New To Raw Denim? – 5 Things I Wish I’d Known

Here at Heddels we normally don’t like to talk about ourselves much. After all this site is about denim, not us. But today I’d like to share with you a few things I wish I’d known when I started wearing raw denim.

Inspired by this post on (a great resource for people interested in learning Japanese), these are lessons I learned the hard way over a number of years and multiple pairs of jeans.

It’s a bit of a long read but I hope these tips can save you some of the stress and uncertainty (and money!) that I went through in my early days.

1. Pre-soaking Is A Must

We’re always getting e-mails asking about pre-soaking, and they typically go something like this:

“Hi, I’m new to raw denim and I just bought a pair of <insert jeans here>. Now what? Should I soak them? How do I do it?”

(Note: If you’ve written in an e-mail similar to the one above, thank you! We’re always happy to answer any questions.)

New To Raw Denim? - 5 Things I Wish I'd Known

Unless your jeans are once-washed (check when you buy them), the answer will forever be a resounding “YES!” Soak ‘em! Most importantly, it will make the jeans shrink down to fit your body better. Most raw denim is unsanforized, meaning that it is what Levi’s so aptly named “Shrink-To-Fit”. Pre-soaking is important if you want to get a good fit.

Secondly, a pre-soak will get rid of starch used in the manufacturing process, as well as any excess indigo. Contrary to seemingly popular belief, this is a good thing. (More on that later.)

For more info on how to pre-soak your jeans, see our previous article – “Soaking Raw Denim: The Critical Preliminary Step

2. Not All Jeans Fit The Same

New To Raw Denim? - 5 Things I Wish I'd Known


I know, I know. You’re thinking “Duh, Sean…” but hear me out. Just because you fit a 32 in A.P.C. doesn’t mean you’ll be a 32 in IronHeart, and vice versa. Because different brands each have different sources of cotton (including different cotton types), each type of denim has its own characteristics. Some will shrink more than others, some will stretch more, etc.

For instance, Samurai Jeans Co.’s “Zero” denim is renown for it’s intense shrinkage, and also for its ability to stretch back out. In this way, some brands are best to buy in direct correlation to your actual waist-size (“true-to-size” or TTS), whereas with other brands you should buy one size up or down depending on the denim.

If you’re uncertain about sizing for a particular brand, it’s best to check with someone who is familiar with the jeans. We recommend that you ask the retailer from whom you’re purchasing.

3. Not All Jeans Fade The Same

As I’m sure you’ve noticed from our weekly Fade Friday features, not all raw denim fades the same way. An easy example would be The Flat Head’s famous 3XXX denim, which is known to produce fades at a faster rate than say, Eternal’s denim which is said to fade slower than many brands.

In the same vein, don’t expect a pair of LVC jeans to fade the same way as that pair of Skull Jeans you saw on a forum. They each have their own characteristics, despite both being made of raw selvedge denim.

If you’re interested in getting a particular type of fading, its best to do some research and find out what brands you should be looking at.

4. There Is No Recipe For “Sick Fades”

I’m sorry, but it’s true. There is not, and never will be, a step-by-step guide to getting good fades. Besides, it largely boils down to opinion. One man’s “grail” pair is another man’s idea of “fugly”.

New To Raw Denim? - 5 Things I Wish I'd Known

It doesn’t work that way!

In all seriousness, though, despite what the internet (perhaps our site included) may lead you to believe, there’s no secret surefire technique to raw denim. Each person has their own methods. Some people (like me) wash their jeans pretty frequently, whereas others (like Mr. Le) go for over a year without so much as a soak.

You might love the fades on someone else’s jeans. But even if you buy the same jeans and follow the same washing schedule, you probably won’t get the same exact fades as what you saw. Stop comparing and just wear your jawnz, dude!

5. The “6-Month Rule” Is A Guideline, Not Rule

You know that scene in Pirates Of The Caribbean where they’re talking about the pirate code and Johnny Depp says “They’re more like guidelines…”? That’s what the whole wait-six-months-before-you-wash-them business is.

New To Raw Denim? - 5 Things I Wish I'd Known

Jack Sparrow’s Guide To Sea-Washing Raw Denim?

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m sorry, but I’m so tired of seeing “since they’re raw denim, make sure you wait 6 months before you let them touch a single drop of water” on every blog and website. It’s simply not true.

Sure, I agree that you should wait to wash them. And yes, there can be problems if you wash them too soon, but 6 months is not the magic number that will dispel all fears.

You can get a great start by washing after only 4 months of wear. If you don’t wear your jeans everyday, you might need to wait longer than 6 months before the first wash. It depends.

For more info on when to wash your jeans, hop over to our past article – “When Should I Wash My Raw Jeans? – A Rough Guide

Though we’re not trying to assert ourselves as the ultimate voice of raw denim, we hope this clarifies a few things. Everyone has their own methods of everything, and I respect that. But I hope that I’ve dispelled some of the confusion surrounding the world of raw denim.

Stay tuned for “5 More Things I Wish I’d Known About Raw Denim” coming up in the near future.

Stay Raw!

– Sean
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