How to wash and wear raw denim

||- Begin Content -||

People get in a real muddle over raw denim. A reader commented a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t like it because ‘you’re never allowed to wash it’. 

Of course you can wash raw denim. You might want to wash it less, at the start, but it’s fine if you don’t. It just has different results. And no matter how much you wash it, you’ll still get many advantages over regular, washed jeans. 

So where does this confusion come from, and how often - plus how fast, how hot etc - should someone be washing their jeans?

Let’s start by explaining the advantages of raw denim, so we understand why people take such extreme approaches to it. 

Raw denim moulds

By wearing jeans from raw, you mould them a little to your body. They take on a three-dimensional shape that means they fit better, contouring to your waist, hips and seat. 

The extent of this can be exaggerated. They don’t form an armour-like cast around your legs, and the effect reduces as the jeans are washed and worn. 

But for a long time, the fit is very different to what you get in pre-washed, pre-distressed jeans. The material shapes to you in a way nothing else does - which it should be noted, is a pleasure in other areas of menswear too, such as horsehide jackets or structured tailoring. 

The authenticity of fading

The other advantage - and this one only gets better with time - is that the fading of the jeans comes from your wear and tear, rather than someone wielding a sandblaster.

This fading is a huge part of jeans' appeal - it might be the most widespread, universal appreciation humanity has for old-looking clothes.

With raw denim, all the fading lines are yours - not fake. The fade on the thigh, the ‘honeycomb’ on the back of the knee, the ‘whiskers’ on the front: all of it makes a personal pattern that makes your jeans unique.

Why buy vintage jeans then? Surely that removes all of that personal aspect?

True, but vintage jeans are still unique. There’s no other pair like them in the world - unlike the ones all blasted to the same pretend fades. There is an authenticity about them that must, surely, resonate with PS readers, plus anyone else that appreciates craft. 

Most artificial fades are also just bad. They look fake. And because the distressing is worse on cheap jeans, it makes them look cheap too. 

There is better, individual distressing available of course - often from Japanese brands - but it’s still not personal or authentic. 

What effects do you want?

So, the reason many denim enthusiasts don’t wash their jeans is they want to enhance these effects. They want to mould them as much as possible, and for that mould not to be washed out. They want as much whiskering and honeycombing as possible too. 

As a result, many brands suggest not washing them for months. Or only doing so when they get smelly (and even then you can put them in the freezer, to kill the bacteria). 

Personally, I tend to wash them after a few weeks. Which might mean 15 or 20 wears.

But you can also wash them immediately. A quick rinse (short, low spin, no detergent) will remove some of the starch and stiffness, and make them a lot easier to wear. Soaking them in the bath achieves something similar. 

And you can give them a normal wash too, if you want. You’ll still get a lot of authentic fading and moulding, and they'll always feel different from completely washed RTW ones, which hang more like trousers. 

Raw denim shrinks - and expands

The other area that gets people exercised is shrinkage. 

The thing about raw (sanforised) denim is that it both shrinks and it grows. In a good way. When you wash it, the jeans have shrunk a little bit and feel tighter. But as you wear them, they grow in the places your body pushes at them - and therefore they need to grow. This is another factor in their comfort. 

(The only place to watch out for that growing is in the waistband. After you’ve washed jeans, it's worth wearing them the first time with a belt cinched tight, to stop the waistband expanding. I want that the stay tight, usually, and only other areas like the seat, hips etc to expand.)

On a recent article, again readers were saying that some shops advise them to buy jeans tight, others to buy them loose. Most of the time, just buy the right size (see Clutch guide here). They will shrink a little and then grow a little, as required. 

Part of the confusion also comes from not distinguishing between sanforised and unsanforised denim. Sanforised denim is pre-shrunk, whereas unsanforised is not. The latter can shrink by a lot, up to 8-10%, and it is this that led to all the shrink-to-fit practices and obsessions.

There is an argument that unsanforised ages even more nicely - but for most people I'd put this in the same category as those washing practices. It's not a level you need to get to, or will probably even appreciate.

Also, note that all denims vary a bit in how much they shrink. So always check with the seller that they think you are buying correctly. Any good retailer will know exactly how much each denim shrinks. Indeed, they might even have a table showing that - like Bryceland’s does.

Even then, this shrinkage mostly affects the length. Large amounts of shrinkage can affect the top block, but mostly it’s a question of whether they’ll lose one inch or two inches over the first two or three washes. 

And if you want to avoid any of this uncertainty, you can buy once-washed styles. Again, you'll still get most of the feel and characteristics of raw denim.

Getting mid-blue jeans from raw

OK, a few other small points that I know readers have asked about. 

There is a trend today for paler colours of jeans, rather than deep indigo. The problem here is that those paler colours only come from raw denim after many washes. 

But it does happen - it might mean 20 washes rather than 5, but it will happen. (See example above, after 20 washes, from Superstitch.)

