Made In The USA, Affordable And Retail: Dearborn Denim

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that I am very passionate about bringing you products that are Made In The USA. Unfortunately, in the current economic and political climate that means I’m spending a lot of time talking about remarkably expensive or extremely specialized stuff. One of my readers called me on the carpet recently regarding this. He suggested that we lay off the $250 resole services and $299 fidget spinners (both of which are, um scheduled for future articles) and focus on products that regular working-class Americans can buy without taking out a second mortgage.

He was, of course, absolutely right.

So today we have a new category: Made In The USA, Affordable. And I’m kicking it off with a new retailer that offers completely American-made jeans for just $59. You can buy Dearborn Denim online, but since I was in Chicago for another reason I decided to visit their retail location in the baddest part of town and see what the company is all about.


Dearborn Denim was founded by a Chicago bond trader a few years ago. Their website is simple and easy to use. They claim that their denim is made in Georgia from Texas Cotton. I don’t know if they used Denim North America, which is about to follow Cone Mills onto the scrapheap of history as a domestic denim producer. I do know that supply at the store was extremely tight when I got there.

On the day I visited, the shop was being run by the quite tall Kaleb Sullivan, Dearborn’s head of retail. He found some dark jeans for me in size 38 and had me try them. My impression is that they are vanity-sized just a tiny bit, but nothing too serious. After I confirmed that the 38s were okay, Kaleb measured my legs for hemming. If you buy online, Dearborn offers lengths from 28 to 38, but retail customers get hemmed to length in-store.

I wanted to get four pairs total — two dark, one khaki, one washed — but Kaleb expained that they are perennially short of the washed jeans. So I settled for three pairs plus a Horween leather belt and a Dearborn-branded measuring tape. The total for all five items was $239.24, a full $22.24 of which was allocated to the no fewer than three separate and distinct sales taxes levied on Chicagoans for the privilege of living in a place where a staggering seventy-one (71) percent of murder cases go unsolved.

Things I did not buy: the “reppin” pins, the patches with the “Chicago flag” available in four different color schemes, any stickers. I’m not a Chicago resident, obviously.

So… what are the jeans like? My first impression upon trying them on is that I’ve been spoiled by years of buying high-end USA-made stuff from Lucky, Betabrand, Flint&Tinder, Gustin, and other outlets. These $59 jeans are not luxury items. They’re much closer to the workaday stuff sold by LC King and Carhartt. Which is fair, because they are priced to compete with those brands. If you go back to, say, 1980, you will see that you could buy USA-made Levis for $25 or so. That’s equivalent to eighty bucks today. So Dearborn is actually undercutting Levi Strauss — with the additional handicap of having to source and sew their denim at a volume that is perhaps one-thousandth of Levi’s 1980 production levels.

Not that there aren’t some nice touches on the jeans — and when mine arrive (I had them shipped because I couldn’t wait the requisite hour or so for hemming) I’ll take some more photos. In the meantime, I think it’s safe to say that Dearborn has managed to create a very sound product at a very low price with no excuses or corners cut in the process.

Right now, if you have an email you haven’t already used to subscribe to the Levi newsletter you can get 20% off the $88 Made In The USA 501 Jeans. That’s seventy-two bucks out the door, which isn’t that far from $59. (Edit after the fact: the 20% is not valid on Made In The USA Levis products.) I’m inclined to keep buying from Dearborn. For Levi, this American-made thing is a sideline that will probably shut down as soon as the supply from Cone Mills dries up. For Dearborn, Made In The USA is the whole point of the brand. So although they aren’t exactly in my political corner (see above), I’m going to continue to support them. I recommend that you give them a chance.

80 Replies to “Made In The USA, Affordable And Retail: Dearborn Denim”

  1. Ryan

    I am a big fan of these Made in the USA articles, and I will check these guys out. I am always trying to find both every day and special products made in the USA.

    My most recent Made in the USA purchase is a pair of slippers from Russell Moccasin in Berlin, Wisconsin that are going to be made for me soon.

    Thanks for the article!

    Reply
  2. Josh Howard

    Yes, they are having to resource. I received an email from them some time ago, about the time I bought 2 more pairs to bring my total to 3, that they were having supply problems due to the Mills being bought out. However, I do believe they have a solution in place for the near future. It took around 10 days for them to even get around to my order because they were so busy. My nearest comparison for the jeans is the Deluth Ballroom Jeans which are typically 20 dollars more a pair and also American made in Kentucky(according to information in their store near our home).

