A Guide to Buying, Washing and Wearing Raw Denim

Featured in Denim Hunters Magazine!


Premium raw denim can be quite an investment, which is why proper care will ensure a long and healthy life for the jeans your girlfriend just said you were an idiot for purchasing. Below is a Q&A session with a highly qualified and fairly intense denim expert who has chosen to remain anonymous. Discussed are the different types of raw denim, what will work best for you and how to keep your denim healthy and looking great for many years. This will hopefully serve as somewhat of a starter guide to owning and enjoying your first pair of raw denim.


CUSTOMER: My girlfriend won’t stop yelling at me. She said $350 was too much to spend on a pair of jeans. What do I do?


EXPERT: This is one of our most common questions. Let’s look at it this way: high quality denim made by companies such as Roy, Iron Heart, The Flat Head, The Strike Gold, Real Japan Blues and many others are meticulously crafted and made to last much longer than your average pair of Levis, G-Star or Lucky Brand. Since jeans are a guy’s most commonly worn article of clothing, these denim companies go to great lengths using the finest materials and machines to help ensure a long life complete with unique and beautiful fades. The value attributed is similar to the purse or heels she spent the same amount of money on. So next time she brings it up just yell “OH YEAH?! TELL THAT TO YOUR CHANEL BAG!” then run away.


CUSTOMER: I just told her what you said about them being well crafted and she responded with “$50 Levis look well crafted to me.”


EXPERT: Just yell the Chanel thing and see what happens.


CUSTOMER: That did not go well. I’ve been hiding in my car for about a half hour now. Running was harder than I thought it would be, by the way. These jeans are so stiff. I think my knee is bleeding. What the hell?


EXPERT: Don’t worry, the more you run away from your problems the quicker your denim will stretch and soften. Insiders call it ‘The Forrest Gump Effect.’


CUSTOMER: Why is it called ‘raw?’


EXPERT: Great question! Anything else?


CUSTOMER: I was told to never wash my raw denim. Is this true?


EXPERT: No, this is a myth spread over the years by hardcore denim heads who believe only the deepest fades and contrasts will come from never letting a single drop of water or detergent anywhere near them. Never washing them is ultimately a preference. If you don’t wash them you can look forward to the following:

1.     Nobody wanting to share an Uber with you ever again.

2.     A sharp increase in stray dogs following you around your neighborhood.

3.     Your girlfriend finally leaving you.


CUSTOMER: If I don’t wash them and they start to smell can I just throw them in the freezer for a few days to kill the bacteria?


EXPERT: The only thing that will achieve is making your ice cube tray smell like your crotch.


CUSTOMER: Fine, I’ll carelessly throw them in a washing machine right now with a bunch of other clothes and see what happens.


EXPERT: NO, WAIT! I wasn’t done.


CUSTOMER: Oh, sorry. My bad. Now would probably be a good time to mention: I’m a millennial, so I have very little patience and an extremely short attention span. I also feel very offended right now for no other reason than it makes me feel important.


EXPERT: I apologize for offending you. Now, there is a right way and a wrong way to wash your raw denim as they do come in different forms, so read carefully:


Sanforized: In 1930, a dude named Sanford Lockwood Cluett realized he wasn’t man enough to wear untreated denim capable of sick ass fades so he created a shrink-to-fit machine that would stretch the denim while applying steam, water and heat to relax the fabric and take care of the initial shrinkage. He originally named his invention the ‘Boo Hoo Hoo My Jeans Hurt Process’ but later changed it to ‘Sanforization.’ Anyway, denim labeled ‘sanforized,’ or any denim that is not specifically labeled ‘unsanforized,’ ‘shrink-to-fit’ or ‘loomstate’ have gone through the aforementioned process before hitting the shelves. Upon first washing or soaking, shrinkage will be minimal (1% – 3%) so you can wear them for a couple weeks or months get your fades started then throw them in a washing machine for a light, cold to lukewarm water wash and hang dry them inside out. Always, always hang dry.


Unsanforized: This basically means your denim has not gone through the ‘Boo-Hoo-I’m-scared-of-being-a-man-shrink-to-fit’ process and once put in a washing machine or soaked could shrink fairly significantly in the waist, thighs and inseam. Most manufacturers recommend a tub soak for these upon purchase. Depending on how much ‘shrink to fit’ you care to achieve, the longer you soak them and warmer the water, the more they will shrink. The reason this process is recommended right away is because if you ever do need to wash them, the honeycombs you worked so hard to get from hours of riding your fixed gear to pretentious coffee bars and yoga studios in the Urban Outfitters theme park formerly known as Williamsburg will move from the back of your knee up to your mid thigh. You’ll essentially look like a guy who stole pre-worn jeans from a defenseless, yet really hip 11 year old.


EXPERT: Now, to recap: when you wash either sanforized or unsanforized denim how do you dry them?


CUSTOMER: Throw them on the floor and binge watch Netflix.


EXPERT: NO! HANG DRY! All right, now that you know the difference between sanforized, unsanforized and basic washing techniques, check out some intermediate to advanced ways to wash your jeans and get some great fades:



- Swim in the ocean for thirty minutes allowing the salt water to soak into your denim. Hang dry jeans.

- Buy a used Slip-N-Slide on eBay. Pour Fiji water on it and slide back and forth for one hour. Hang dry jeans.

- Get shot at with Super Soakers for two straight hours. Hang dry jeans.

- Fill a bathtub with coconut water (not from concentrate) and sit in the tub while wearing the jeans. Hang dry jeans.



- Wear them during gym workouts and long distance road cycling events.

- Wear them during sex.

- Wear them while you high kick the asshole who tried to take the last jar of organic locally sourced honey at your local farmers market.

- Get a weekend job unloading crates at a dock. Let your co-workers wear them on your days off.

- Join a backyard wrestling league and fight your way to a championship under the name ‘Denim Don.’ Retire from fighting and join the lecture circuit.

- Enlist in the armed services and wear them during a tour of combat.


EXPERT: Keep in mind, you can always call your local raw denim retailer to ask them what the best way to wash your denim before making an irreversible mistake. There are stores located all over: Self Edge has 4 locations in Portland, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, Blue in Green is located in New York, Woodlands in Portland, OR and Imogene + Willie in Nashville just to name a few. These places specialize in this stuff so it is literally their job to know every make and model they sell as well as inform you on how to make your jeans fit perfectly and comfortably. You still with me?


CUSTOMER: Netflix has the worst movies…




CUSTOMER: Oh, right. Sorry. Call your retailer with any questions and concerns. Got it. Hey why are the Japanese so obsessed with Americana and denim anyway?




CUSTOMER: I heard that guy Roy from Roy jeans lives in the woods in a cabin made of Horween leather and only eats berries and rivets. Is that true?


EXPERT: Do you believe everything you read on the internet?




EXPERT: Good. Because in this case that rumor is absolutely true. Much like this entire Q&A.