to what their customers have asked for. They’re listening and learning. Like a great pair of heavy selvedge, they’re just getting better with age.

The Birth of a Leg-Breaker

When SOSO was still a very young brand, Johan and Jannis met Brandon Svarc, Founder of Naked & Famous, in Bangkok. He showed them a pair of the brand new Naked & Famous 32oz superheavyweights, and the SOSO Brothers were blown away. It opened their eyes to how far modern engineering could push selvedge denim. They wanted to see if they could push the limits even further.

The Spark: Naked & Famous 32oz Denim – Now Extinct

They started asking denim mills to help them produce the heaviest denim in the world. Their first attempts broke the looms. It took the mill two months to produce enough yardage to make the first pairs, and the problems didn’t stop when the denim rolled off the looms. The heavy denim broke the sturdiest sewing machines they had in the workshop. They kept at it, repairing the Jukis, Brothers, and Union Specials as they went, determined both to break the record and to break it with a wearable and durable pair. 

The First Generation of SOSO’s 33oz Breaker of Legs (the pockets are now considerably smaller)

With each new iteration, they’ve improved. They worked with their first 33oz customers to address the problems they had, repairing or resizing as necessary. Sometimes, this meant making adjustments at their shop in Umea, Sweden, but they also encouraged customers to seek more local solutions—picking up the tab for these repairs whenever tailors have been willing to feed the needle-breaking denim into their machines.

They’ve noticed a dramatic drop-off in problems since they introduced the latest version of the Breaker of Legs in 2021. They’ve adjusted the patterns to make it easier for the tailors to get the sizing on the nose, and they’ve tweaked the construction, using heavy-duty Coats Dual Duty poly-core threads to make them more durable in the areas where they were prone to breakage. This thread change has been, they say, a “game changer”.

They’ve also started to use long-staple, family-farmed Australian cotton. The move away from the Xinjiang cotton they used for their first 33oz pairs to the ethically sourced cotton they’re using now is an important step for the brand. The community was quick to point out that the deeply problematic Chinese cotton was a deal-breaker for many, so SOSO corrected course, locating a cotton farm more in line with their (and their customers’) values.

The cotton is first ring spun and then rope-dyed. It is dipped in a synthetic indigo bath 8 times, which is higher than average, but lower than some of the more deeply indigo-saturated denims out there. Every step in the process has been engineered with fades front of mind. The denim is extremely stiff, and the SOSO brothers know that it takes a brave soul to challenge this pair. They want to reward that bravery with thick combs, whiskers, and stacks. They might come slowly, but when they do finally come, they are utterly brilliant.  

The denim is woven in China on vintage GA1515 shuttle looms (China’s oldest selvedge looms). It’s a 3×1 twill that uses 5-gauge yarns (the same kind of yarns that you might find in heavy rugs). The the mill has twisted three of the heavy-duty yarns together to form the warp and two of them together to form the weft.

What this means is that the dark warp yarns absolutely dominate the surface of the jeans. A flash of white pokes through here and there, but the white yarns all but entirely disappear when you hold the pair at arm’s length. There is definitely texture here, but it is in the hand, not the eye.

The SOSO Brothers say that the Breaker of Legs remain a work in progress, but, with hundreds of finished pairs behind them, the hardest work is in their rearview mirror. The three latest 33oz denims (the classic indigo x white, the double black, and the double indigo) feel in every way like a fully mature product. The tweaks they’ve made to the construction seem to have paid off in a big way. The pair feels bulletproof, and, based on my examination, it doesn’t look like there are any weak spots. They’re braced and squared away. Give them both barrels.

Breaking Down the Numbers

Thanks to their vanity sizing, if you jump into a pair of SOSOs blind, you’ll probably be throwing good money (and denim) away. I’m usually in the range of a 33/34, but with SOSO, I’m a 32 with a little room to spare.

 

SOSO 33oz Pre-Soak Measurements

With Variation from Advertised Measurements

Size 32 x 35
Waist 89 (+1) / 35 inches
Front Rise 30.5 / 12 inches
Back Rise 39.5 / 15.5 inches
Upper Thigh 29.5 (-1) / 11.5 inches
Knee 21.5 / 8.5 inches
Opening 20 / 8 inches
Inseam 89 / 35 inches

Some have reported issues with sizing variation, but it looks as though the SOSO boys have, together with their Thai tailors, worked the sizing bugs out of the system. There were small and acceptable variations on the thigh and in the waist, but they were otherwise perfect down the line.

Before soaking, the fit is generous through the thighs. There’s enough denim for a solid two inches of cuff. The denim creases a little below the knees, so I may adjust the cuffs after soak to pull a little bit more of that excess denim towards the break.

As you can see, the pre-soak fit is ample in the top block. I can easily slide my hand into the waistband without much trouble. 

