Sunday, May 13, 2012

Raw Denim: Separating Fact From Fiction and More

Raw denim. What is it and why should I care about it?  Ahhh very good questions oh faithful reader!

Raw denim is generally made with 100% cotton just like any other pair of jeans but most companies will source their cotton and mill it where the utmost quality can be maintained.  The United States and Japan are the largest suppliers of raw denim.  If you look in the picture above you'll see something called selvedge (self-edge). The white edge on the out seam is the selvedge and it is only found on denim woven on vintage shuttle looms.  These looms are no longer in production thus making raw selvedge denim much more rare and usually expensive.  I've also heard that the shuttle loom will form a tighter weave on the jeans making for a more durable product but I'm not sure if I really believe that...  here is a video of selvedge denim being woven:

With no real function, selvedge is more or less something to look kind of cool when you cuff your jeans.

The weight of the denim is also something to consider.  When you increase the weight you increase durability and rigidity.  Rigidity is important for forming creases which will turn into cool fades later on.  Anything less than 12oz (the weight is measured by the square yard) is considered fairly light for raw denim (a regular pair of generic 'mall jeans' would probably be around 8-10oz).  24oz is the heaviest I have ever seen and it was pretty much made as a joke by Naked & Famous.  They had to fix their sewing machines after every two pairs because it was so thick...

Now, remember when I said raw denim is unwashed?  Many people will not wash their raw denim as often as their regular clothes because the indigo (blue colour) will bleed in the wash causing them to fade quickly.  That being said, never washing raw denim is probably one of the biggest misunderstandings about it.  People often ask me, "What if they get dirty??" Then, I'll wash them... "what if they start to stink??" They don't, but if they did, wash them up!  A general rule of thumb is to not wash them for six months to allow creases to set in and for them to fade naturally to your body.  Washing them doesn't fade a whole lot but over time it will definitely affect the look of your jeans.

Also, methods for washing aren't complicated.  If you don't want to wash but you suspect they're getting kind of gross, get some Febreeze on them and just leave them outside for about a day.  If you're ready for a full on wash, toss them in the washing machine inside out with some Woolite Dark to preserve as much indigo as possible.  If you're tall like me and need all the length you can get, hang dry your jeans hanging from the leg openings (I just use chip clips hanging from the rack in my laundry room) so the weight of them will stretch back out to their previous length. Different denims will shrink differently in the wash so do some research first if shrinkage will be a problem.  Last but not least, NEVER machine dry your raw denim.  It will shrink quite a bit but a hot dryer will work out all the creases you've been trying to set in for the past few months!  Dryers also deteriorate cotton fabrics much quicker so to preserve the look and life of your jeans, always hang dry.

Enough talk, here's an example of a pair of my jeans.  Not the best photos but it does the trick.  A.P.C. Rescue worn for about a year and I washed them 4 or 5 times.  You can clearly see my phone and wallet fading the back pockets putting my own personal fingerprint on them.  Each pair will fade differently and will stretch out where your body needs it too making them extremely comfortable.

and this is what they looked like brand new:

Long story short, I like raw denim because it is almost like wearable art.  Each pair will fade into something uniquely yours.  They almost become a second skin after a few weeks and I have a hard time wearing anything else!

PLEASE comment if you think I'm weird, wrong or if you think raw denim is something cool you might want to get familiar with.  I'd love to answer any questions you have but hopefully this article helped some of you with this strange but awesome fashion trend.



  1. Won't everyone's unique 'wearable art' look the exact same with markings on the back of the knee, usually a wallet imprint or two (I've also heard of coins and keys), and a few other stretch marks where wear shows?

  2. I know what you mean but that's like saying, won't everyones jeans look the same because they're all blue? Similar perhaps but you'd probably be surprised at how drastically different they can turn out. Even if they are similar, it will be impossible to recreate a pair exactly. I have 6 pairs that all look very very different. Thanks for your comment!

  3. It is like saying that exactly, however, no one is callously referring to denim as akin to art. I understand a 'passion for fashion' so to speak, but don't go overboard and consider your ability to slip into sewn together slabs of cotton a manifestation of art or fashion.

  4. It's not my ability to slip into them that makes them art.... Why are jeans not considered fashion? How is fashion not art?

  5. art is in the eye of the beholder