    Having lived with a pair for a year,and the other 2 pair for two months, I cannot recommend them enough. I beat the piss out of mine and they rewarded me by coming out of the washer clean and free of visible wear. This includes, don’t tell my wife, wrenching for days straight. The little bit of spandex(2% I believe), really makes them comfortable and adds a little bit of flex that makes them far more comfortable than I imagined upon initial purchase. Just keep in mind that anything abrasive will pull a bit of the spandex fibers outward.

    As Jack says above, they aren’t high end. But, they’re darn good. In a day where it’s getting harder to find Made in the USA gear, I’ve had a lot of luck with these. Hate their politics. Happy they exist.

    Reply
    • tresmonos

      I’d say about 99% of Duluth’s products are imported. Check your tag. I’ve had several people recommend them to me due to misrepresentation that they do in their stores.

      The made in USA jeans are not available in stores according to the website.

      F*ck Duluth Trading. They have made in USA socks and one pair of jeans that you can’t even get in store. Walmart and Costco even have made in USA socks.

      Reply
      • Josh Howard

        It really is hit or miss. To get to the same price as Dearborn Denim, they do have the imported option. And, as you say, a good deal of the stuff is imported without acknowledging it. My local store DOES have a made in the USA jean in store. They even built a display for it. (That said, the store opened only about a month ago so this may be something new.)

        Reply
  3. tresmonos

    They use the 3rd largest denim mill in the world – Mount Vernon Mills in Trion GA. Used to be the largest at one time. They’re so efficient, Lee’s, Wranglers and most VF Corp fabrics that are imported in from low cost 3rd world countries use their fabrics.

    Reply
  4. tresmonos

    Also, here’s some better 501’s and more sizes for a bit more than those sh1t washed Levi’s.
    https://www.hudsonshill.com/shop/levis-made-in-the-usa-501-original-fit-selvedge-jeans?category=Denim

    501’s with raw selvedge and 36″ inseam. They’re raw and have the white oak label as well. Hudson’s Hill will even do free chain stitch hemming.

    I bought a pair to never wear. I hate Levi Strauss as they shut down over 22 US based plants in the early 2000’s and switched to contract slave labor. They’re also part of the reason why White Oak, Revolution Cone mills, Burlington and so many other textile mills are dead.

    Reply
      • tresmonos

        yeah, they’re $$$. You got Baldwin in KC – you can find their stuff discounted at Nordstrom Rack. Raleigh in NC (commie-esque). Billiam jeans are in Greenville, SC. There’s Detroit denim (hit or miss customer service, recently visited by some reality tv show that tries to turn around bad companies). I like Bravestarr but I know you hate CA. I like the owners of Bravestarr and Gustin (SF).

        I’m sure there’s more. I don’t know where Luther’s jeans are from. Their phone number is San Antonio. Their jeans are sweet but unsanforized so buy like 501 Shrink to Fit jeans.
        https://www.luthersdenim.com/

        Reply
        • Ryan

          Got any more info on the Detroit Denim thing? I’ve bought 3 pairs from them in the past year and spent quite a bit on repairs of my older stuff. Never really had an issue other than a 2+ week turnaround time. However, I will say that for each purchase the owner (Eric) has fitted me and handled everything. Can’t speak to the other employees, unfortunately.

          Reply
        • Hogie roll

          Marxism only murdered 100 million people. I’m going to meme it into a worse insult than Nazi. It’s supporters and proprietors should be scared and embarrassed of such views. Bring on red scare 2.0

          Reply
        • yamahog

          @Hogieroll

          Leftists are unashamed about socialism / communism’s body count because they fundamentally don’t care about death. If they thought death was meaningful, they’d have right wing view points.

          Reply
        • silentsod

          That’s an unexpected tie but I don’t know why things surprise me any more (There’s a couple of commentators on this site who are about 2 degrees of separation from me. It’s weird.).

          I just occasionally read stuff over there since I a) adamantly disagree with them and b) owe it to myself to at least be exposed to other viewpoints.

          Reply
  5. -Nate

    ” they are vanity-sized just a tiny bit”

    Not sure what this means .

    Of late my 40’s have been falling down so I’d hate to order too loose, I’m buying 38’s since mid 2017 .

    This is a _LOT_ of $ for me, not sure I still need/want denim .

    I wish they had over dyed indigo black as I don’t like faded jeans .

    Made in A.S.A. cannot be too lightly stated for some of us here .

    -Nate

    Reply
  6. hank chinaski

    Appreciate the new segment. I’m due for a new pair.

    Re. that last photo: did you tell them to go to Craigslist, and well, you know….