Just make sure the original denim is slightly more of a mid-blue, and perhaps wash the jeans frequently at the start, then slow down (or even stop, freeze) when you have your perfect colour. 

How to wash

Second question, how exactly do I wash the jeans? Generally the recommendation is:

  • on cool, 30 degrees (stops all the shrinkage coming out quickly)
  • inside out (makes the colour stay longer)
  • with a low spin (prevents unwanted fold marks)
  • and then hang dry (stops extra shrinkage that can come from a tumble dryer)

But. You can change these things if you want a different effect.

If you want the jeans to fade faster, use more detergent and don’t wash them inside out. If you want them to shrink more (eg they have become a little baggy) then wash on a higher temperature and then tumble dry (perhaps taking out just a little damp, to prevent fold marks).

I think that’s it. Do shout if I’ve missed anything. 

My overarching point is: don’t be afraid of raw denim. It’s not as trendy as it used to be, and I see more guys going for the easy option of pre-washed jeans. But it's authentic and beautiful, and you don’t have to obsessive about denim to wear it. 

You can find the right size in a once-washed pair - and wash them whenever you need to - and still get many of the same pleasures. And, those pleasures are ones PS readers should appreciate: good material that ages beautifully, that has a particular authenticity, that only gets better the longer you have it. 

Plus, remember jeans don't have to be perfect. A little sloppiness here or there is part of the aesthetic, and if they need alterations along the way, all the better. As we detailed recently, that's not that hard to do.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Hi Simon. I certainly see the appeal of both the fit and unique fading that can be achieved with raw denim; however, I have always been concerned about the transfer of indigo onto clothing, suede shoes and furniture. Do you have any thoughts on this issue?


Interesting you’ve never had that problem. I found that even with plain Levi’s 501 in the darkest wash, they bleed a fair amount. Back in the days when I was younger and white sneakers was all I wore, the classic trick of duck taping the inside of the hem to protect the shoes was mandatory. I’ve also dry cleaned my fair share of sofa cushions and white shirts due to darker denims, not even raw denim.

Nowadays I rarely wear jeans. I worn the one pair, mid wash from Uniqlo. I’ve tried raw denims on but they’re just too stiff and uncomfortable, and the maintenance just seem to much of a hassle to be bothered with.
Each to his/her own I suppose.

Ed shepherd

Once you break them in. TheKy become the most comfortable jeans in the world because remember they are made out of cotton. Not just any cotton. My momotaro jeans are made with Zimbabwean cotton! Its the softest jeans I’ve ever felt in my life and they are heavier than most jeans coming in at 15.7oz.Everybody knows when the Japanese make something with such high quality. Just look at the cars with the highest resale value are? Toyota and honda. Its not faded glory from walhmart!

Ed shepherd

The Maintenance? There is none! Its the most rugged piece of work wear fabric you can buy!It last a life time! The oldest pair of levis sold for $76,000.00 smokers and that’s just one pair! Those were thrown in a hole in the dirt also know as mines or caves. What maintenance? Wash when ever you get really really dirty! Your jeans your call! Ha maintenance is what you need a bath tub with bubbles lmao!


I find this varies considerably with the particular denim. My latest Blackhorse Lane pair of bled quite a bit, and it can be alarming to see the indigo build up on the trims of jackets and knitwear. I am pleased to say, though, in my experience, the indigo is as easily removed/washed off again as it is imparted in the first place. Worth being mindful until you reach at least the first wash, as Simon says, and the seller will hopefully be able to advise on their denim’s potential for bleeding.

Robert M

As Josh said, it varies a lot. My BHL pair didn’t bleed at all (but it was in a lighter colour to start with), but one time I bought a pair from another company (I think it was Joop! I found in TK Maxx) that I believe must have just been faulty. It bled all the time, even after a few washes and two soaks. I guess they really overdid it on the dye. Ultimately I got rid of it because it was unbearable. It was my first pair of “real” jeans, what a disappointing experience. Thankfully it didn’t keep me from buying BHL because they are great.


Great article, thanks Simon.

One thing to note is that putting jeans in freezer actually does not kill the bacteria. Most germs can survive freezing temperature – they just become inactive (or hibernated). When the jeans are taken out and warm up to normal temperature, so does the bacteria. It might get rid of the smell temporarily (since moisture is removed from the low temperature) but for best hygiene it’s still preferable to soak them in water with detergent.


Robert, How do you know this is true? I tried the freezer method multiple times I’ve never had the smell comeback.

Loc Ngo

If you concerned about indigo transfer onto clothing, shoes and furniture, pre soak your raw denim in cold water mix with white vinegar for about 1 hour then rinse 2-3 times with cold water and hang them to dry. This method will help to wash out excess indigo and the vinegar will help to keep the indigo in the fabric (slower fading though).


Agreed. Vinegar is great on denim color bleed.

