What is raw or dry denim?
Apr 1, 2011

To do this trend right you need to know how raw/dry denim works. Denim is unique in that its blue indigo dye does not fully penetrate the underlying white thread.  So imagine a dye that is caked on to the material, giving the appearance of blue, but which can be rubbed off when abraded revealing the lighter thread.  Obviously, the higher the concentration of dye, the darker the blue appears.

Because of this distinction, once the denim is mixed with water the dye will bleed.  To minimize impact to the consumer, most jeans manufacturer will pre-wash the denim to reduce shrinkage and contain the bleeding as well as chemically treat it to achieve a “distressed” look and fade.  Over the years the manufacturers have gotten this process down to a science, and consequently, each pair looks identical to the next.  An assembly line jean.

Raw/Dry Denim is denim that has not undergone factory pre-washing or fading.  It is denim in its pure state, a blank canvas if you will.  With use, the material will shift and crinkle, causing the dye to be displaced and revealing the light thread underneath.  The resulting fades and markings that come will be unique to the wearer, an imprint of the time spent in the jeans.  Pretty cool huh?

When buying a pair of Raw/Dry jeans, makes sure they are tight.  And we mean tight.   If the grunts and groans coming out of the dressing room do not cause concern, ask for a smaller size.   It should be like second skin.  It will feel stiff and “cast-like” at first, not to worry – with continued use it will expand and mold to your body.  In fact, over 2-3 months, you will probably gain at least an inch in the waist, so consider that before you go running for the treadmill.

To hasten this process, wear your jeans as often as possible.  Wear them around the house, biking to the grocery store, or salsa dancing on Saturday nights, the more unexpected the activity, the cooler the imprint.

Now for the cardinal rule: No washing your jeans.  Write this on your washing machine.  Tell it to your housekeeper.  Post it on your facebook status.  Nary shall your jeans and water meet (until necessary).  Ideally six months.   Your dog keeping his distance? You still have 4 months to go.  Friends and family staging an intervention? Not to fear, they’ll be back in 2 months.  Why?  The first six months is the crucial time when the dye is being displaced and settling in new areas, these creases and fades need time to develop and deepen.  If you wash your jeans too early, the dye that hasn’t had time to settle will bleed and spread across those faded areas, ruining that gorgeous contrast you’ve been harvesting.  Shudder.

To prolong its usability, air out your jeans in the sun or store it in the freezer for a night.  That should take care of odors.  If you need to remove a spot, dab it with a damp cloth (note that this will remove some of the indigo at that spot).  While unconventional, dedicated denim heads know that the longer you prolong the first wash, the cooler the outcome.  So go ahead and live your life in your jeans.  Just remember that the dye on unwashed dry denim will transfer, to your socks, underwear and other surfaces of contact.  So be careful when going in for a hug with mom or grinding with that hottie on the dance floor.  The ex’s brand new white sofa however, well… we’ll leave that up to you.


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