A look at raw denim

Raw Denim

Lately I’ve been getting more and more interested in some non-tech topics such as photography and fashion. I’ll save photography for another blog post, so let’s talk a little about fashion today, specifically jeans. More specifically, raw denim.

I’d gone most of my life without really ever hearing the term “raw denim.” I think I’m not alone in this either. In our pre-fabricated consumer society, innovation (and laziness) has led us to an age where we really don’t have to maintain our possessions anymore. Cars have been reduced to just getting your oil changed every 3-5k miles. Pre-packaged/fast foods have made it so that you could probably go your entire life without having to know how a stove works. Clothing is now so cheap that it’s quite normal for people to go shopping every season for new clothes because their old clothes are already frayed or coming apart at the seams.

Up until a few months ago, I kept wondering why my jeans (which I wear every day) would end up becoming ultra soft only after a year. Looking into my closet now, I have about 5 pairs of banana republic relaxed fit jeans. Three of those are of the “ultra soft” texture I mentioned. Only the remaining two have any “crisp” left in them. Then I read up on jean maintenance and realized my aggressive cleanliness is what did them in. While reading up on the damage washing does to jeans, I found out about raw denim. So basically, towards the end of the jeans making process, the jeans have indigo applied to them, and are then washed, which removes a lot of the indigo and sets a very standard fade pattern. Raw denim just skips that wash step. The indigo is still mainly on the fabric while you wear them.

If you decide to wash them, the general rule is to wait about six months (to get a proper fade) and then it’s really just a matter of how far you’re willing to go. For normal people, you could probably just flip the jeans inside out, do a simple cold water wash with a tiny amount of detergent in the washer, and then hang dry them upside down. For the more hardcore people, you could fill up a bathtub with cold water, mix a little detergent in there, flip jeans inside out, put it in the tub weighing it down so that it’s totally submerged, leave it for around 45 min, rinse with cold water, and hang dry upside down.

There’s a process some manufacturers use known as sanforization that basically pre-shrinks the denim for you so it’s not so much of a shock when you first wash them. If you happen upon a pair of unsanforized raws, you are supposed to go through the ritual of pre-soaking them which entails you putting on your new pair of jeans and soaking yourself in a bathtub to pre-shrink them to your body. There is no end to the shenanigans people will go through in order to achieve the perfect fade. Some people have even given up on washing their jeans at all.

As for me, the reason I’m getting around to posting about this today is that my pair of Gustin #12 Charcoal, made out of┬ásanforized raw selvage denim from Japan, was finally delivered. After wearing them for the past 3 hours, I love them. It’s a great fit and they just feel so crisp! I’ll take some pics and try to document the experiment of my first fade. Thankfully I don’t have to pre-soak because I really didn’t feel like sitting in a tub with my jeans on, haha.