When it comes to buying jeans, an interest in raw denim is what separates the experts from the novices. Much of this is down to the price; raw denim can be a few times more expensive than its usual counterpart and, unusually, this is despite the fact that less work goes into raw denim. Most fast fashion high street brands offer sanforized (ie: pre-washed) jeans, a process completed before the jeans are manufactured, which reduces the chances of shrinkage and binds the dye to the fabric.
By contrast, raw denim has not been pre-shrunk or pre-washed, leaving the buyer to do the hard work of breaking them in themselves; washing jeans too early can lead to a 10% reduction in size. But with plenty of myths surrounding raw denim littering the internet, how can you make sure that you are breaking in your raw denim the right way? We have the answers…
Buy your jeans a size smaller than you wear
One noticeable difference between raw denim and other high street jeans is its rigidity; this is down to the fact that it’s extremely starchy, which is what gives the jeans its unique creases with increased wear. This rigidity is what makes the jeans feel restrictive at first, but once the starch wears (or is washed) out, it will eventually expand.
Consequently, denim experts Mr Black recommend buying jeans a size smaller than your usual pair, as this will “ensure that they break the way you want them to”. While this may be uncomfortable to begin with, you should soon be able to notice them adapting to the shape of your body, and will ultimately be broken in after around six months.
Wear your jeans at any opportunity
While you might be proud of your latest purchase, the time it takes to break jeans means that you shouldn’t expect them to look exactly how you want them immediately. As such, some recommend wearing raw denim as often as possible, be it in bed, on your bike or around the house in general. As your jeans become more accustomed to your movements, they’ll start breaking to your own shape, and begin to look how you want them to.
If you’re wary of doing this, don’t forget that denim was originally designed as workwear rather than fashion; as Bespoke Post puts it, “hard consistent activity” is what will create the custom fades that will truly personalise the look of your jeans. Just be careful not to overwear them, as this will add some tear to your wear, and may even cause the dreaded crotch blowout.
Get your jeans wet
Received wisdom on raw denim is that you shouldn’t wash them for months, so as to avoid undoing all of the hard work you’ve put into customising them through wear. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your jeans wet to make it easier to wear them in the first place, and reduce the amount of time you need to spend breaking your jeans in to begin with.
You might feel a little strange or uncomfortable wearing your jeans in a warm bath, but this is actually recommended by some denim aficionados as a way of loosening the starch. If the weather is warm and you’re feeling particularly daring, you could even wear them straight out of the bath and head outside to begin breaking your jeans in. Of course, you can soak your jeans without wearing them—for roughly two hours—and then hang them to dry. Under no circumstances should you tumble dry denim, as this will damage the fabric.
While these three tips may shorten the process a little, the key to breaking in raw denim is patience. It might be hard to wait, but knowing that your jeans are going to look like no one else’s should be all the incentive you need to break your raw denim in the right way.