Matthew V

I coincidentally washed my BLA jeans yesterday for the second time… I was straightening them out to remove some post wash creases, and then noticed my indigo dyed fingers!


yeah definitely need to watch out for that. my jeans bled on some canvas bags i used to carry as they would occasionally rub against my leg. easily wiped/washed though.

Tommy Mack

Really helpful thanks. I’m planning on visiting Blackhorse Lane when lockdown restrictions are lifted. I’d heard all sorts of raw denim myths like “don’t wash them for six months” so good to know how to look after them properly!


my favourite is the ‘wear them into sea water’ ritual.


Like the suggestion to wear the jeans firstly with a tight belt after a wash to prevent the waist band growing too much.


Denim heads are a cultish bunch. You know who can tell if the wrinkles on your jeans are from wearing them or from the wash? You and you alone, and maybe 1/2 of the time. I like raw denim ’cause I like my denim dark. So I don’t wash them—until I do. They’re jeans. Relax.

Omar Asif

Hi Simon
How about sanforised denim? I don’t believe it has the same effect as once washed?

Andrew Eckhardt

Hi Omar,

My understanding is that most of the denim we can get our hands on has been sanforized. I assume Simon’s jeans are sanforized as well, though perhaps I’m mistaken. Unsanforized denim (sometimes called shrink to fit) shrinks about 10% after the first wash, compared with 2% to 3% for sanforized. Thus unsanforized denim is rarely used.

I’ve worn sanforized raw selvedge jeans for the last eight years, and both pairs I’ve owned have faded and molded quite nicely, before and after washing. I don’t know why one would desire unsanforized denim, save to satisfy an interest in historical anachronisms. But I’ve never owned unsanforized denim, so please take this opinion with a grain of salt.



I have worn both sanforized and unsaforized denim and I enjoyed both but for different reasons. The unsaforized pair I got was specifically cut in a way that the top block had much more room to accommodate my larger thighs. So I bought one size larger and shrunk them down to a slimmer fit, however they then stretched in the same areas in the top block to basically split the difference which is exactly what I wanted!

chris k

Interesting post Simon, timely and appropriate as well as I’d imagine lots of us have been getting more wear out of our denim recently. I know certainly I’m wearing it most days.

I suppose it’s all a question of taste and style, but personally I’m always making an effort to keep my denim as dark as possible, for as long as possible. Even with wearing and multiple washes (kept to a hygienic minimal) I still prefer to keep some of that depth and colour, so mid blue is about as light as my denim gets. I just can’t see myself buying pre washed denim ever again at this point, regardless of trends.

Interestingly, as you buy and own more pairs of raw denim, it’s much easier to always have a darker pair to reach for should the occasion call for it. I’m in the process of building a collection now to rotate, and keeping them dark is certainly a motivation for that.

My best,


A superb, clear piece; it‘s great to have some PS pragmatism on a topic that has seen a lot of brand- and hype-induced distortion, though the more extreme guidance to never or minimally wash raw denim has its own logic, as you explain. Further to this particular debate, I read once somewhere that not washing jeans for that long can actually cause such a buildup of skin oil and bacteria that it weakens the crotch and makes rips and blowouts far more likely. The same piece also highlighted that, of course, denim in its original, historical workwear context would absolutely have been washed regularly and without a second thought.

The tips on achieving a mid-blue from raw and protecting the waistband from stretching, post-wash, were new and enlightening to me. Cheers


To be honest I’m not a fan of the look of washed denim. I can see the appeal it might have to some and some wear it pretty nicely. However I prefer the crisp look of unwashed raw-denim. Therefore I avoid washing them at all cost. I stick them in the fridge if they begin to smell and hand-wash them only if the fridge doesn’t work anymore. I’m always surprised how much color comes out as you really see the water darken. After 2 or 3 years of wear I buy a new pair and give the old one to my brother. Am I a snob?


Thank you for the suggestion about dry cleaning. I will give that a shot.
Well I’d never throw away a piece of clothing that still can be of use!


Hiut denim occasionally due short runs of stay dark denim. I have a pair using Candiani denim and I have to say, they’ve maintained their colour very well after repeated washes.


Hi Simon,
A really useful (myth busting!) article. Can you suggest any uk based retailers that sell one wash raw denim?
Thanks again for the thrice weekly read , always something interesting.


Levis LVC line has a ‘Rinsed’ washed which is single wash if im not mistaken.


I know you wouldn’t use a detergent for whites as it contains optical brighteners but do you recommend any particular detergent? Or would any detergent for colours be fine for washing raw denim?


Try woolite dark. Fantastic stuff.


Hey, Simon.

What do you think of dark denim that is more like tailoring in terms of style and fit, such as a lack of contrast stitching, no visible hemming, higher rise, etc? You always talk about how comfort is immensely subjective so I’m sure you can appreciate when I say that the way jeans hold, wear and look on my body makes me uncomfortable as opposed to how I feel when wearing more tailored dress pants. I’d like to experiment more with demin as as a fabric but typical “jeans” as a style and fit don’t agree with me. Do you think it’s worth looking for more dressy/tailored jeans or would the material and the styling simply be too jarring and contradictory a combination?