    Reply
  7. bbkkrr

    The price is getting more reasonable here, yes, but I can’t get motivated to buy new jeans for $65 (or much more) when I can go down to ye olde thrifte store and find every brand, style, color, condition for less than $10. Pull 10 pairs off the rack, try em on, find 2 pair that fit, done deal. Certainly, you will not find exactly what you want every time, but the luck of the draw is part of the game. Bring a reliable style guide along for opinions (e.g. girlfriend that cares how your butt looks) with you if you don’t trust your own taste.

    Go out afterwards and spend the $200 you saved on a nice dinner, or buy some nice $300 made-in-USA shoes instead. Shoes are best purchased new.

    Reply
  8. jers

    I appreciate the Made in USA posts, you’ve had an impact on my purchasing tendencies.
    On the sort-of affordable side of things, check out Guerrilla Gravity bikes out of Denver (ridegg.com). I have a full-suspension bike on order from them, with MRP Ribbon fork also made in CO. Also (purchase risk, Jack), custom powercoat jobs are available with the full Prismatic Powders selection.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’ve been thinking about Guerilla for a while now. When I bought my Lynskeys GG was also on the short list. They are awesome.

      Reply
      • jers

        I looked at Lynskey and probably would have gone with them if they had a comparable full-suspension bike. They do nice work.

        Reply
  9. Craig S. List

    I was not sure where to put this as it was relevant to the suit discussion a couple days ago and to American made products that aren’t astronomical in price.

    Keystone Tailored Manufacturing makes suits for Hckey Freeman and Hart-Shaffner-Marx. They make them in Chicago and Cleveland ( technically Brooklyn, but noone thinks Ohio when you say Brooklyn)

    There is also an outlet store for their suits at the Cleveland location. ( 10 minutes from Ray’s MTB) They do sell them cheaper than if you go to somewhere like Nordstrom’s. The only thing I cannot figure out is if they are cutting corners to hit the price point they sell for.

    Reply
  10. Ark-med

    Are you sure “Obama Presidential Center” wasn’t the sign for the toilets? (I kid, I kid, please don’t cry.)

    Reply
    • Rick T.

      The surprisingly controversial Obama Presidential Library – the one with no real papers – is proposed to go in Jackson Park a few blocks away.

      Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I asked them about it but I didn’t have the moral courage to ask why they had Hendrix up as well.

      Reply
        • DeadWeight

          They had a photo of Sean Hannity up but people like you and Mark Baruth were fapping to it, and they got sick of the clean-up!

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            1. I don’t have cable tv so I’m not likely to watch Hannity on the tube.
            2. In the car I usually listen to music or the local sports talk radio station during Hannity’s show. The Detroit Lions are the longest running sitcom in history.
            3. It wasn’t a political statement, though it was a bit sinester. Hendrix played a right-handed guitar upside down. Obama signed legislation with his left hand.
            4. Why would I fap when your wife gives such good head?

        • DirtRoads

          That was funny, but I think people missed the pun and went straight past it into the “label and shame” mode of the left. Oh well. It was funny 🙂

          I was in the Experience Art Project in Seattle some years back and they had the Wodstock display, all Hendrix stuff. I could’ve reached over the plexiglass and touched that guitar, but then I remembered reaching out in Graceland and touching Elvis’ pink Cadillac and alarms went off so I thought the better of it. Later when I went back to the EAP they had it totally sealed off from public touching so I missed the opportunity of a lifetime. So sad.

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            It’s not something I do as a general practice, but I have opened a car door in a museum to get interior shots.

            Once, at the now-closed Chrysler museum in Auburn Hills, I was backing up to get an entire car in the frame of a photo and backed into the low barrier for another car, causing me to tumble backwards, falling into the exhibit and banging my shoulder on the bumper of the car, a 1924 Dodge I think. When I mentioned it to the docents, they were more concerned about the car, whose cast iron parts I was not likely to damage, than they were about me.

  11. Disinterested-Observer

    Thanks for this. Jim and Maury were pretty amazing, according to the all-knowing wiki Jim started off as Maury’s backing guitarist.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      If you read the Croce biography written by Croce’s wife it’s a little bit more complicated than that — but virtually all of the admirable guitar work on his records is Maury.

      Reply
  12. Rick T.

    Thanks for the article and looking forward to more on affordable American made options. If my order for a couple pair of Gustin 1968 jeans (appreciate the tip!) works out, I might venture a little farther afield buying clothing online.

    Reply
  13. scotten

    In Chicago but you didn’t warn anyone you were coming…? Sadface.

    And with your final pic, I can finally put my claim to fame in writing: I live mere *minutes* away from the temporary storage facility for the Obama library. How many of YOU can make that claim?!

