Within the raw denim community, there’s an astounding amount of variation in the processes people use to acquire their personal fades. Some folks swear by wearing their jeans sans wash for a minimum of 6 months, others wash them every month. Still others go more than a year without washing their jeans (e.g. this guy) and then give them coral beach washes.
Whatever the system, the variety stands testament to the creativity of every individual within this awesome community of ours. That having been said, there are a few fade-gaining methods that are commonly acknowledged as ways of supposedly “cheating” your raws.
Many of these methods can be done separately, or they can all be done as a step-by-step process:
Step 1 – Buy Raw Denim Jeans
Congrats on your purchase!
Step 2 – Soak & Starch
Give them a hot soak with mad amounts of starch. For more information, hop over to our article on starching your raw denim.
Step 3 – Wear, Wear, Wear
Wear your damp jeans, sit cross legged and browse
Heddels’s archives the internet for several hours until near-dry. Sitting this way will help shape up the whiskers and combs, while the starch will help them set more rigidly.
Step 4 – Lay In Peace
Once dry, remove your jeans and lay them down without disturbing the shape/creases.
Note: This could be seen as the “point of no return”
Step 5 – Pinch
Pinch the whiskers and combs tightly with your fingers. This makes the creases sharp and combined with the starch, will make them much more rigid.
Step 6 – Sandpaper Time
Using sandpaper, lightly sand the pinched creases to create a high-contrast fade. Use a softer sandpaper of a higher grit rating. Using the rough stuff will just shred your twill and ruin your denim.
(Final) Step 7 – Wash & Hang Dry
Wash and hang-dry your jeans. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you are satisfied with the fades, and voila! You should have your very own hand-faded jeans.
Using pumice-stone instead of sand-paper, using a Dremel hand-tool, using a potassium mixture to lighten the creases, bleaching, etc. Denim Design Lab also offers denim customization kits here.
Why Do Some People Consider This “Cheating”?
Very simply, because it’s not an “authentic” fade. Many raw denim enthusiasts preach the values of raw denim including (but not limited to) personalized fades, better fit, and a more “natural” looking pair of jeans. I sometimes question just how “natural” it can be to wear jeans for 6+ months without washing them, but that’s just me.
But Who Would Do Such A Thing To Their Raw Jeans?
Some denim-heads love breaking in their raws over the course of months and wearing them everyday for a year or two. Other people don’t have the luxury of time to do that, having to wear uniforms or suits 5+ days of the week. In their case, it’s easy to understand this process being an attractive option to them.
Something to consider when opting to sand your denim:
By using abrasive techniques like sanding, you’re not just wearing the indigo off the threads, you’re shredding the threads themselves. Even with a softer, high-grit sandpaper, you’re still wearing the threads. This could adversely affect the strength of the denim.
Though this post is for informational purposes and not meant to out anyone as cheaters, we don’t necessarily advocate the sandpaper technique. However, if you’ve sanded your raw jeans and are happy with the results, please do send us your photos (firstname.lastname@example.org). Is it cheating? You tell us – we’d love to hear everyone’s opinions.