An Honest Review Of Mott & Bow Jeans And More
Even at 5’8”(ish) and 160 lbs, I’m not an especially easy to fit guy. I’ve flat-out struck out with many of the major mall brands like Banana Republic and J.Crew. While I do appreciate and own higher-end selvedge denim, a solid pair in the $100-$130 range can be excellent quality for the price.
Enter Mott & Bow. While their bread and butter lies with denim, the company offers a full range of clothing at approachable price points. But, there’s no shortage of premium, direct-to-consumer brands out there. In this in-depth review, we’ll cover the not only the jeans, but the tees, polos, and chinos for what works, what doesn’t, and whether it’s worth the investment.
About Mott & Bow
Alejandro Chahin’s family lives and breathes denim. They’ve spent some thirty years in the apparel industry in his home country of Honduras running the company Intermoda and denim for a number of global brands. By earning a BSE in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) Chahin may have been destined to join the family business.
In what seems a recurring theme in the genesis of many modern direct-to-consumer brands, the opportunity to tap into a tech-savvy, millennial consumer base increasingly dissatisfied with the big guys appeared when Chahin was earning his MBA in New York City. Seed money was raised through Kickstarter, and Mott & Bow began in 2014 as a denim brand for men. They expanded to women’s jeans in 2016 and now offer a full line of casualwear for men and women.
Ultimately, for the founder & CEO, it’s about delivering a premium product at a fair price. Unlike some brands born from MBA capstones, his family has heritage in developing the product. They’re able to leverage decades of manufacturing expertise in Honduras to deliver a repeatable product with quality materials. Because it’s sold exclusively online, they’re able to deliver at a far better price than middlemen or third party retailers.
The other key discriminator for the company at the outset was their home try-on program. A customer could order two sizes of the same pair for the price of one and then send the other back. This was to address potential sizing issues, particularly around vanity sizing. You might wear 32 in one brand, but 34 in another. However, after speaking with brand reps, this was discontinued recently-though it’s unclear exactly when.
Where Are Mott and Bow Jeans Made?
The company HQ is New York City. The name “Mott & Bow” (Bow pronounced like the tip of a ship rather than Artemis’ accessory) comes from the Mott and Bowery cross streets in Nolita. In a 2016 interview, Chahin said he wanted a brand with the “cool, nonchalant feel” of the neighborhood. Indeed, many of the styles are named after streets in the city.
While the brand’s soul is in New York, supply chain and manufacture is a global operation. They source much of the denim from Turkish denim mill Orta Anadolu (who also sources for Banana Republic and other major retailers). My jeans were made in Honduras- likely at the family factory, Intermoda. The tees and polo came from Peru; the chinos were made in China.
Mott & Bow Jeans
I currently own three pairs of Mott & Bow denim: the “Benson” in both darker and light washes, and a pair of the “Mercer” in a ‘bone’/ecru. While all of these are ‘slim’ denim, the definition-and fit- varies by model.
Take the Benson, for example. The 30×30 I ordered is fairly slim through the leg, but isn’t tight. The medium weight (11.8oz to be exact) and 2% elastane probably helps. The stretch is comfortable and quite convenient, especially for someone who occasionally has to jump from sitting at a desk to wrangling a four-year-old.
The waist, on my 32-33” midsection, is still pretty full-though a little looser on the darker wash than the light. I suspect it’s because I’ve had them for about a year longer. I need to use a belt to keep them in place and just have neglected to get the waist taken in. However, going down a size could be quite tight, and ‘size for thighs’ is a good menswear mantra. The length is pretty good for me, though I do like to roll them up a little for stylistic purposes.
The story is a little different with the Mercer. For reference, I took a 30×30 in this one, too. Perhaps it could just be the model, but the product photos seem to show a fuller fit though the thigh, though measurements for both are supposedly the same leg opening. That was definitely the case in real life. Now, I’m not opposed to a fuller leg in white denim (tight white denim and paler skin looks going out sans pants), but would like a consistent fit.
This brings to me to my first issue with Mott & Bow’s denim. If something says “slim,” fit should be pretty uniform across the line. I’ll wager I spend a little more time than the average guy digging through denim fits, but as a consumer, make it easy for me. I don’t have time or interest in diving into how slim something is.
