Saint’s Unbreakable riding jeans are the source of one of the greatest regrets of my moto-journalism career. I figure now it’s time to finally set things right.
Back in early 2017 the nice people of Saint – or, as it prefers to write its name, SA1NT – got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in trying a pair of the company’s stylishly high-end Dyneema riding jeans. All they asked in return was that I share my experiences with the readers of RideApart (I was the site’s director at the time), which is pretty standard practice.
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I was stupid excited for the jeans to arrive because they looked incredibly cool in photos. Considering they cost quite a lot more than my equally cool and stylish Pando Moto jeans (which I highly recommend) I imagined they would almost certainly become my favorite bit of gear ever. But then they showed up. And I put them on. And I hated them.
I have never disliked a thing as wholly and instantly as I did Saint’s Unbreakable jeans. They were uncomfortable in just about every way that clothing can be uncomfortable: stiff, inflexible, scratchy, tight in the wrong places and uniquely inclined to be too hot or too cold depending on whether they were exposed to daylight. Checking myself in the mirror, I looked cool but I definitely did not feel that way.
I decided the jeans needed some more time to win me over, so I wore them as much as I could. This was difficult, for reasons that I’ll go into below, but I feel I put in an unprecedented effort; I tried really hard to change, or at least temper my first impressions. But largely I found myself just becoming more agitated.
Now, although I’ve once or twice been accused of such a thing, I have never set out to write a hit piece. That wasn’t the vibe I wanted for RideApart; it isn’t the vibe I want for The Motorcycle Obsession. It’s nice to be nice, y’all. But at the same time, lying is bad. It’s important to be honest in reviews; if something is not good you need to say it’s not good. And in thinking about the review I was going to write about these jeans I could tell that it was going to be especially not good. So, I got in touch with Saint’s public relations team and let them know. I wanted to give the company an opportunity to respond to my criticisms. But, foolishly, amateurishly – and this is the part I’ve always regretted – I also offered to just let the story die. You know, adopting the “If you can’t say anything nice it’s better to say nothing at all” approach.
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Because, you see, it’s often the case that PR companies handle multiple accounts. For example, the same people who handle media relations for Indian Motorcycle in the United States also do promotion for Bell helmets and Cardo communications systems (as well as numerous other clients). So, theoretically if you were to write an article that took a big stinky poop all over the Bell Race Star Flex DLX, it could negatively impact your publication’s ability to get access to a press fleet Indian Challenger. In fairness to Indian’s PR company, I honestly don’t think they would be so vindictive but it’s definitely the case that others are not as mature. Failing to write positive things can sometimes bite you in the ass in the tiny fishbowl that is the motorcycle industry. Just ask Jensen Beeler about his relationship with Yamaha.
Truthfully, I can no longer remember the company that was handling Saint’s press at the time, nor can I remember any of that company’s other clients. But I can remember that part of my job at RA was trying to improve the site’s tarnished reputation; I didn’t really want to go burning bridges over a pair of jeans. I mean, hey, it’s not like it was need-to-know news. Those jeans aren’t going to kill you; wearing Unbreakable jeans will make you uncomfortable but they won’t give you cancer. So, I offered to let the story go and Saint’s PR people accepted.
As I say, I’ve regretted that decision ever since. It’s burned in me. Every time someone has complimented me for being honest in another review I’ve felt a little pang of guilt for the honest review I never wrote. So, to make up for it, here, finally – more than three years late – is the article in which I explain why you shouldn’t spend money on Saint Unbreakable jeans.
Ranging in waist sizes from 28 inches to 40 inches (there are no options for inseam), the jeans are made in China (No. 153 on the Democracy Index) and retail for roughly £330 in the United Kingdom.
These jeans look awesome. To that end they remind me just a little bit of the Steve Martin short story Cruel Shoes; I persistently want to wear them even though they are largely unwearable. They could be so awesome, though – looking great with my Red Wing Spirit Lake Boots and 55 Collection Hard jacket. The style is very much the sort of thing I’m always aiming for: stylish both on and off the bike. Especially if your tastes run toward modern classics and cruisers, as mine do.
Also, I like not having to dress for dinner. One of the things I love about my Pando Moto jeans is that I can wear them all day in multiple scenarios. Say I’m heading to some sunny location to test ride one of the aforementioned modern classics or cruisers; I can save on packing by wearing my riding jeans on the plane. When I get to said sunny location, I can go straight to the hotel bar when the day’s riding is done because I look pretty much as I would in every other situation.
