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Thread: "Raw" denim questions

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    "Raw" denim questions

    I have some questions about raw denim. Not the terms - I've figured out raw / sanfordized / selvedge, but some second-order things that seem to be obvious to others, but that I've missed. They fall into two categories:

    1. What's the appeal? Why are raw / raw-ish (washed, sandfordized, whatever) jeans better? Is it because the material is thicker / better-woven / less likely to be made by exploited laborers? Is it because the texture is shinier / starched-ier? Is it the fade-patterns that happen when crispy jeans crease? What else?

    I ask because some of those seem very appealing to me, while I couldn't care less about others. It's not clear to me that the age-marks are something I care about. I like better material e.t.c., and am willing to pay a little more for it, but I draw the line way before $100 for a pair of jeans (maybe I'm stupid. If I could buy them for $100, or $200, and wear no other pants for 6 months, and they'd still be good e.t.c., then perhaps it's a good buy).

    So I know most of the terms (those're easy to find), but the explanation of why the more-original / higher-maintenance attributes are desirable, beyond the shiny look and deep blue color, hasn't gotten through. Maybe because it's super-obvious? Even if it is, please make it explicit - if it makes me feel dumb, that's okay.

    2. Care / maintenance. So, I own a washing machine and a dryer. I wash everything that's machine washable, but I hang-dry shirts and pants. I consider myself pretty good at taking care of my clothes, and they tend to age pretty gracefully as a result. Apparently, when it comes to denim, I've stepped into some parallel universe where I'm a lazy clothes-destroying monster. I can get down with wash-on-cold, inside-out. I can even see washing-in-bathtub, if it's to minimize agitation, and hence dye-loss. Hang and spray with fabreeze is very hard not to giggle at, and while a clever way to kill bacteria that need to breathe, putting my jeans in a ziplock bag in the freezer overnight sounds very silly to me. The core idea being my perhaps-obsolete "jeans are tough workwear that can take lots of abuse. You can wear them until they're dirty / smelly because they're so tough, they don't wrinkle", which is totally at odds with these delicate cleaning / care instructions. How much of this is necessary, not to keep the garment from dying, but to preserve the whiskering e.t.c.? What would I be giving up by putting my jeans in the washing machine, turning them inside out, and washing them on cold, then hanging to dry? Does any of this apply to normal jeans? If I don't care about whiskering, and don't want to roll my cuff up, can I ignore these care instructions, or will that lead me to messed up, super-faded jeans in a few washings?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Some of your Qs were answered in PTO's great interview with the founder of Self Edge.
    Part I: http://putthison.com/post/4994026740...-wash-my-jeans
    Part II: http://putthison.com/post/5001764391...eans-and-other

  3. #3
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    For me the appeal of raw denim is largely about the fact that it has not been "distressed". When I was growing up, denim came stiff, and fresh, and took some breaking in to get comfortable, but the reward was that once broken in, there was nothing like a pair of well worn jeans. I remember washing my new jeans twice to soften them up before the first wear. Sometime in the 80s, stone washed finishes came around. They accelerated the break-in period, making jeans that were comfortable right from the first wear, and were wildly popular. After that distressed jeans became popular, and even "pre-torn". Distressing and "finishes" became so popular, that at some point it bacame really difficult to find a pair of jeans that weren't distressed.

    Here's the thing, all these processes that give denim that broken-in look and feel involve abrasives of one sort of another. The jeans come worn out before they've ever been worn. Many of them come with frayed edges and tears, which is where I start patching my jeans. While I do appreciate a pair of jeans that are well worn in, I don't want them worn out before I've ever even worn them. The other thing about it is there is no machine that can wear in a pair of jeans properly. as sophisticated as they've gotten at simulating nautral wear, the only way to get natural wear on a pair of jeans is by wearing them. So I prefer my fabrics (not just denim) to be new and pristine when I get them, and any wear on them should be from my wearing them.

    Now you don't need to go full "raw" to avoid buying worn out fabrics. Fortunately the fashions have come back around, and dark, undistressed denim is in again, so you can buy Levis 514, 505, 501, or gap jeans for instance in a nice dark undistressed finish, that is probably not raw, but only washed once anyway. I prefer raw, but could certainly live with this. The one raw denim that has always been available, but not necessarily easy to find in stores is Levis 501 STF. They run in the same range as other Levis 501, so you certainly don't need to pay a lot to get raw denim if you want it.

    Now if you want selvage denim (which is what a lot of the raw denim on the market theses days is) that is also raw, then you can be talking about a lot of money. This is where the higher quality denim comes into play. Some of the highest quality denims are selvage denims, but selvage doesn't neccessarily mean quality. It means it was woven on a narrow loom, and since it's more time consuming to produce than on the wider looms, it's not necessarily higher quality. Since selvage has come more and more into mainstream fashion in recent years, he demand for cheaper selvage has brought about some pretty cheap selvage. Gap used to use japanese denim for their selvage jeans, now they use selvage from an undisclosed source, and the last pair I had were made of the flimsiest denim I've had the misfortune of owning in decades.