Speaking of digging, this dovetails with the second issue. Mott & Bow has a lot of size and fit combinations, all with various washes and ‘stretch factors.’ Stone? Mercer? Mosco? Benson? All of them in slim? Yikes. I had to do quite a bit of digging to dial in what I was looking for. This might be off-putting for a casual consumer scrolling through the site.
That said, once you find what you’re looking for, you’ll get a well-made product. At between $119 and $129 for most pairs, these aren’t especially cheap. But, each has held up well and is easy to style.
Mott & Bow Twill Chino Charles
Chinos are another interesting segment of the marketplace. They’ll either be exceptionally cheap or comparatively high-end. Bonobos changed the game with a range of fits at a mid-tier price point. But, the company’s 2017 sale to Walmart and, subsequently in April of this year to Express and WHP Global perhaps leave an opening.
The “Charles” is Mott & Bow’s twill chino offering. Unlike their jeans, it only comes in one fit at the moment-slim.
The garment itself is 97% cotton and 3% elastane. The company claims 25% elasticity. I’m not sure what that means, but the garment is nicely stretchy while holding its shape.
I took a 30×30 here at first. Perhaps it’s the fabric blend or the ‘stretch factor,’ but there was some pulling through the hips and seat. The leg itself didn’t feel snug-but, visually, appeared much tighter than ideal.
Also, I found the 30×30 to run pretty long for me. I had to roll them up a good 3/4” to get the fit I was going for. But, if you’re 5’9” or above, you should be fine.
Sizing up to 31×30 helped through the hips. The waist now requires quite a bit of alteration, but, again, sizing for thighs takes priority.
I do like a few aspects of the Charles. First and foremost, they’re comfortable. That’s number one in any garment from suits to shorts. If it’s not comfortable for you, you’ll make excuses to not wear it, and then it takes up space. Second, the slightly higher (on me) rise is nice if you’re sitting at desk for long periods, and helps to keep your shirt tucked in.
Stylistically, I like the red accent stitching. It’s not a selvedge chain stitch, but shows a little xtra thought. Also, if you’ve not felt a corozo button, you can totally tell the difference from a cheap plastic one. (More on that below.)
Comfort and buttons aside, I wouldn’t buy the Charles chinos myself at this point. The waist and length require too much alteration to get a good fit for my frame. Where I live, that’s another $30-35 to add on of the $109.00 retail price. That adds up to nearly $150.00, all in! Now, I’m not opposed to spending a little more for quality, but I could get a similar-quality pair from a few different brands for that price without the tailor tax.
I’m also a little uncertain about the taper. When I first pulled the chinos on, it looked pretty aggressive. Seeing the photos has made me more comfortable, but still not completely sold. Mott & Bow says the leg opening is 15.5” on a size 32. But, my 31 measured closer to 14.” Maybe it’s the stretch factor?
I would reconsider my position if Mott & Bow were to come out with a straight fit in these. I could (hopefully) size back down for a better-fitting waist and then it’s a simple hem job. Additionally, I could tap into a seasonal sale to offset that cost.
Mott & Bow Jersey Sueded Polo
This is pretty much a Mott & Bow tee with a collar. I’ve seen a few brands try this take on a polo, with mixed results. One approach is a luxed-up ‘performance’ polo with a blend of cotton and polyesters. They’ll looks great for a few washes…but come out a crop top after an accidental trip through the dryer. Another is to have the same fabric as a tee but with a collar resembling a dress shirt. I suppose it solves the floppy collar conundrum, but it just looks a little weird in practice. A casual tee with a stiff collar is an odd clash of formalities.
The collar here is pretty good. It’s firm enough to stand on its own and not ‘bacon’ on you, but still soft enough to feel like it’s meant to be there and the designers haven’t just stuck a dress shirt collar on a tee. I also like the width of the collar. Not 1970s big, but not fast-fashion small.
The hand is fantastic. It’s 100% cotton, but brushed in a way Mott & Bow calls “sueded.” It’s less squishy and much lighter weight than a typical pique. It also breathes much better. I chased my daughter around a park on an 80 degree day wearing this and then went to a casual dinner without an issue. Having test-driven a few polos in this category, this is definitely up there, feel wise.
