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Let’s make a gi. Out of denim. Not just any denim, no, let’s make it out of high end Cone Mills selvedge denim and for giggles let’s have it made in Los Angeles, California. The price tag will be as premium as the gi, but the thing is gonna look and feel magnificent. Sounds crazy, right? Vanguard Kimono did this crazy thing with their dark selvedge denim gi, and we got one to review… Check it out.
This Gi was submitted to me free of charge (by way of gireviews.net) for review. I am a brand ambassador for Ludwig Van (www.ludwigvantheman.com) which is owned by the owner of Vanguard Kimono and may be sponsored by Vanguard Kimono in the near future. I have done my best to remain completely objective throughout the review of this gi.
As an active competitor, I am always looking for companies that produce innovation. A couple of years back I was accepted into the fold of Ludwig Van, an artsy street wear company that has some jiu-jitsu and MMA overtones (its owner, Mike Dytri is a black belt under Chris Haueter.) Early in 2018 Mike told me he was going to be starting a new project, a gi company called Vanguard Kimono that was going to set a new standard in quality and materials. That he was going to make a gi out of Denim.
I’m a skeptic, and when I heard this idea my knee jerk reaction was “That isn’t a very smart idea.” Mike has a long history of working in gear design. I won’t post his resume here because that’s not the point of this post, but let’s just say the man knows what he’s doing. In his various projects he takes what may appear to be not very smart ideas and makes them into absolutely incredible pieces.
When the gi was ready to release, I offered to review it for him. I promised brutal honesty in my review. A short while later a package arrived. Inside I found a gi housed in a Tyvek (used in durable packing materials) drawstring bag lined with Japanese indigo dot denim (also used on the gi itself) and accompanied by a print on high quality card stock with a message from Mike. The gi also features a pretty cool hangtag with the vanguard logo on it.
Over the next 4 months I wore the gi every chance I got. I abused it as much as I could, and it has become my main travel gi (denim is lighter and has a smaller profile than pearl weave.)
I’m 6’1, 195. The best fit for me is usually an A2L. Vanguard Kimono doesn’t offer an A2L so I went with an A3. This may have been a mistake as I found the gi to be a bit baggy. Mike offered to replace the gi with and A2 but I figured this would be fine, and it was.
Vanguard advertises their gis as completely preshrunk, as in if you throw the gi in the dryer it won’t shrink at all. I found this to be true over the course of the review period as the gi never shrunk at all. I even went full blasphemer and threw it in the dryer (once) and it had no effect at all.
In the future I’m going to try A2 from Vanguard. The length of the A3 was fine, and the gi was very comfortable. It was fine for training but I’d hesitate to compete in it because it flows so freely when rolling.
I found the pants to be a touch short and the fit of the pants has a certain “Mom Jeans” look to them. This of course makes sense because this is a gi and you need to have mobility in your hips and groin area, but if you’re expecting skinny jeans you might want to just get your hands on a jacket.
The term that comes to mind most is “conversation piece.”
The gi is basically a Canadian tuxedo made for wear on the mat. And I’ll tell you something else: I’d wear this gi off the mat too. It’s literally the only gi I’d consider wearing in public.
Throughout the gi there are small patches from Ludwig Van (Mike’s street wear company.)
The exterior of the gi is consistently weathered denim stitched very well. It’s bi-tonal with accent points made from the Japanese indigo dot denim. The pants have fake pockets on the butt. Lol.
The inside of the gi is where the party’s at; you can see the high level craftsmanship in the stitching and the placement of indigo dot denim throughout. Also the lapel is made of the indigo dot denim.
The only markings on the gi are the green and navy Vanguard patches (inside of the gi and pants), 4 subtle Ludwig Van tags (to rep Dytri’s other company) and a symbol for weave and weft. The Vanguard logo is a stylized triangle made up of lines and they use the letters M2W which stands for “Made To Wear.” The branding on this gi is not visible from across the room.
I think the concept of this gi was to let the denim speak for itself. And it does. Loudly. I don’t recall a training session wearing this gi that someone didn’t come up to me and touch the gi and ask questions about it. If we’re going strictly off of looks this is one of my favorite gis if not my favorite.
The jacket of this gi is just spectacular. The contrast of the dark denim body and the EVA foam with lighter colored denim collar is fantastic. Vanguard does something interesting that I haven’t seen many companies do: they use 2 different colors of contrast stitch on the lapel to make it pop.
One thing that didn’t make much sense to me was the decision to make the sleeves out of two pieces of fabric instead of one, at about mid-sleeve there’s a second piece of fabric which I thought was odd. This had no effect on the gi, but I think that if I were to compete in this gi it would offer an opponent an extra grip. They tout the jacket as 4 piece construction, not sure if it could have been done with fewer pieces of fabric.
The gi does have a center seam down the back, but this is flat and smooth thus not affecting the comfort or function of the gi. The cut of the gi and seam placement is similar to that of a jean jacket.
Inside of the top all reinforcements are done with that indigo dot denim mentioned above. The selvedge is visible starting midway down.
I’m not joking when I say this is my favorite gi jacket that I’ve had the pleasure of wearing, not necessarily because of the fit but because of the look. It just looks cool.
The pants on this gi are a bit odd, I think because of the way they’re constructed. They are after all made from 5 pieces of denim…
The pants are made like a pair of jeans, except there is a swath of fabric that runs the entire inseam through the crotch added which provide the necessary freedom of movement, but also give the pants a Jnco-ish look. Like I said above, I don’t know what I expected, but when I think of Jeans, especially very high end/attractive ones I don’t think of something this loose, but it makes perfect sense. They also have a swath of extra fabric to act as a knee pad that goes all the way down.
My one and only functional complaint has to do with the drawstring that Vanguard put on these pants. Rather than opting for the industry standard stretchy rope they’ve placed a strip of indigo dot denim which when sweaty catches inside of the waistband making the pants more difficult to get off than they are to put on. They have 4 loops.
Like the top the inside of the pants have all indigo dot denim throughout as reinforcements and as mentioned have a set of fake pockets on the butt to really make them look like a pair of jeans.
What a gi. What a comfortable and unusual gi!
Because of the bagginess and extra seam on the arm the gi was a bit easier to grip than most gis I’ve worn.
I’d compare rolling in this gi to rolling in a rip stop gi. Light, comfy, and the fabric is quite slippery making it harder to grip, BUT it comes open easily and because of how thin it is compared to gi material it’s easy to manipulate.
This is not a competition gi. It is a fantastic gi to wear to the gym though. And while it has nothing to do with the performance it was kind of cool to constantly have people asking about it.
Vanguard Kimono has already sold out of their first batch of gis, so you’ll never get your hands on this specific model unless you buy one the secondary market. From what I’ve seen this is one of the most if not the most expensive gi around (it carries a $500.00 price tag) but on the same token is completely unique. The craftsmanship and quality are unparalleled. For upcoming releases by Vanguard Kimonos hit up www.vanguardkimono.com.