“Denim is a live fabric. It has its own life cycle. It can be altered, torn, ripped, dyed and beaten to shit, but at the end of the day it's still denim. Denim is visceral.”

Jeans in Rotation: Karl Thoennessen

Miles/December 12, 2012

Jeans in Rotation will take a closer look at what our friends in the industry are wearing on a daily basis. Although we might have 10 pairs of pants, it’s really about the two or three pair that actually get put on each morning. We’ll start with our good friend Karl Thoennessen, owner and founder of Rogue Territory, in Los Angeles. Karl’s handmade denim goods are some of our favorite and are built with an obsession to detail. They display an underlying tribute to American manufacturers of the early 20th century. We recently talked to Karl to see what jeans he has in rotation.

What was the first pair of jeans you remember purchasing?

KT: The first pair of jeans that I can remember being excited about getting were a pair of raw denim Lee Rider selvedge 101Z in Amsterdam in 2003. I was studying abroad in the Netherlands for 5 weeks and I spent a fair amount of time in Amsterdam, it was there that I was introduced to the US brand repro movement. Europe was on that tip waaaay before we were. Anyway, I loved those jeans until I put them in the dryer, I didn’t realize they were unsanforized, they shrank 2 sizes…never made that mistake again.

Tell us about the first pair of jeans you made.

KT: I made my first pair of jeans out of a 13oz Cone Mills selvedge denim that had an olive green weft in August of 2007. I made them on a single needle Juki industrial machine and they took me about 2 weeks to complete…the hardest part was the clean finished center back seam and yoke. The coolest part about those jeans is that they had my first attempt at my lasso stitch detail on the back pocket, it wasn’t planned, it just kind of happened…I had no idea that one day I’d be incorporating that design detail into my own denim line.

How did you fall in love with denim and what does it mean to you?

KT: How do I answer this question without writing a freakin’ novel?! I believe my love for denim began at a very early age. When I was 5 years old, I had this amazing 3 piece denim suit with red buttons, my Mom says I used to just put that on and wear it around the house every chance I got.

At age 9 or 10, I remember seeing Brett Michaels or it may have Axel (I can’t recall) with faded and thrashed jeans, I thought it was the coolest thing ever, I immediately tried to replicate that look with an old pair Levis I had. In my sophomore year in high school, this was ’99, I came across this really cool “high-end” clothing store in SOHO NYC called Diesel, they had one style of raw denim at that time and I thought they were the coolest jeans I had ever seen, my older sister bought me them for my birthday, this was my first pair of “premium denim jeans.” They were $129.00. I remember the price because the most I had ever spent on a pair of jeans was maybe $60…I believe that’s when my obsession with denim really started.

There’s a reason why denim is loved the world over. It’s a fabric that is highly versatile and can be extremely personal. I say denim is extremely personal, ask anyone if they have a favorite pair of jeans. More often than not, that person will go to their closet and pull out a pair jeans and start telling you why these jeans are the best jeans in the world. The jeans could be riddled with holes and being held together with tape but that person will still love them. The denim we wear goes through life with us, we can recall specific moments in time by looking at its holes or stains or the color of the denim. This is why I love denim.

Denim is a live fabric. It has its own life cycle. It can be altered, torn, ripped, dyed and beaten to shit, but at the end of the day it’s still denim. Denim is visceral. Tell me why some people will spend $1000.00 on hand loomed denim from Japan and others will spend $29.99 for jeans made in China that are sold at Target, but yet they may have the same amount of love for their jeans. It’s not about price, it’s a feeling you get when you put on a pair of jeans that do exactly what you want them to do. I don’t think you can say that about any other fabric.

Where did the name Rogue Territory come from?

KT: When I started my custom denim business, I would say my style was pretty influenced by James Dean, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen, and the characters they portrayed early on in their careers. So I wanted to come up with a name that tied that rebellious nature that they all portrayed and the sense of pride and ownership that you get when you’ve worn and broken in a pair of jeans from its raw stage. So the word Rogue was meant to convey a sense of rebelliousness and badass-ness that you feel when you’ve got on a pair of raw denim jeans, and the Territory was supposed to describe that sense of ownership and pride you have when you talk to your buddies about your jeans and what kind adventures you’ve taken them on.

Give us a breakdown of the jeans your currently have in rotation.

KT: In Rotation: My 3+ year old Stantons that are one-of-a-kind. They are made out 15.5oz Kuroki selvedge denim, which has aged beautifully these past 3 years. I silk screened both pocket bags, the left one with my standard care instructions and logo and the right with our slogan “KEEP THE TRADE ALIVE”. I love the bold graphic, it adds a completely different element to the inside of the jeans. This pair also has the only leather patch the actually says Rogue Territory. Hot washed 3 times with no detergent and hung out to dry.

In Rotation: My 5 month old Dark Stantons. This is a 13.5oz indigo warp, black weft denim from Kurabo Mills. It has such a rich and deep navy color. What I particularly love is that this denim will change color drastically over the life of the jeans. It starts off super dark but as you break the indigo down, the denim will start to change color. The white of the warp yarns core will start to peek through and when you wash it, the dark navy will get lighter with varying shades of blue. I can’t wait! No washes or soaks.

In Rotation: My RGTxIDC Stealth Stantons, the most recent addition to my collection. These are a 15oz black warp, grey weft selvedge denim from Nihon Menpu. The denim is so beefy and rigid. I love the feel and the texture. I’ve been wearing them non-stop now since mid-October and they just keep getting better looking. The denim is starting to shine up, and finally break down ever so slightly. They’re a nice change from my regular indigo denim and I can’t wait to see how these break in over the next few months.

Rogue Territory is available in our store and online.


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