The fit is nice, too. I’m a small in most major brands, and that’s what I took here. The shoulder seam sits where it should and the sleeve length hits right in the middle of the biceps. The torso can look a touch boxy if the shirt is left untucked. But, as that’s not quite my style, it makes for some flow and drape tucked in.
At $75, I think it’s pretty good value for money. I had one gripe, it would be with the buttons. A polo this comfortable should have better furnishings. Shell or mother-of-pearl wouldn’t vibe with the brand’s aesthetic, but thin white plastic cheapens the look. A horn or smaller nut button would make it much more premium.
Colors are available in navy, white, charcoal, and a kind of washed black. I’ve styled the navy as a play on the ‘tee and trousers’ look making the rounds across social media channels. Solid polo. Statement trousers. Killer loafers. And a do-it-all watch.
Mott & Bow Classic Crew Driggs Tee
It’s surprisingly hard to find a good tee. Fast-fashion brands are largely poor quality and not, for a multitude of reasons, what I’d care to partake in. “Designer” tees are ruined by massive logos and increasingly oversized fits. For the price of some of the ‘luxury’ ones, the same money could be better spent on other parts of the wardrobe. But, Mott & Bow does pretty well here.
They offer a V, crew, and curved hem model for $37 at retail. If you like your basics in bulk and appreciate versatility, a 3-pack of any of their 21(!) colors is a reasonable $95. So, I got a white, medium grey, and charcoal grey. Classic neutrals are exceptionally easy to style, but you could do quite a bit with olive and a pretty ‘vintage’ blue.
At 140 grams, it’s kind of a Goldilocks weight. Not so heavy you’ll sweat in the summer, but substantial enough wear with light layering for spring and fall.
The shirt includes little details to improve both quality and comfort. The reinforced collar makes the shirt feel more substantial and mitigates the dreaded ‘bacon-ing’ some poor quality tees can fall victim to in the wash.
Sizing and branding are printed on the inside of the collar instead of on a tag. While some guys get unreasonably annoyed by tags on their collars, it’s never affected me one way or the other.
Like the polo, I took a Small. The shoulder seam sits well for me. A younger version of myself would have preferred a slightly shorter hemline and rolled the sleeves over once to show a little more bicep. However, the mature version of me knows this is the right move.
These are pretty minor in the the scheme of things, though. If you’re of medium height to about 6 feet, you shouldn’t have much of an issue with length.
Honest Opinion: Pros & Cons
So, how would a Mott & Bow lineup fit into your wardrobe? The company tagline is “Elevated Basics at a Grounded Price.” Of course, the definition of ‘basic’ varies by person. For some guys, it’s an Oxford and cardigan. For others, it’s a tee and jeans. For me, each item here has plenty of merits.
The jeans get plenty of wear in my wardrobe. Darker to medium wash is kind of standard weekday fare for me, but I will regularly wear the bone pair too. I’ll dress them down with the Mott & Bow tee, or up with an OCBD and a Shetland sweater. They’re quite comfortable, too- so long as you can get the right fit.
Thigh widths, leg openings, and waist sizing seem to vary quite a bit across the models, even if they are called the same thing. It can be confusing to find exactly what you’re looking for. But again, when you do, you’ll get a well-made product that will last.
The chinos are comfortable, yes. And the selection of colors will work with just about any classic wardrobe. But, on my body, the taper is a touch aggressive and would require quite a bit of extra money in alterations.
The tees and polo have been quite good. I think a three-pack in the wide variety of colors is great value. The polo is well executed, especially in a collared tee hybrid difficult to pull off well. If anything, I’d recommend a slightly different button, even if it adds a dollar or two to the overall cost.
Bottom Line: Should You Buy Mott & Bow?
All in all, Mott & Bow has been a generally positive experience for me. I’ve found the jeans to be well-made and to fit me pretty well. However, the fit may not be the same for you, and I recommend looking intently at the product descriptions before ordering. The tees have started to integrate themselves more into my wardrobe, as has the polo. While I can appreciate a stretchy chino, the fit was just a little off for me.
I’d be curious as to what you think. Have you tried Mott & Bow? What was your experience?