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Denim November, 27 2012

A Beginner’s Guide to Raw Denim

Continuing from where we left off in our history of Japanese denim, we head toward the oftentimes confusing world of “raw”, or “dry”, denim. The topic is no joke for those who have spent countless hours researching the best in raw denim, not to mention a tidy sum of money. Even so, there’s still plenty of educating to be done especially for people who have considered dropping a little extra money but hesitated at the last second due to not quite understanding the hype behind it.

Here we’ll start from the beginning and hopefully give those with a head full of raw denim knowledge a little something extra. Take a look below for the full article.

Like any topic involving subtleties and complexities, it’s necessary to understand the basics before heading off into more advanced territory. To begin, during a pair of jeans’ construction there is usually a step towards the end, once the denim has taken the form of jeans, where the final product is washed. This wash takes place after the dye is applied, meaning some of the dye runs off during this process.

Washing’s main purpose is to make each pair softer and reduce the amount of shrinkage after the wearer’s first wash. With a pair of washed denim, consumers know almost certainly how that pair will look and fit for the foreseeable future. Of course, more fading and stressing is bound to take place over the course of a pair’s life but not nearly to the same extent as raw denim.

Raw denim, on the other hand, skips the washing process entirely which is why the term “raw” is often used interchangeably with the term “dry”. Each pair is left with the dye clinging tightly to the cotton, leaving the jeans’ first wash to your discretion. Typically, the first wash will come after 6 months or a year of daily wear, although it’s not unheard of to let a pair go its entire life without a wash.

As mentioned earlier, the first wash sheds off a significant amount of dye which implicitly changes the color of the garment. In a pair of pre-washed denim, the jeans haven’t been worn yet so the dye comes off uniformly. Not so with raw denim. By the time the first wash rolls around, your jeans have become a veritable diary of your daily life. They’ve tread dirty city streets, trekked dusty mountain paths, sat bunched up in lecture halls and offices, and grinded against the rear of unwilling participants. Everything you’ve done – from your proudest moments to your most shameful – your raw pair of jeans has done.

Thus, when the time comes to wash a pair, careful measurements are taken to ensure that the fading to follow is a testament to the trials, triumphs, and tribulations of months past. To the staunchest raw denim enthusiasts, it’s akin to setting up a shrine and sacrificing months of passive devotion in order for each pair to be born anew. It is the caterpillar, with its alien body and slimy legs, becoming a butterfly with wing patterns unique unto itself. The fades, from the whiskers to the combs, are authentic and could only be born of he who chose to wait.

In short, raw denim is created as a “blank slate” for each wearer to carve his or her own life onto. While it often takes months or years of dedication, the end result is worth it in the form of a piece of clothing that is yours and yours alone. During the lifespan of a pair, the wearer and the wearee experience a reciprocal unconditional love rivaled only by the likes of a loyal pet.

If you don’t already own a pair we recommend checking out the offerings from A.P.C., Naked & Famous, EDWIN, 3sixteen, Cheap Monday, Acne, Levi’s, Nudie3×1, along with many others from all corners of the globe.

All images courtesy of Rawr Denim

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