Paul Kruize

When waiting a long time washing your jeans the contrast may be even stronger once you wash them. The wear fades come up when the indigo washes out. Sometimes the best way to keep jeans dark is to wash early, low temp and dark detergent of course. After one or several washes most bleeding will be done and the dark (a bit less dark) colour will be more consistent. So if you want your jeans to remain a bit more even in colour and dark you will have to wash.

Gary Mitchell

I have been wearing (mostly Japanese) selvedge/raw denim for longer than I can recall, I must have 30 pair in the wardrobe although, as with most things, my favourites get most of the wear. I seek out the best of denim regardless of obstacles and have a very strict washing process (albeit, living less then 50 metres from it I don’t rinse them in the Indian ocean). My washing process has always worked for me and always produced, over time, some great fades, if anyone wants to copy it then here it is:
1 – Wear the jeans until you feel they are dirty (this can be anywhere from 1 – 10 days)
2 – Wash the jeans (I use a Zanussi on a low temp (40 degrees) wash I think
3 – Dry them (they normally go on the washing line outside)
4 – Iron if you feel inclined, although no ‘creases’ That would just be wrong on many levels (a bit like crime in a multi-story car park)
4 – Wear the jeans until you feel they are dirty and repeat process
5 – On all accounts ‘dont sweat it, regardless of cost/rarity they are only jeans so wear, wash, repeat and enjoy.

No sarcasm intended but truly its all ok and nobody should ever get concerned about the raw denim washing issue, because its not.


Thanks for this. I’d fallen for the “don’t-wash-for-6months-and-then-wash-in-the-bath-in-lukewarm-water-moving-them-as-little-as-possible. Weigh-them-down-with-tins-of-food.”

I’d done all that and it made no difference. I like this taken from Joe and Co’s website for their denim:

“There are many forums and websites claiming that, to stop your jeans from smelling after long periods of wear, you should put them in the freezer, hang them in the airing room, wash them in the sea, wash them after 6 months and so on……. THIS IS RUBBISH!

Get your first wash out of the way and then take it from here………. WASH THEM WHEN THEY’RE DIRTY. It really is that simple. You will still get the amazing fades you require and a much longer lasting pair of jeans.”

I’m annoyed that I fell for the marketing hype of British made jeans that I still wear. I will take your advice, and that of Joe and Co, to look after my selvedge denim from now on (and probably save water by not using bath tubs full of water to wash and rinse them!)


You mentioned bath, are you referring to the getting into a bath wearing them as we used to do in the 70s.


Hi Neil…. yes worth clarifying… no, not actually worn in the bath a la 1970s… just washed inside out.

Peter Hall

Definitely worn in the bath, Rich. I remember doing this in my early teens(70s).

Gus Walbolt

When I get a pair of raw or one-wash jeans, the first thing I do is to wear them outside for heavy yard work for one or two days. This sets natural fade lines and helps to remove the excess indigo from points of contact (especially the knees, seat, pockets and cuffs). I then wash on cold and hang to dry 2X so that I don’t have to be concerned about color transfer to furniture or suede shoes or white shirts. I wash after every few wears after that inside out on cold. I have jeans that are 10-15+ years old. When they get holes I send them to the Levis tailoring shop for patches and darning. Vintage dealers ask me if they can buy my jeans.


Following on Gus’ advice, I wear new raws on a good like hike. Between sweat, the bending and climbing and the occasional contact with branches, rocks, etc., the fade lines become relatively pronounced quickly. Then I wear them until they smell and/or are dirty and wash on cold and actually do put them in the dryer on Low. After this, I wear them normally and wash them every 3-6 wears (or when they smell). Like Gus, my jeans end up lasting years – my favorite pair are 3sixteen ST-100s from 2009/2010 which probably are worn 50-60x per year and look fantastic. Great fades, comfy as all get out and some slight fraying at the cuffs, the cuff roll and inseam. As many have said, it’s denim, don’t fret. Wear ‘em, wash ‘em and enjoy ‘em.


The freezer thing is a myth. No home freezer is cold enough to do anything more than briefly make the bacteria hibernate. They’ll go right back to smelling.


Agreed! Hower vodka does work to take out stubborn smells from beater shoes and to a lesser extent, clothes… I’m assuming spirit kills bacteria!


Hi Simon,

Two things:

1. Another key point is that raw denim is far more DURABLE than artificially distressed denim, as the latter is, well, distressed.

2. Have you ever tried unsanforized denim? I know Lot 1 and Blackhorse Lane are both sanforized, so I wasn’t sure. If not, you should give it a try – it’s a whole other layer that REALLY allows the denim to mold to your body. Also, it’s my experience that unsanforized denim can be meaningfully more characterful than sanforized.




