Denim 102: The Relationship

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I can’t think of a better day to talk about relationships so that’s just what we’re going to do. Look down. How do your jeans look today? Do you still feel the same about them as you did when you first pulled them on at the Gap? Probably not, and if you do, you probably shouldn’t.

Last week we talked a little about fits, washes, and brands to look out for, but this week we’re going to delve deeper. We’re going to talk about why your choice of jean is so important, as Diesel says, for successful living.

Because denim is so pervasive in world fashion, it presents an amazing avenue for individual expression. With the bulk of the world wandering witlessly while wearing wrinkled wranglers, stepping out in a pair of well-seasoned Nudies will get you noticed. Of course, there are plenty of jeans that will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons, but it’s fairly easy to avoid those mistakes unless you’re blind or were home-schooled.


doing it wrong

The best denim is that which everyone will think looks good, but only other denim heads will truly appreciate. Think of it as a club, like when you see a sorority girl with her “It’s a JEEP thang!” bumper sticker, only classier.

Ready to take the plunge and put yourself out there? Looking to stop giving drawer space to an endless stream of losers and find the right pair? Ok then, let’s get some dry denim.

Dry denim (also called rigid or raw denim) is denim that has never been washed. It is heavily saturated with dye (usually indigo) and contains no distressing. It’s normally very stiff and will sometimes have a slight sheen. Look for pairs with selvage. Selvage is the end of the bolt of cloth and ties the jean together. Most jeans are chain-stitched together, but jeans produced on a narrow shuttle loom will use selvage. Selvage is almost always a sign of quality as the shuttle loom produces less denim and mistakes are more costly on it compared to modern production methods. Look for it inside the leg.



Why would I want to pay more for a jean I have to break in myself?

Because you can create distress patterns that are entirely unique and fit you perfectly. No two pair of dry denim will ever end up the same.

What is this relationship you speak of? I can’t even get a date!

Relationships take work. You need to invest a lot of time and emotion into them to make them successful. Your dry denim is no different. Unlike people however, your jeans won’t ever decide that they are bi and need to experiment with others or leave you for their…ahem…well…they won’t hurt you. Creating wear patterns takes some commitment, and this where the relationship begins. To have dry jeans come out looking their best, you’ll need to wear them almost daily for at least six months without washing them.

That’s disgusting, you’re disgusting, I’m going to Old Navy!

Hold up, Boss. Just because you’re not washing your jeans doesn’t mean you let them get terribly gross. You can certainly spot treat them when you spill things, bleed on them, or when any number of other fluids find their way to them. There is a certain sect of denim heads that frowns on this as it “takes away from the story” you’re creating with your jeans, but they’re pretty hardcore. I just use antimicrobial Febreeze on them and hang them dry. This works quite well.

Other than just wearing them for months, is there any other maintenance I should be doing?

Of course! This is a relationship remember? You can’t just let yourself go and expect things to work out. There are a couple easy things you can do to ensure bliss with your new jeans. You’ll want to get some starch to keep them nice and stiff. This will increase and help preserve the amount of whiskering on the lap and honeycombing behind the knee. The more prominent these areas are, the faster they will show wear. Also, dry jeans will stretch quite a bit. It’s advisable to buy them at least one size smaller than normal. It’s common that they will only come in one length (usually 34), and you’ll have to hem them. On the first wash they will shrink so plan accordingly.

If you’re diligent about wearing them, and man (or woman) enough to not wash them, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful custom denim that can say a lot about you. After all, they’ll have been through everything with you for the last half year. If these jeans could talk…

Here is one of my favorite after shots. These aren’t mine, but they are the exact pair of Evisu x Puma that I started working on in October and wrote about here last month. I hope mine turn out half as well.



For even more denim porn, head over to the Superfuture Superdenim forum. If you’re new to denim, the folks there will be a bit “advanced” for you, but there is a lot to learn there.

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