April 14, 2018, Editors Note: Worse for Wear is closing its doors and stopping production on April 28, 2018 due to financial reasons.
If I could design the perfect motorcycle riding jeans and source them from a company that addresses all my needs—and the needs of my fellow female motorcycle riders as I know them—I’d be talking about Worse for Wear and the denim protective riding pants they make.
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Worse for Wear is the name of a Richmond, Virginia, based company that started making motorcycle riding pants for women two years ago. I believe the reason Worse for Wear’s pants and customer service are dialed in so right is because the company was started by a woman motorcycle rider herself who saw a need and addressed it. Plus, she’s a smart businesswoman. Thank you to Laura Smith for taking the risk and starting her own small business that’s transforming the women’s motorcycle apparel market.
Some History Here
I can make a bold statement like that—transforming the womens motorcycle apparel market—because I’ve been riding nearly 30 years and writing about women’s motorcycling gear for 20 of them. I’ve seen the modern evolution of riding apparel, and remember not so long ago when I sacrificed safety for style. If I wanted my legs protected while riding—protection meaning abrasion-resistant material and armor—I had two options: abrasion-resistant textile or leather pants with armor that made me look and feel bulky, or “overpants”— textile or leather pants worn over my regular jeans.
I, like many female motorcyclists, forgo the safety of my legs simply because I hate how I look in those bulky pants options. Even after I crashed my Harley-Davidson in 1997 while wearing Lee jeans—with a road rash scar and a repaired ACL on my left knee to show for it—all these years after Id still opt for my denim jeans because looking cute and cool was more important than protecting my legs. I’m just being honest here. Even me, Miss Motorcycle Journalist, wasn’t always practicing what I was preaching.
When a company would make some version of a protective riding jean, I would review it. Early protective denim pants were lined with patches of abrasion-resistant Kevlar, which made the pants bulky and too warm because of the thick protective liner.
So here we are today, me reviewing Worse for Wear jeans. It’s important I paint a picture of the past so you understand the impact (no pun intended) of the Worse for Wear pants that I’m excited about.
Comfort and Details of the CrossTown 4.0 Jeans
Crosstown is the product name of the jeans. The “yarn” or fiber that makes Worse for Wear jeans protect in a slide is called Armalith. With its roots in the aerospace industry, this “space-age” fabric provides up to 4 seconds of abrasion resistance in a continuous slide in the same location. That’s where the 4.0 designation in the name comes from. The fabric in the Worse for Wear jeans is a combination of Armalith wrapped in cotton with a little bit of elastane for stretch.
Before safety comes comfort. If the pants are not easy to wear, you’ll simply not want to ride in them. The Worse for Wear jeans are a bit stiff when brand new, kind of like new Carhartts or original Wranglers. But once you slide your legs into the Worse for Wear pants, squat down and move around in them the material loosens up. After several wears, once they’re broken in, the Crosstowns feel like a worn pair of jeans and are indeed quite comfortable to wear all day.
Worse for Wear offers two styles, the Curvy and the Slim. I chose the Slim, which are kind of like skinny jeans, meaning shaped to your legs, but with more room than a suck-me-tight yoga-pant fit. I find it’s best to have some “give” in your riding pants to move around on the motorcycle. Laura tells me the main difference between the Slim and Curvy is that the Curvy has a greater variance between the waist and hip measurement, something worth considering when you’re deciding which style will fit you best. Photos on Worse for Wear’s website show the difference.
Unlike other protective riding jeans that are lined with protective fabric only in the impact areas, the Crosstown jeans are entirely abrasion resistant, from waist down to ankle. I’ll admit, the first time wearing them while riding I had this weird sense that I wasn’t wearing protective pants at all because these are feel like I’m wearing regular blue jeans.
The only aspect that “reminded” me I was wearing protective pants was feeling the presence of the armor on my knee caps. The hip armor is so comfortable I could hardly sense it was there. So, yes, I opted to place both the knee and the hip armor inside the jeans (they come standard with the jeans) because what good is wearing protective pants without getting all the protection provided. I believe if I had been wearing these jeans when I crashed I may not have torn my ACL because the knee armor would have taken the impact. And because the fabric is abrasion resistant, these jeans would not have torn in the slide preventing my knee from getting road rash.