You should give it a try, if only once. Nothing like sitting in a hot bathtub for an hour with a pair of jeans on!


Love it. Raw denim was my first actual foray into approaching clothes at the PS level few years ago.

It’s interesting to see the geographic contrast in brands you discuss — while raw denim isn’t exactly “mainstream” anywhere, in Canada you’re much more likely to see people talking about brands like Naked & Famous, Rogue Territory, or the classic Japanese brands like Studio d’Artisan than Blackhorse (though I’d love to BHL stocked over here).

Also perhaps worth mentioning: If someone’s new to this and they love lighter washes, there are lots of brands doing interesting washes and different dyeing techniques, at the same calibre as the raw denim they produce. N&F always has seasonal collections of interesting experimental fabrics and construction, though most probably wouldn’t appeal to the average PS reader. Either way, the world of “raw-adjacent” denim has a lot of non-raw options that are still miles ahead in terms of quality and environmental footprint of what you would get from a hyped-up fast fashion brand, and in my opinion is just as worth exploring if you love denim but the raw look isn’t for you.


Simon- one thing you’ve missed- a discussion on sanforization. You’ve covered all the other bases.

“Sanforization is a process of pre-shrinking fabric before it is made into a garment.”
Shrinkage from a sanforized pair will be around 3%, maybe less, maybe a bit more. Unsanforized pairs will see around 7% and up.
Lizzie Radcliffe gave a recent interview and mentioned that Lot 1 London uses exclusively sanforized denims. Makes sense, as after stretch from wear sanforized pairs will be mostly restored to their original raw measurements- easier to predict fit. But there is a whole other world of denim out there- I just did a quick click through of the Clutch website, and saw over 5 pairs made from unsanforized denim just in the first few rows of their 2 page product lineup. If you’re aiming for a comprehensive article on jeans this can’t be ignored.
As unsanforized denim has substantial shrinkage, you need to size up. That’s where the idea comes from- think “shrink-to-fit.” They shouldn’t be worn raw… after the first wash the fit won’t really resemble what you’ve begun with. Most makers use post shrink measurements as a guide for tag size, but it’s always good to ask questions about these things before buying a pair of jeans.
Wearing sanforized denim raw to get a very exaggerated wear pattern is a recent phenomenon, attributable to the APC craze of the 2000s. Shrink-to-fit unsanforized denim has a much longer tradition.


My jeans became too large in the waist so I increased the wash temperature to shrink them. Regrettably, they shrunk in length greatly more and I’ve lost the extra length I liked. Does anyone have any tips to lengthen them again? I’ve read using baby shampoo and stretching from below the knee is an option. Let me know 🙂


Hi Simon, how does all this effect – or even compromise – the value of buying MTM/bespoke jeans in raw denim, such as Levi’s Lot 1, or Blackhorse Lane’s MTM service?

Given the shrinking/expansion process with washing/wearing, does this compromise the precision that has gone into making a bespoke pair? I am very tempted by a pair of Lot 1’s, but am considering to what extent raw denim’s ever-changing nature might compromise that.

Many thanks.

Rafael Ebron Take a bath with them on. Easy 🙂 Roy jeans are cool if you can get them. I have a few pairs.


Hi Simon, thanks for the article.

I only have one pair of jeans (mainly because my job involves sitting all day and chinos are a more comfortable casual alternative for me) which happens to be a raw denim pair from Albam. I’ve had it for around seven years and it’s now a mid blue sort of colour. I want a new pair that should remain as dark as possible as I think it works best with soft tailoring. Should I go for raw denim and wash early as suggested here or best to buy a one wash pair ?


Hi Simon,
Thank you for this great post dedicated to this iconic piece of menswear! Upon reading it, it eventually dawned on me that actually there’s a worldwide community of Denim enthusiasts! And that insight reminded me hearing once a diplomat confessing what stunned him the first time he met the late Anatoly Dobrynin who was the long time Soviet Union’s ambassador to the US. He said he was wearing a pair of … denim!
Please, could you tell me why alterations on Jeans are hard to make? Does it mean that the machines used to make them are different from the ones we usually see at our tailors’ shops?

Andrew Lawrence

Freezing won’t kill most bacteria, in a home freezer, or any other freezer. In laboratories, bacteria are frozen below -80 for storage!!

White vinegar soak kills bacteria and preserves the color. Personally, I wash my jeans at 20C with Woolite, after every 2-3 wear, but then I mostly wear jeans for gardening or during weekend outings/shopping trips.


Thank you for this great article. My question is, if you don’t iron or tumble dry them a little after washing them and just hang them to dry instead, how can there be almost no wrinkle ? There is hardly any wrinkle esp near the thigh area , as shown in the 2nd photo (with you standing in front of a glass showcase)


Thanks for the pointers. One more question pls – how to avoid iron a crease into the front ?


i see. would u do it on the surface or on the inside ?


Hi Simon,

Very informative piece for someone who’s not a denim head.