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I didn’t realize I was going until the day before.

      The reason is kind of goofy, but I’m about to explain it in a Chicago-centric piece to come tomorrow.

      Reply
  14. Michael

    My interest in American Made was boosted when I watched the documentary The True Cost with my son a year or so ago. I may get flamed for this, but as a broke ass divorced dad, I buy Matthew classic Wrangler cowboy jeans at Amazon and Sierra Trading Post. For $20 or so he gets American sourced fabric that’s is assembled in Mexico. It scratches the ‘Merica itch at a price Dad can swing. Since I use the “Made In USA” filter at Sierra Trading Post to stalk cheap clothes, my 15 year old son now looks forward to the deliveries I have sent to his house.

    Reply
  15. JMcG

    Have you checked out Grizzly coolers? They are rotomolded like the Yeti brand coolers, except in Iowa. I think that comparable sizes are less money too, though they are still pricey. I think a 60qt is going for around 250 bucks. Love the Made in USA articles Jack.

    Reply
  16. George

    Just bought a bunch of 505s at Costco for $20, so I have no excuse to buy more jeans now. But it’s good to know a relatively low cost alternative exists for odd sizes – I need 31″x 31″ jeans and they’re almost impossible to find in stores.

    Reply
    • Shocktastic

      I have to agree. I am very fond of reading the content here but Jack ruined an awesome article by going down the rathole with the Obummer pics & subsequent comments. Yeah, free is a very good price but J.B. took a lovely article & a great shout-out and created crapness.

      Reply
      • DeadWeight

        Jack can’t help himself.

        He’s not the independent thinker some once thought he was.

        He’s getting a Roger Ailes portrait tattoo on his left breast next week.

        Reply
        • Hogie roll

          But DW thinks so independently of what cnn, msnbc, wapo, nyt, and salon tell him to.

          I’d like to think you’re a paid shill. But the truth is much sadder, you’re a deluded true believer.

          Reply
          • DeadWeight

            That’s where you’re wrong, Hoagie.

            MSNBC, CNN, WSJ, NYT, The Nation, Weekly Standard, etc etc etc etc are are all just as bad (Fox and CNN are both horrid, one being an arm of the RNC, the other the DNC; we should have more than two different-but-really-the-same-on-most-nonsocial-wedge-issues political parties, also).

            6 corporations own every single magazine, newspaper, cable station, network, radio station, or other media outlet – 6!

            All are horribly tainted.

            You and people like Bark look at the world in binary, thinking if one party/candidate is bad, the other must be better and/or good and/or preferable.

            Hence we get a population of mouth-breathers who gravitate towards Sean Hannity OR Don Lemon (both incomparable morons working for corporate-owned and anything but fact-driven and well-intentioned entities).

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        I’m sorry it damaged your enjoyment of the article. Dearborn makes a big deal on social media of their affiliation with left-leaning causes. Like I said, it didn’t change my purchases present or future.

        Reply
        • Jeff Madson

          As a small business owner myself I am always confused when someone chooses to incorporate politics into their business. By pushing their political view forward they risk alienating half the population and slowing or stopping the growth of their business. If they instead chose to shut the hell up about their views, they would instead have a lot more money to help the causes in which they believe. It’s not like you are going to change anybody’s mind about their views.
          Maybe they think “being on the right side of history” is more important than making money.

          Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Well, you have the idea that there are two political parties.

            I suspect that in Chicago’s Hyde Park they are deep into uniparty status. They don’t know any Republicans and they don’t care to know them. From their perspective, there is only one acceptable political stance.

            Basically, they’ve managed to resurrect the famed intolerance of the Puritans, only on the other side of the coin.

    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      Why is it a problem to point out that a company, any company, has different political views than your own? The left has never been bashful about calling for boycotts of company’s that offer a political view that’s different from theirs.

      I know that I try to not support company’s that are known leftist supporters, And it really pains me to do that sometimes, especially when it’s a made in the USA product.

      Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I don’t see the slam. I thought it was noteworthy that a clothing company is directly promoting Mr. Obama. It didn’t stop me from patronizing them.

      Reply
  17. carrya1911

    I’ve learned more about denim production in this post than I planned to this morning. Thanks to all who contributed.

    In the spirit of learning, I’m afraid Jack’s numbers on Chicago’s murder rate are actually extremely optimistic. Chicago PD’s homicide clearance rate for 2017 ended up being 12%. To put that in perspective, if it drops any more you’d have less of a chance of finding a murderer who was actually charged than you would running into that one recalcitrant dentist out of 10 who doesn’t recommend Colgate. Keep in mind this 12% clearance rate comes *after* Chicago put 100 extra investigators on the homicide unit.