I soaked the pair for 30 minutes or so in a hot bath, then hung them to dry next to a radiator and waited until they were bone dry to measure them and put the VERY stiff denim back on. Let’s see how much they snugged up.

 

SOSO 33oz Post-Soak Measurements

With Variation from Pre-Soak Measurements

Size 32 x 35
Waist 88 (-1) / 34.5 inches
Front Rise 29 (-1.5)  / 11.5 inches
Back Rise 38.5 (-1) / 15 inches
Upper Thigh 28.5 (-1) / 11 inches
Knee 21.5 / 8.5 inches
Opening 20 / 8 inches
Inseam 87 (-2) / 34.5 inches

The soak resulted in a much better fit in the top block. I’m back to the usual hole on my belt, and there’s no more gaping around the waistline. The 30 minutes in the bath didn’t seem to soften the denim, though the yellowish blue ring they left in the tub after I pulled the plug suggests that the soak pulled a considerable amount of both starch and indigo out of the fabric.

After the soak, what I’m left with is a pair with zero fit issues. They are a far cry from comfortable, but the rigidity of the denim is manageable when the pair fit in much the same way as you expect selvedge north of 20oz to fit. I’m fighting a battle on one front, taking on the denim with my knife between my teeth. Rather than being an enemy, the comfortable fit is an ally in this fight.

The battle is fiercest at two points: where the thighs meet the top block and behind the knees. You can almost forget that you’re wearing double-thickness trousers until you go to climb a flight of stairs. It’s then that you really feel as though you’re slogging in the trenches with mud up to your waist. I find myself a little out of breath every time I climb the stairs.

I’ve also got battle scars on my thumbs. After the first week, they were calloused and numb from fiddling with the buttons. Getting them buttoned the first time took about 25 minutes of sweaty labour. The second time wasn’t much better. 

The Thumbs v. Buttons Battlefield

Word to the wise: do this pair up before you put them on, and soak them with the buttons fastened. Use a sturdy tool (I used a screwdriver) to get in there and stretch out the button holes. It’ll take a bit of work, but don’t give up. They will fasten. Your thumbs will be sore for the first week or so, but it’ll get a little easier every time you button them. If you’d rather skip all this struggle, just go with the zip fly. 

The look of the denim makes all this struggle worthwhile. There’s no mistaking this pair for a typical pair of jeans. They’re heavy, and they’re proud of it. I found people double-taking on the street, and friends have commented on and complimented me on them every time I’ve worn them out.

Simply put, the Breaker of Legs get noticed. They don’t wait quietly in the wings. They rush the stage and hog the spotlight like Kanye at an awards show.

 

The Details: Speak Softly But Carry a Big Stick

SOSO gives the customer almost complete freedom to design the pair they’ve always wanted to wear. This is a big draw card for those who want to break out of the conservative denim mould, and we encourage you to experiment with some (but not all) of their custom options with this pair.

Keep in mind that, with this 33oz denim, you’re already butting up against that too-much-of-a-good-thing line. Loud details will be (as my Norwegian wife says) like butter on fat. The denim is such a loud statement on its own that there’s just no need to turn the details up to 11.

I chose khaki for the thread colour. The subtle contrast highlights the jeans’ design, particularly the large front placket, but it doesn’t compete for attention with the denim itself.

Dave, who went with the double indigo, went even more conservative, opting for blue threads that nearly disappear into the denim.

These are by no means the only thread colours that will work, but our advice is to lean heavily towards the conservative side. This denim is as serious as a sonata. There’s no need to spice it up with a funky bass-line.

This goes for the pockets as well. SOSO offers a number of different options for arcuates. The western-style arcuates might be a good choice if you are head over heels for that looping boot-stitch, but this denim is a fire-belching, motorcycle-riding hellcat. Western details might be an uneasy fit with the denim’s high-octane character. The row of three straight lines is probably the best choice if you really want to add arcuates of some kind, but for our money, the best option is none of them.

 

We’re big fans of the heavy 4mm veg-tan patch, which went into the bath without any kind of protection and emerged unscathed. I applied a dab of Red Wing leather conditioner to it once it was dry, and the patch absolutely ate it up. Condition it after each wash and you’ll help nudge that beautiful veg-tan patina along. SOSO’s first pairs of Breakers came with the patches stitched all the way around, but now they offer pass through as an option—absolutely essential, we think, when the patch is as heavy as this one.

The belt loops leave enough room for a 2.5-inch belt. They’re bigger, I think, than they need to be. I can wedge three fingers in there along with my PTC belt. It would be nice to see them offer an option of smaller loops that are a better fit with standard 1.5-inch belts.

The antique copper YKK buttons and rivets seems tough enough to do the job. I’ve been extremely rough on the buttons, doing my best to make them a little easier to fasten. I pull down hard on the placket to pull the pants open, and, so far at least, none of the buttons have failed. I performed a brief stress test on the rivets, pulling at the major stress points on the pockets. They’re not budging.