Any good brands recommendations to start and play around with ? Under 150-200€ possibly so that it allows for the first mistakes ?


P. A.

Thanks Simon,

I just checked out the Turkish selvedge at 165£ for the first oder.


Hi Simon,

I had a question about your advice to wear a belt after washing denim in order to prevent the waist from expanding: wouldn’t the waist start expanding anyway just as soon as you stop wearing the belt?


Very insightful and pragmatic post as always. As for all rest, I agree we should avoid the extremes when it comes to washing and caring raw denim. Yes, raw denim jeans mold and beautifully fade as you wear them, but it’s not a drama to wash them from time to time. It’s actually a matter of hygiene. BTW, freezing them to kill bacteria is totally useless if not harmful.
Myself have three bespoke Levi’s Lot 1 jeans, and for each of them I asked Virginie Jure (master tailor at the Paris store) to pre-wash them. By doing so, they are more comfortable from day 1, while still molding and fading beautifully. And I actually like to wash them from time to time, as they shrink a bit and come closer to the body, and then expand again as you wear them.


Thanks a lot Simon, as there seems to be a vast reservoir of denim experience here, I was wondering if someone could help me out.
I understand the concept of „shrink to fit“ with unsanforized denims. However, you can also buy unsanforized „one wash“ denims (Full Count for instance). So I would assume that part of the shrinking will already have occurred when the jeans are sold.

David A.

Question – my selvedge denim is, of course, stiff and over time they always seem to (tear) at the sections where the denim has naturally folded when being worn (crotch, etc). Can you suggest any tricks to help us so our denim lasts even longer?


Great post


I really like the fit of your jeans. Rather snug and „modern“ in the seat, hips and in the thighs and than classically straight further down (some of the more roomy looks, especially when roomy in the thighs do suggest a granddad look to me and imo this look is better suited to tailored trousers). To achieve this, I bought my raw 501s (12oz, one wash) really snug in the waist and thighs. I have no problems with buttoning them all the way. They feel ok while standing. Walking gets uncomfortable after some time and you can really feel the body working against the cotton, especially when sitting down. Is this the way it needs to be with raw denim at first if you want the fit that I like? Do I have wrong expectations if I still want them to get comfortable in a few weeks?


Update: The jeans now fit me comfortably and exactly like I hoped. (Although getting rid of 6-7 pounds of lazy-lock-down-fat certainly was helpful in the process.)
Love them together with my light blue and yellow PS oxfords.


On the topic of unsanforized denim: I recently bought a second pair of the same 501-style because I really wanted to try unsanforized denim. This second pair turned out to even fit me better than the one wash version. I bought it one size larger in the waist (2 sizes larger in length, which was absolutely necessary. Coincidentally they fit me perfect now in the length without any hemming necessary), gave it a simple machine-wash immediately, put it on damp out of the washing machine. This, I think, allowed for a personal shrinkage, which results in almost the same snug fit like the one washed version one size smaller. But the 2nd one is a bit trimmer from the knee down (18cm leg opening instead of 19cm) and most importantly: through the personal shrinkage and drying on the body, the fit became more 3D. This, I think, is a nice tip for PS-readers like me, with big thighs and big seat, but a slim waist. The shrinkage of the unsanforized denim can follow those curves to some extent. At least for me it really made a beneficial difference and I would highly recommend it although anticipating the shrinkage and therefore sizing will always be risky. Cheers


Which 501s did you get? I’ve got a 1954 501 stf waiting to be inaugurated, in the process of losing weight at the moment. Was that single machine wash all it took or did it shrink more with subsequent washes?


I also have the 1954 version.
I only washed it once (40 degrees) as of now. It might be safer to soak in the bathtub with the jeans on your body so they cannot shrink past you. But that was no option for me in the winter.
I heard that 40 degrees should take out all the shrinkage on the first wash. But I did not test it myself yet.


To Simon and fellow readers from a denim-newbie: Any experiences with the jeans from „Levi’s Vintage Clothing“? From what I can guess remotely the quality of the make is not up there with the Japanese brands (Fullcount, Warehouse…). But how is the quality of the denim cloth itself? Is it worth it getting into the (not easily available for everybody) Japanese brands and paying the premium? As I understand Levi’s is also using Japanese mills for their Vintage line.

