It is widely understood that owning the perfect pair of jeans is integral to living a full and happy life. Johannes and Alexander Graah recognized this from a young age and went on to establish Dr. Denim.
The brothers spent their formative years in Saltholmen, a small peninsula in the outskirts of Gothenburg, Sweden, where the sea is as blue as their eyes and the rocky coastline is as hardy and enduring as a good pair of jeans. They returned to their hometown nearly a decade ago to establish the Dr. Denim label, continuing a generations-old family business. Since then, they’ve provided scientifically impeccable denim for thousands of legs from Stockholm to Sydney and everywhere inbetween.
An interview with Dr. Denim founders Alex and Johannes Graah.
By Emily Bell
What were you like in high school?
Alexander: I think I was a pretty nice and likable guy. Halfway through high school I decided to get my act together, study my ass off and sort out my future (which coincided with an overnight switch to a mod phase, style-wise). As teenagers we had already started toying with the idea of building something together at some point down the line.
Johannes: I was highly focused, motivated and driven, studying more than average. My favourite subject was physics, more specifically, thermodynamics. I did a bit of snowboarding, played video games and developed a taste for beer. I’m still a beer person.
Did you ever go through any embarrassing fashion phases?
Alexander: I went through a very ‘streety’ phase during high school. I did a lot of skateboarding, BMXing and snowboarding, as well as various kinds of morally corrupt activity. Always in denim, I might add, even on the snowboard. I tried everything from dreadlocks to bleached hair... There was a period in the early 2000s where I went through a phase of wearing really strange shirts that weren’t my size. They were very loose and not in a good way. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not even going to show you a picture because I can’t stand the embarrassment. Fortunately for me this was before the age of social media so my tracks are covered.
Johannes: I went into dry denim at 15, stayed with unwashed until 16, had a short well-dressed period after that, and then I was really into Japanese denim qualities and fits. My embarrassing fashion phase was between the ages of 17 and 21 — it was a bit ‘look at me’ and too colourful.
Tell me about your first kiss; who, when, where...
Alexander: The first one that counts involves me, age 13, slightly drunk on folköl [beer] at an unauthorised party in the school yard on what was most likely a Friday or Saturday night. It was about as juvenile as it gets, but it still felt pretty romantic at the time.
Johannes: In Sweden we ask if we can ‘get a chance’ on each other before hooking up. I was 11, I think, and I had ‘chance’ on this girl who I was really scared of. We kissed once, but I freaked out and broke it off.
Your grandfather worked in a fisher y and spent much of his time by the sea. Do you also have a strong relationship with the ocean?
Alexander: I’d say we do. We grew up by the sea, literally next to it, so even though we don’t have a professional connection to the ocean we’ve always been doing stuff ranging from fishing to wakeboarding to scuba diving.
Johannes: For as long as I can recall I’ve been fascinated by the sea. My plan B was to become a marine biologist and make nature documentaries about the ocean. Perhaps I’ll still do this one day. We frequently scuba dive together; we even went diving at False Bay in South Africa where quite a few great whites reside. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure that it was a brilliant idea to dive without a cage, but we’re still here.
Dr. Denim’s ‘Old Jam’ line celebrates long lost icons of the past. Apart from your grandparents, who do you think wore denim best?
Johannes: Chuck Norris. he doesn’t wear clothing; he wears double denim.
What do you think is the best bit about being part of a family-owned business?
Alexander: Your job becomes so much more than just a professional role; it becomes a lifestyle. You get to work with people you know really well and care about. In our case, we have that plus a product that we’re passionate about. That is quite difficult to beat.
And the worst?
Johannes: All that goes wrong – and trust me, it can be quite a bit – ends up on our table. We have to deal with a lot of shit.
Dr. Denim’s philosophy is based around the idea that denim is the ultimate science. Can you explain how science comes into your design and development?
Alexander: Science is all about exploring new possibilities and turning established logic on its head. Sometimes it yields incremental improvements and other times there are bigger breakthroughs. either way, it’s about change and improvement through equal amounts of creativity, research and genius bordering on madness. And that’s roughly how we operate when we design — we start with a clean sheet, we try new ideas, we change constructions and approaches until we get an outcome that we feel is right.
I think that in this day and age there is no inappropriate place to wear denim. Do you agree?
Alexander: Yes, pretty much. It’s really all about how you wear it and being able to pull it off.
Finish this sentence: The perfect pair of jeans...
Alexander: Fits just right. At the end of the day, if the fit isn’t there no bells and whistles in the world will help.