    Anyway, there is a good deal of high quality denim coming out of Cone Mills White Oak plant in NC, as well as from any number of Japanese mills, but for the most part you will pay a premium for jeans made from that denim. I've been wanting it for years, and willing to pay a bit more for American made jeans from Japanese or Cone denim, but I couldn't afford $200ish, which is where that stuff seems to be priced. That's why I was so excited by Gustin, and why I've become such an unapologetic fanboy. To put it simply, they make exactly what I'd been wanting to buy and they do it, not cheaply exactly, but at a price I can afford and justify. I'm not sure what your priorities are, but for me American made is on the list, and quality craftsmanship that's built to last is at the top of the list.

    Anyway, if all you want is a pair of jeans you can break in yourself at a reasonable price, 501 STF are great. If you want high quality Denim and American craftsmanship, I highly recommend Gustin.

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    I totally agree with everything @Mattface said.

    The biggest appeal for me is that I controll the break in and the fading which really makes raw jeans you own. Oh sure, I love my Bananna Republic denim - it's soooo soft, but the break in is already done.

    As far as washing goes - I picked up a pair of Levi's STF on clearance at Kohl's for something to experiment with while waiting for my Gustin's. I started by using the bathtub method to see how it went (being shrink to fit, this is a necessary first step anyway). Very little fading occured and other than the original shrinking that is ment to happen they remained pretty much exactly as they were at purchase time. The biggest problem with this is that you now have extremely wet pants you have to get somewhere to hang dry, which took about 12 hours or so due to a particularly humid couple of days, and if you touch them or if the rub against anything while this wet the dye rubs off and turns everything blue.

    After wearing them off and on for a couple weeks, I turned them inside out and tossed them in the washing machine (high efficiency, quick cycle). The main thing I noticed after this wash - other than the clean, fresh scent - is that all the whiskering around the front pockets had flattened out. Also, they are now noticable lighter... not much, but enough to notice.

    Ultimately, I'd say it's up to you. If you really want to keep your raw denim dark and let the fades set in on their own, it's worth using a little care during the washing process and washing as infrequently as possible. If you don't care - just toss them in the washing machine. They aren't going to be ruined - you will just lose some of the dye (be sure to wash seperately)and creasing.

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KZWe0sYglc

    At around 8:36 or so, it shows how this pair of jeans goes through the "distressing process." It's a pretty interesting watch.

    I've been really looking into raw selvage denim too. I'm really looking into Gustin too, but I don't think I'd want to wait 3 months for shipment (still, I'm really tempted with Gustin's Japan Classic). I found a bunch of Naked and Famous jeans at Nordstrom Rack for $70, but I couldn't find any basic indigo-colored jeans. I've heard a lot of good things about N&F, so you could probably check your local rack.

    I'm really attracted to raw denim, and as a beginner, I don't think I'm going to be going too crazy with the washing (probably just a cold wash inside out in the washer). Maybe eventually, as I learn to appreciate raw denim more, I'll be more careful, but I think it'll be fine.

    My major concern, as jertanner said, is with the dye bleeding through.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jertanner View Post
    I totally agree with everything @Mattface said.

    The biggest appeal for me is that I controll the break in and the fading which really makes raw jeans you own. Oh sure, I love my Bananna Republic denim - it's soooo soft, but the break in is already done.

    As far as washing goes - I picked up a pair of Levi's STF on clearance at Kohl's for something to experiment with while waiting for my Gustin's. I started by using the bathtub method to see how it went (being shrink to fit, this is a necessary first step anyway). Very little fading occured and other than the original shrinking that is ment to happen they remained pretty much exactly as they were at purchase time. The biggest problem with this is that you now have extremely wet pants you have to get somewhere to hang dry, which took about 12 hours or so due to a particularly humid couple of days, and if you touch them or if the rub against anything while this wet the dye rubs off and turns everything blue.

    After wearing them off and on for a couple weeks, I turned them inside out and tossed them in the washing machine (high efficiency, quick cycle). The main thing I noticed after this wash - other than the clean, fresh scent - is that all the whiskering around the front pockets had flattened out. Also, they are now noticable lighter... not much, but enough to notice.

    Ultimately, I'd say it's up to you. If you really want to keep your raw denim dark and let the fades set in on their own, it's worth using a little care during the washing process and washing as infrequently as possible. If you don't care - just toss them in the washing machine. They aren't going to be ruined - you will just lose some of the dye (be sure to wash seperately)and creasing.
    Second on the BR jeans. I have a pair in their vintage straight fit and love them. And with their 40%/50% coupons, well priced.

    Never got into the raw thing. Might pick up a pair of STF this winter to see what it's all about. I've heard great things about Gustin jeans, but still am skeptical about putting cash down on something I can't try on first.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by stension View Post
    but still am skeptical about putting cash down on something I can't try on first.
    Wait for the Mr Porter sale then. It should start in about 2 months. Free shipping both ways. It starts at 50% off, then goes up to 80%. No guarantee what will be offered, but I've gotten 2 pairs of Edwins from them, one of which still has tags on.
    http://www.mrporter.com/Shop/Clothin...asc&viewall=on

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    Another option if you are looking to get into raw/selvedge denim but don't want to spend too much is Unbranded which are available at Nordstrom so you can actually try them on (if there's a Nordstrom near you).
    http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/the-unbr...-undefined_1_B

    These go for around $80, which, while still quite a bit, is nothing compared to many of the other options. I don't personally have any experience with them but the folks over at rawrdenim.com have covered them several times:
    http://www.rawrdenim.com/tag/unbranded-2/

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