The best gear is the gear you wear, and often the gear you wear is the gear that you feel comfortable in both physically and emotionally. Unbreakable jeans do at least manage to hit that latter point; you will feel good about the way you look in them. So, perhaps the best thing to do is hunt down a pair in a shop somewhere, throw them on and get someone to take a photo of you. Then go buy some different jeans.
My criticisms of Saint Unbreakable jeans can be divided into three categories: price/production, protection and material. Whereas the other two issues could possibly be overlooked in the case of a superior product, Saint’s choice of material here is a huge problem. Unbreakable jeans are made of 62 percent Dyneema and 38 percent cotton, which means that they are only 38 percent wearable.
Dyneema is one of those better-living-through-chemistry wünderproducts that is super light and super strong. Originally invented in the 1960s under the far less catchy name of “ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene” it’s most often been put to use in the making of things like bow strings, fishing nets, fishing line, rope, synthetic chains, yacht rigging and so on. You know: stuff you don’t wear.
My best friend has a PhD in chemical engineering from MIT and would attack me for wild oversimplification here, but in very broad terms any time you see “poly-” in the name of a product it means “plastic.” And that’s what Unbreakable jeans feel like: plastic. Imagine wearing jeans made of high-test fishing line and you can begin to understand what’s wrong with this gear.
The jeans have no give whatsoever. If you are male, you will find that when you sit down their unyielding crotch grabs your delicate bits and squeezes like an agitated girlfriend who is tired of listening to your sarcasm about her younger sister’s singing career. Yes, it’s true that Cassie sounds a bit like Tom Waits but that’s no reason to go pissing on her dreams; so unless you want to join her on stage and cover all the high parts you can shut the hell up right now.
The seams scratch and chafe, and the plasticky nature of Dyneema means the jeans are generally cold on bare skin. Unless you step out into sunlight, at which point they become painfully hot. Remember that old car from the 1970s/80s that your parents had when you were a kid? The one with vinyl seats that would sear your little-kid flesh when the family drove to the beach? Yeah, it’s that kind of hot.
Construction is excellent, buttons are of high quality, waist size is accurate and there is enough leg length that I’m able to roll a stylish little cuff. However, the legs are narrow, squeezing my thighs and calves. Again, the fabric has all the stretch of a piece of wood, so pulling the cuff up my leg high enough to be able to lace up boots is a lot harder than it needs to be.
The selling point of Dyneema jeans is that they are single-layer, providing the abrasion resistance of Kevlar-lined jeans without the warmth of having to wear two layers. It’s a good idea in theory and I have no doubt that Saint is telling the truth when it says its jeans have achieved in excess of 3.5 seconds of slide time in CE EN13595-1 tests. Some companies claim longer slide times but, really, if you’re butt surfing the pavement for that long you’re probably going to run into something before wearing a hole in your britches.
Meanwhile, with single-layer jeans one thing to be alert to is the fact there’s not much to displace heat. I can tell you from personal experience that rubbing your body against asphalt at high speed creates a fair amount of friction. When I crashed going 65+ mph, my gear protected my skin from being shredded but I still suffered heat blisters in a few spots.
Surprisingly – especially considering their price – there is no armor or place to put armor in the jeans. I guess that helps to reduce the risk of exceeding the jeans’ slide time – because you’re not going to want to crash at anything above 25 mph – but come on. Even the cheapest riding jeans have armor. Without armor the jeans’ usefulness decreases dramatically, to the point I wonder who is the intended rider? What are the jeans’ intended use?
Saint’s Unbreakable jeans are expensive, uncomfortable, not fit for purpose and made in a country that tortures its citizens. That last point may or may not be a relevant issue for you but I feel it’s worth noting because Pando Moto also offers Dyneema jeans, which cost less, come equipped with armor and are made in the European Union. I have not tried Pando Moto’s jeans, so I assume the same issues of plasticky discomfort would be present, but if that’s your thing why would you pay more for less?
Lastly, Saint encourages you to wear its Unbreakable jeans for “as long as possible without washing.” This is because when you eventually do throw them in the wash – following Saint’s instructions on care, of course – you will discover that color loss is dramatic.
I still have my Saint jeans and every so often I’ll pull them out of the drawer to put them on in hope that somehow they’ll have become less awful. To be fair, after three years they are just a teency, tiny, little bit more comfortable… but not enough that I can stand to wear them any longer than it takes to get geared up and admire in the mirror how awesome I look. Then I put on other jeans – either Pando Moto or Resurgence Gear – and go for a ride.
Equally in fairness I should point out that since Saint first sent me its Unbreakable jeans it has begun to offer a pair that come equipped with armor. Those cost more, however: roughly £350.