Tim C

@Alexander – I have jeans from some of the big name Japanese brands (Fullcount and Warehouse), LVC 1967 505 and some of the North American brands (3sixteen, Naked and Famous, Glenn’s Denim, etc.). I wouldn’t put LVC at the top of the heap in terms of construction, but the jeans are very well made and sturdy and the details are well executed (Talon zippers, etc). I honestly don’t see massive qualitative differences between them and most other high-end denim (at least none that matter much to me). I think one would need to be a seriously finicky denimhead to find any real fault with them.
I bought the pair in 2012 or 2013 (raw and rigid, and I do mean rigid – for the first couple of days of wear, they were almost wearing me), have worn them consistently perhaps 50-70x per yr since and have not babied them in any way. I wash them in a washer and dry them in a dryer when they need it, like most of my other everyday clothes. There are no tears or holes and both the construction and the fabric have held up very well. Frankly, they’ve held up better than some far more expensive jeans I’ve owned from more ‘exalted’ denimhead labels. I am particularly fond of the cut, which to me is sort of an ideal slimish/straightish cut for adults – sort of grown up jeans without the aggressive historically-driven lengths that some denimhead brands go to
As for the cloth quality, the pair I have are made from Cone Mills US-made 12oz denim. The fabric is excellent but is no longer available as Cone Mills closed down a few years ago (you may be able source Cone Mills 1967 505s from eBay, but I think the current fabric is Kaihara 14oz, so should be equally solid). If there is one quibble, I’d say that the denim has taken far longer than most to develop the classic wear fades, but again, that could be down to the Cone Mills fabric which, I believe, had a reputation for taking forever to fade.
All in all, I’m very happy with them, enough so that I have a second pair waiting for the day that these finally bite the dust (although 0n current pace, they may outlast me). And for the price paid (which was on sale and a very modest premium to junky mall/high street stuff), they’re hard to beat. They’re probably one of my top 3 favorite pairs, along with 3sixteen and Fullcount.


Excellent. Thanks a lot!

Peter Hall

Alexander.I looked at the 50s Levi vintage and didn’t like the cut-they were very loose. Instead I bought Iron Heart 777s 21oz Selvedge . More expensive, but the best jeans I have owned.


Thanks! The cut that I like best so far is the one from 1954. More or less the standard from 1947, slim top block, but slimmer from the knee down. 19 cm leg opening at waist size 31, which I like.
Perhaps you tried the cut from 1955? That one is supposed to be a lot more loose.

Peter Hall

Yes. It was the 55. The biggest difference is the weight. The Levi’s, I think, are 12 oz and the Iron Heart are 21. They are certainly a statement piece. I think, perhaps, the Iron Heart are a more modern cut… possibly, I had preconceptions of what a jean should be. There is also a retailer locally, which helped in the decision. Fit is great, colour is also holding up well-which you may or may not require.


I have a few LVC 501 models (1915, 1947 and 1954), and a couple of Japanese ones (Fullcount and Spellbound, Lee 101). I think the charm of LVC line is that you get near identical repros…down to each thread. Also some like it because they want the original Levis ‘shrink to fit’ experience. I wouldn’t say Japanese denim is significantly better than LVC Cone denim (some would argue it is), they just have very different properties. For example Japanese denim generally has a ‘hairy’ texture which some people like, it fits differently. That said, the Japanese denim itself does feel tougher than the LVC ones – maybe be a coincidence, maybe psychological. The construction of the two is exactly the same I think.
I say give the LVC a go. Just make sure you read a guide (Heddel’s for example) to see how the 501 has evolved over time and which model you would prefer. Sizing is another issue, and there are plenty of guides online.
Rabbit hole really. Grab some snacks and enjoy.


*it fades differently


Last update regarding Levi’s denim: I asked Levi’s where they buy their denim and where the manufacture their „vintage“ collection. I was just interested in which Japanese denim they use. After some weeks they kindly replied that they are „not able“ to give me this info. On that every PS reader can make up his own mind. For me that means, I am no longer purchasing from Levi’s.


To me it was surprising. Probably the proof that I know little about the big fashion industry. Brands tending towards tailoring (even suitsupply) are a lot more open about those circumstances. Or more casual labels like 3sixteen, Edwin etc. will nearly always state where their denim or cotton is from.


Slightly niche question – Simon, what is your opinion of mobile phone shaped fading around the front pockets with indigo denim? On the one hand, I can see it is objectively less attractive than symmetrical whiskering. On the other hand, one of the attractions of fades is authenticity and patina, for which phones are part of everyday life.

Curious how you manage this, and whether you feel there is any artifice or vanity in deliberately avoiding putting phones in a front pocket for the sake of fades.


Thanks Simon


Hi simon, i have a pair of warehouse denims that have become too tight as i have gained some weight. It’s wearable (just about barely) when standing up and uncomfortable when sitting down. The jean from waist down is completely fine as it is a relaxed model. I’m wondering how I can expand it at the waist? I own the the jeans for about 3 years but have only worn it a couple times and only washed it once or twice ever.
Would a soak in warm water followed by wearing it work?


Hi Simon, could I ask what you usually do with your unsanforized jeans? Do you wear them unwashed for a few months or straight to the washing machine?

Many thanks,


I see. Are there any reasons why you never had unsanforised jeans? Is it mainly because the jeans must be worn without necessary alteration such as hem length before the wash?

