As I’ve expressed a couple times here already – the quest for the perfect pair of raw denim is a passion of mine, as is the wearing in process that comes with each new pair. For those looking to get into the art of creating your own denim masterpiece, I’ve put together a brief guide for wearing in and eventually washing your new raw denim.
Firstly – when you first get your new jeans, it is worth checking if they’re sanfordized or not. Sanfordized is a term in the denim industry that describes pre-washing, meaning that when you get your jeans, they’ve already been washed to take the shrinkage out. If your jeans haven’t been Sanfordized, it will pay off to give them a pre-soak of your own before you wear them, otherwise you’ll wind up with fit issues following the first wash, not something you want after months of hard work.
Now that you’ve worked through the initial soak (or not), it’s time to start wearing the jeans. This is key: you must wear them. Wear them everywhere. At first, they will probably fit a bit tight. Keep wearing them. Wear them to bed, wear them around the house, wear them on your bike, wear them at work, wear them when you go out, just keep wearing them. Don’t worry about them starting to smell, they probably won’t (studies show that there is just as much bacteria on raw denim as on most other bits of clothing you own) but if they do you can just toss them in the freezer overnight or hang them outside inside-out for day and they’ll smell good as new. Once you get through the first few weeks, they’ll feel like you’ve been wearing them your whole life – this is good, but keep wearing them! Every single thing you do in those jeans will show up in the fade you end up with, they’ll wind up being a bit of a scrap book of your life. That little grass stain on the pocket from your date in the park, the nick on the hem from your bike, the wear of your wallet and phone, a discoloured patch from an unfortunate accident with a beer, each imperfection will tell a story. It’s likely that during the wearing in period, your jeans might suffer a few injuries (I’m personally on the 5th crotch repair on a much loved pair) – they’re well worth repairing, particularly getting them properly darned if you can find someone with the proper gear.
So, having now worn your jeans into perfection for a number of months (some say 6, some say 9, I say whenever your gut instinct tells you to, though please don’t let that be before 4 months or after a year) it’ll come time for the big wash. This is where your fades will start to really come into their own. At this point, there are a number of ways to go, including the basic wash, the saltwater wash, the ‘mom wash’ (that’s just throwing them in the laundry – I’m recommending against that). I’ll just cover the basic wash, as that’s by far the simplest way to go. Turn your jeans inside out, fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and add in your laundry detergent of choice (ideally one designed with dark colours in mind) and soak your denim for the next 45 minutes. When time is up, give them a good cold water rinse to get all the soap off and hang them cuffs up somewhere warm, ideally outside.
At this point you’ll have what denim aficionados would call a finished product, and what you do now is up to you. The jeans are only going to get better as you keep wearing them, but you’ll start to have to put a little more money into patching them up. The fades that you’ve got started in your first months wear will only be emphasized by time and wearing. The occasional hole or two gives a pair of jeans personality. Some of my favorites that I’ve seen pictures of are stitched up so much they’re nearly unrecognizable from where they started. Personally – I’ve always kept wearing mine until they do finally give out on me, but some people will swap over to a new pair at this point and start the process again. Of course, nothing here (except wearing the hell out of your jeans) is a steadfast rule, and there are many other places to look around the internet for other techniques and bits of advice. For my part though, I wish you and your jeans all the best in a long and happy relationship.