    The clearance rates for other types of violent crime don’t look any prettier. Rape, attempted murder (which you almost never see actually charged that way anymore) aggravated assault, robbery, etc. Also note that “clearance” just means somebody got charged for the crime. It does not take into account whether or not that person is actually convicted of the crime they are charged wit. This usually does not happen as charges are almost always negotiated down in plea agreements…over 90%:

    https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf

    To summarize all of that, if you commit a violent crime in Chicago actually getting charged is the least likely result of having committed said crime. Actually getting convicted and sentenced to a significant amount of time for the crime is less likely still.

    People made a lot of noise when Brock Turner was released after serving a paltry amount of a sentence and on the one hand I don’t blame them…he’s a sleazoid and should have spent a lot more time in a cage. What they didn’t understand, however, is that Brock Turner wasn’t released from prison because of any race’s “privilege” in society. It’s just SOP for the criminal justice system to let shitheads walk. I can point to a dozen examples of victims of violent crime who spent more time in the hospital recovering from the wounds they sustained in a nearly lethal assault than their attacker spent in jail for the actual crime.

    Criminals are only ever caught on a tiny fraction of the crimes they commit, and then they can expect to get slap-on-the-wrist sentences in a plea deal unless they are stupid or unlucky enough to have handed the police and prosecution a smoking gun.

    And even then, it’s no guarantee they’ll serve serious time:

    https://nypost.com/2014/11/03/judge-blames-society-in-sentencing-shooter-for-only-three-years/

    Reply
  18. carrya1911

    Also worth noting is that the federal district that contains Chicago has one of the lowest rates of prosecutions for violations of federal gun laws in the nation. One might suspect that failing to put violent criminals in a cage leads to more violent crime or something.

    Reply
    • Rick T.

      A sad case in point was the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, who was mentioned in Obama’s second inaugural address as a victim of gun violence. What he failed to mention:

      “At the time of the shooting, Ward, the gunman, was on probation. In January 2012, he pleaded guilty to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and was sentenced to two years of probation. Less than three months later, he was arrested and charged with breaking into a car. In July 2012, he was arrested for breaking into a different vehicle. In November 2012, he was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Hadiya_Pendleton

      Reply
  19. Shocktastic

    “Why is it a problem to point out that a company, any company, has different political views than your own?“
    My comment meant that it was a discordant note in an otherwise cool melody of internet journalism. My favorite place to get breakfast is owned by a guy who will subject me to a bunch of political and whiny liberal crap that I don’t agree with but he treats his staff well & the food is good so I don’t mind paying a couple of extra bucks for my meal. I don’t have to agree with someone’s politics if their business model agrees with my overall values. Jack added a picture of Obummer & his baby-mama which I found extraneous. It is his site, his world, and if I don’t like it then I can take my toys & go home.

    Reply
    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      I guess I’m a good bit stricter with my money, Case in point;

      On a business trip last year, the hotel we booked (5 rooms, about $125 per night for 24 nights) had MSNBC on the TV in the lobby/breakfast area 24 hours a day. Additionally, when you turned on the TV in your room, it didn’t come up on the last channel it was on, but came on with MSNBC playing. I asked about changing that default, and changing the channel in the common area and was told by the general manager that he had been ordered by the owner NOT to allow that. We checked out after 2 nights of that 24 night stay. $15,000 may not be much to that owner in the long run, but it was important enough to us to make our point.

      Reply
  20. George

    I’m waiting for the commenter who will declare he stopped shopping at target when they got rid of the separate girls and boys toy sections.

    Reply
  21. Widgetsltd

    My “gratuitous slam” comment was more about the comments section than the article itself. Indeed, if a business brings politics into the mix, it’s more than fair to mention that. I try to avoid purchasing any products produced by Koch-owned businesses; they don’t need to add my money to the pile that they use to lobby for initiatives that make life harder for average working people.

    Reply
  22. Lh

    I got my pairs of the dark jeans on one of the factory tours. Rob made my belt right there in front of me complete with signed tag..it was pretty dope.

    Reply
  23. Dean

    Thanks for the review. I have been thinking about trying their jeans because of my odd 35″ inseam. Some 34″ are OK but most wind up too short. My son goes to college just south of their retail store, so I will probably stop there next time I visit him.

    Reply
  24. Daniel J

    For something sort of related…..

    Keen makes a handful of boots and shoes in the U.S. I’m a big fan of their hiking boots but all 3 pairs were made in China, sadly.

    Reply

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