Brian Dougan

Hi Simon:

This is a more-or-less personal question; but perhaps your thoughts may be helpful to some similar minded readers? I bought a pair of Alden Cordovan “8” dress boots. The concensus on some Gentlemen’s websites is this: “Wear a pair of dark indigo; straight cut jeans.” I tried on a pair of straight cut Levis. They looked like they were spray painted onto my body. No shape; or proportionality. Also; they had a “skin tight” feeling. (I’m used to a more “relaxed” fit.) The sales associate brought me a pair of looser fitting levis (“More room in the hips.”) They were a bit bunched up. That’s a “no no” on some Jeans-with-dress boots websites.
I’m 6 feet/one inch; about 168 pounds. Most of my height is from the hips to my waist–So; I’ve always felt more comfortable in high waisted pants. They seem to have gone out of fashion; now they’re very hard to find.The straight cut jeans are mid-rise, and a good two inches below my navel.
Why do so many “gentleman’s” websites recommend straight cut/lower rise jeans with dress boots? They say that anything less than dark indigo is “too casual” looking. My new boots certainly weren’t cheap. Not certain if I need to be so concerned about being “too casual” re the cut of jeans. (I did see a pair on unwashed jeans online; I read your article about first wash/unwashed/jean fading.)
Thank you Simon.

Brian Dougan

Thank you Simon. You’re right–I have been thinking in absolutes. Re the “bunched up” looser fit straight cut–Standing up; they were rippling in my lap area. Now….After reading your insightful points; I feel much less constricted about the whole affair. “Think about why someone is recommending something.” Very apropos advice; in other areas of my life as well;. Much appreciated.


Hi Brian, I can recommend the following high rise jeans that I own. we’re talking a proper belly button level 12 inch rise
1) 1947 Levic LVC
2) Lee 101 50s Rider (the one with the cowboy on the brand/price tags)
3) Jelado 301xx – a bit difficult to find.
I know Natalino and Rubato do high rise jeans too, but i have not tried them.

Brian Dougan

Zo; Thank you. I’ve been narrrow focused on Levi. I’ll look into the ones you mentioned. Given my body proportions; High waisted pants definitely feel/look more natural. Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur. Sigh. Thanks again.


Hi Simon,

Do you hang your jeans? Or fold them?


Just curious. I didn’t know if folding might cause strange creases.


Hi Simon,

What are your favorite raw denim brands? I’d love a top 3 or top 5.




A true and typical PS horror story: It took me some time to get behind the secret why there are indigo stains on my RMC chinos. It appears that the PS wax walker with its oily bottom hem took some color from my relatively new rubato jeans (2 washes already) and then rubbed it onto my light colored chinos. Heartbreaking stuff. I have no idea after how many washes I can wear the wax walker again with my raw denim. Also the indigo stains have not gone away completely with gall soap and 30 degree washing. I’ve also washed the jeans again, not inside out, to stop some of the bleeding. Any further advice? Cheers


I am anxious that a 40 degree wash could make the jeans shorter, which would make them unwearable. They are perfect as they are now. Damn, this menswear thing is nothing for weak nerves 🙂


Hi Simon,

I was hoping you could shed some light/advice on what are an essential pair of jeans to add to one’s wardrobe? I’ve never had selvedge denim, but was wondering what you would recommend as a great/classic pair to buy? looking for a dark wash jean, either stone wash or indigo. I have a pair of 501s light wash, that fit great and are flattering to wear. I have my eyes on rubato, drakes and levi’s vintage.

any advice would be much appreciated.



that’s very helpful – thank you!


Hey Simon,

Do you get your raw denim hemmed? Or do you keep the original length (usually 34”)?


Thanks Simon. When you do get them hemmed, do you insist on the original hem? Because by that point the hem will experience some fading. If not what stitch do you ask for (chain stitch etc)?


Thank you. In your experience do tailors do chain stitching by hand? I just went to my tailor and asked for a chain stitch for my hem, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Said machines to do such a stitch are extremely expensive and only manufacturers have them. Said no tailor would do such a stitch.


Ok so an average Joe like me should not expect to have chain stitching on raw denim after having it shortened.


I’d say shipping the jeans to get hemmed is also a good option. I have always done that as I don’t have a place near. Costs a bit more, of course, but I think it’s worth it.


Found a spot in LA that does it! Just sent two pairs to them. Excited to see the final result. Thanks Simon and J-A for the suggestions!


Can I just purchased my regular size and have them dry cleaned to prevent shrinks.

Jasper Smit

Hello Simon, I was wondering if you ever experienced a case of raw denim not really fading that much.. ? I have a pair from nudy jeans, dry/raw denim. I have the pair for about a year. I wear it at at least 3 times a week. Washed it just one in cold water in the bathtub after about 3 months.. Strange no?

Sorry if the question was already asked earlier.



I have a silly question. Since jeans loose some colour when whashed, should i wash raw jeans when im happy with whiskers, or will whiskers pop out more after wash?


Brilliant article to re-refer to Simon, thank you. Just bought a very expensive (for me) pair of Sugar Cane from Clutch and will be hanging on your every bit of advice here.