Thanks to layer upon layer of this extremely heavy denim, the front placket feels like a codpiece. On a pair of five-pocket jeans, the placket always sits slightly to the left of centre, but it’s easy to miss this design detail. When the denim is this heavy, that slight tilt becomes a pronounced lean. It’s exactly where it should be, but it might feel like it’s off centre until you get used to it.

As expected, the inseams are overlocked (a flat-felled seam with denim of this weight would be impractical and uncomfortable). The stitching is clean and tight throughout, which is impressive considering how thick the denim is when it is folded. The tailors have clearly been instructed to beef up the stitching in the crotch, and it definitely doesn’t look or feel like an Achilles heel for the pair.

They’ve added a nice touch along the waistband. The double layer of denim is finished with a touch of black chambray. The thought of an edge of this cardboard-like denim rubbing against my backside all day sends shudders down my spine, so I’m grateful for the soft touch. 

 

The pocket bags are sturdy and handsome. Dave went with the camo pocket bags, but I went with the printed design featuring the three mascots. There’s Lennox the Kangaroo (representing the Australian cotton), Ryder the Moose (a nod to SOSO’s Swedish base of operations), and Maddox the Elephant (representing the Thai tailors). It’s a sharp design, leading to one of the better-looking pocket bags I’ve seen out there.

If you carry keys or a phone in your front pocket, the pocket bags will probably be the first thing to go, but this doesn’t mean they’re a weak point for the jeans. They won’t break down prematurely, but, if you’re patient enough to fade this pair to perfection, you can expect to replace or repair the pocket bags at some point down the long line.

The Fades: What to Expect from 365 Days in 33oz Denim

One of our Y1 competitors, Todd Hallowell, got his hands on just the sixth 33oz pair that SOSO produced. The first five were all test pairs for the SOSO team, so Todd was the first customer to take a run at them. He essentially volunteered to be the brand’s crash-test dummy for the 365 days of the competition.

This was before SOSO had made the change to ultra-durable polypore threads, and Todd noticed early on that the stitching at the crotch was going to be a weak point. He wanted to make sure that his pair made it for the full 365, so rather than waiting for the thread to give way and leave him swinging in the breeze, he reinforced his pair by hand, securing not only the crotch seam but also all the major seams with the kind of thread normally used for boot stitching.

This meant that there was nothing that would tear his pair apart, so we got to spend the rest of the competition watching him put the 33oz denim through its paces.

At the four-month mark, Todd washed his Leg Breakers for the first time. The progress up to that point had been slow, but the first wash was a game changer.

Eight months into the competition, the weave had relaxed considerably, and the jeans were no longer blue-black. They were now a vivid shade of indigo. with thick honeycombs behind the knees that made a loud statement about the heaviness of the denim.

The fades continued to roll downhill until the end of the competition. When he crossed the finish line, it was with impressive combs and whiskers and a beautiful all-over blue tone. The pair actually looked comfortable and, more than this, incredibly stylish. Cuffed high at the top of his boots, they made Todd’s already thick legs look like absolute tree trunks—as though they could stop the train bearing down on him dead in its tracks.

Todd is still wearing the pair regularly, and he says that they’ve still got lots of fight left in them. “These are,” he says, “the titans that Hercules Faced. Wearing them is not for the faint of heart but for the brave and courageous of spirit (or the lunatics).” We couldn’t agree more.

The Verdict

After 66 days in this pair, my impressions still seem tentative. I still feel like I’m only just getting to know them. They’re not spilling their secrets yet, but they’re starting to open up. They’ll be at the centre of my rotation until Y3 of the competition starts, but even this doesn’t feel like enough time. After six months, they’ll be well on their way, but this will still be the only first steps in a much longer process.

After 66 Days, They’re Still Just Getting Started

A good comparison here might be Frodo’s journey from Bag End to Mount Doom. After spending 66 days in my pair, I feel like the journey has only just begun. I’m still in the shire, with a long and difficult road stretching out before me.

If you want a pair that is a walk in the park, the Breaker of Legs are not for you. To bring the best out of this pair, you’ll need to commit to the process. The 365 days of the Indigo Invitational will be a good start, but, even with complete dedication, one year will only get you as far as the gates of Mordor.

From there, you’ll be able to see the fires of Mount Doom. Even with the destination in view, other pairs might call out to you, making your burden feel all the heavier. Ignore these calls. This heavy pair is worth the weight.

Worth the Weight

The difficult path has, at its end, the greatest rewards. If you can walk that long and difficult road with this pair, they will pay back your investment in spades. When you’ve taken them there and back again, they will be unlike anything else in your collection. They will be one pair to rule them all. They will be precious.

Buy now for $299

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