Denim designers have been striving to perfect that natural ‘worn-in’ look for years with myriad different washes and finishes, but nothing can match carrying out that ageing process yourself with a pair of raw denim jeans. Of course, it’s a process that can be a pain in the arse initially, as you go through the uncomfortable, rigid stage and avoid washing them for as long as possible. But once you pass that – and the indigo starts to wear off and natural creases start to form – you’re eventually left with something truly unique as a result of your hard graft and perseverance.
So once you’ve tracked down the ultimate pair, there’s a couple of things to bear in mind to guarantee your jeans age perfectly and last as long as possible. Notepads at the ready.
Wearing and Caring
Before you start rocking your fresh denim you need to establish whether they’re pre-shrunk – or sanforized as denim nerds like to call it – or not because if they aren’t, they will shrink both in the leg and waist as much as 1-2 inches the first time you wash them and therefore potentially ruining all those unique fades you’ve created.
However, if they aren’t pre-shrunk there are two options available for you: cold soaking and wearing them in the bathtub. Cold soaking is probably the less time consuming of the two options, plus it will also help to remove any excess indigo, which has a habit of rubbing off and destroying white shirts, tees, lightly coloured sneakers and furnishings.
But if you’re gagging to crack on with the fading process and can’t be bothered with sitting around in bathtubs in your jeans, then prepare for what can be a bloody uncomfortable period of a few weeks while you ‘break in’ your latest purchase. Obviously rocking a pair of trousers that feel like they’ve been made out of cardboard might not sound like the most fun you’ve ever had, but it’s this period where the initial results will be visible.
Ideally, you want to rock them as often as possible for at least 6 months before you consider introducing them to water and detergent. During that period, however, it’s likely they will develop a slight odour, which is easily curable through either popping them in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight or hanging them outside and allowing Mother Nature do her thing.
When the time finally arrives to wash your beloved raw denim jeans, it’s crucial to get the process right to avoid undoing the previous months of hard work. Hand-washing is the best method if you want to retain as much of the indigo as possible; stick to the following steps and you’ll be good as gold.
1. Fill a bath tub or suitable receptacle with around 3-4 inches of lukewarm water.
2. Mix in a small quantity of washing powder designed to lock in colour – think Woolite or similar. Whatever you do don’t use bleaches or run-of-the-mill detergents as these will cause irreparable damage.
3. Turn your jeans inside out and submerge them in the water using a couple of heavy objects so they don’t float and then leave them to soak for 30-45 minutes.
4. Remove from the bathtub and wash thoroughly with cold water to remove any detergent.
5. Stretch out the inseam while still wet and hang the jeans up-side down – outside if possible – until they’re completely dry.
Alternatively, if you can’t be arsed with hand-washing, then fling them in the washing machine on a delicates programme (nothing more than 40°), once again with a small amount of suitable washing powder. And whatever you do, don’t think about tumble-drying them. Always allow your jeans to dry naturally.
‘Crotch blowouts’ – aka holes caused by excessive wear and tear that form in the crotch area of your jeans- sound pretty severe, sure, but as long as you repair them early on you’ll avoid any major calamities further down the line. Most dry-cleaners will be able to take care of this by darning another piece of matching denim to the inside of the jeans to create an overall natural appearance.
So if you’re yet to entire the realm of raw denim and you’re keen to get involved with the fading process, then we’d recommend grabbing yourself a pair of the following:
Feature image from Pinterest