Overall fit of your riding pants is very important. If they gap where they shouldn’t, pinch where they’re not supposed to, and for me, make my already flat butt flatter, I’ll never want to wear them in spite of all the protection. I’ve found in all my years of wearing both expensive and cheap regular blue jeans, that the level of fit is in direct proportion to the price. Meaning, you get what you pay for. Cheap jeans means a cheap fit. Expensive jeans, I’ve found, make your figure look great, even enhance it, that’s why I spring for $150 Rock Revivals for my everyday jeans these days.
It’s a true science to make a good pair of well-fitting jeans, and then make that pattern work for a wide range of sizes. The fit of the Worse for Wear jeans is top notch. In every way. And yes, you’re paying for it, but we’ll talk about that later.
Great attention has been paid to getting the measurements just right. Laura and her team listen to all the feedback they get, and have fine tuned the fit over and over leading to the two styles they have today, the Curvy and the Slim.
In all the years I’ve been reviewing women’s motorcycle apparel, the comment I hear consistently is, “Well that gear works great for you, but most of us are not a size 4.” I totally agree, so I try to review gear with the widest range of sizes available, even having some of my friends who wear a larger size review the jacket or pants. What good is a piece of riding apparel if only a fraction of the women riding can wear it?
So, I applaud Worse for Wear for stocking pants up to a size 40 inch waist, and offering custom sizes as big as the customer needs. The largest size that’s been sewn for a customer is a 46-inch waist. No size is too big or too small for Worse for Wear.
The standard hem opening on both styles is a tight ankle cut, not a boot cut. The jeans don’t just slide off when removing them. I have to slip my forefinger under the hem at the heel to stretch it over my heel to pull the pant leg off. I asked Laura about this and she said you can custom order the hem opening size if you want it wider. The Curvy style has a larger hem opening than the Slim. My size 30 Slims have a 13-inch ankle opening.
Not only does Worse for Wear make a great product, but the customer service is top notch. Since the company is relatively new, Laura is still able to deal with each customer one on one, either through email or by phone, to ensure the customer is ordering the right size.
Shipping is free both ways, no matter how many times Laura has to adjust the size to get it right. She tells me she sends the customer a “fit kit” with wax chalk and safety pins, and will even have a customer take photos or do a Skype call to ensure the right measurements.
While the website offers “off the rack” pre-made sizes, Laura says she is still at a point with her business where she can customize each pair so it fits the customer’s unique measurements, and for a limited time that extra customization is the same price. As Worse for Wear grows, Laura will need to charge extra for custom orders. So I recommend taking advantage right now of the “hand-holding” Laura is still able to do with each one of her customers. She tells me, “For me it’s not about making the gear. It’s about servicing the women who are underserved and making sure what you get fits, and if it doesn’t fit, we work on it to make it right.”
What’s the Cost?
Hopefully, I’ve set up the success you’ll have with these jeans so there’s no way you’ll balk at the $379 price tag. Laura says, “We don’t compromise quality, and we don’t compete on price.” Savvy customers who care about the quality of the motorcycle apparel they wear and don’t mind investing in gear that will save their hide in a crash will understand this price.
Laura, a former software designer with Adobe who left the corporate world to follow her dream of making great motorcycle riding gear for women, risked it all to set up a full manufacturing facility in the U.S. while paying her employees a fair wage. She’s doing it the American way. She’s following her passion so all female riders can enjoy riding their motorcycle while wearing jeans that not only make them look awesome, but will also mitigate physical damage in a crash.
I have nothing invested in Laura other than wanting to ensure her success because after nearly 30 years of riding, it’s nice to see a company “getting it” and doing it right. Thank you, Laura, on behalf of all women riders. Now, let’s each contribute to making her business successful.
Visit WorseWear.com to learn more and to place an order.
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3 thoughts on Review: Worse for Wear Protective Motorcycle Jeans
It’s terrible news to hear that Worse for Wear is closing its doors and stopping production. I’m sure the higher price tag meant more challenging sales. I do hope they re-open in the future as larger women face many challenges finding gear that fits properly and that is protective.
Hey Valerie, thanks for the note! We’ll see you next week at Cornerstone Coffee!
Looking forward to seeing you in person, in Castro Valley, California. I would like to order these jeans!