The 30-Dollar Raw Denim Experiment: Pair #1

I learned a long time ago — having spent years of frustration with awkward fits, run-away threads, and unsightly rips — that it was well worth the money to spend a few more dollars on a pair of good denim. While I still cannot justify dropping an extra 20 dollars on a t-shirt because it has a brand’s name emblazoned on it, I will dig deeper into my pockets to procure a quality pair of denim. On many occasions, my friends and family have scoffed at the price tags on some of my jeans, but I rest assured knowing that the extra money will not have gone to waste.

That said, I enjoy a good deal as much as anyone else, and I know it isn’t always possible or reasonable to spend a few hundred dollars on a pair of denim. We’ve presented a rundown on some great jeans under a hundred dollars, and you can be sure that you’ll find a solid pair if one of our recommendations happens to catch your eye.

But what about significantly cheaper denim, denim maybe costing below 50 dollars for a pair? Here begins a regular column that explores what kind of raw denim you can get for less than the price of a decent meal. I will be spending the coming months testing out new pairs of raw denim I’ve found, and I’ll give you all the dirty details about what you can expect to get for much less cash.

The Experiment

So we’re clear from the get-go – all of the jeans featured in this column retail for more than 30 bucks; they’ve all been marked down from their original prices, sometimes significantly. A 30-dollar pair of raw denim is not an every-day occurrence at all: it took some shopping around and some luck to procure such inexpensive jeans.

I will be alternating between two pairs every other day, so each pair will see 3 to 4 wears a week, but I’ll review one pair at a time. With each pair, I’ll give you a full description of the details of the denim and construction (along with a full set of pictures), my impression of the appearance, fit, and functionality, what I’ve put the denim through in terms of activities, and an update on how the pair is coming along in more general terms.

What I will not give you until the end of each pair’s tenure is brand and model. Some of you may be able to guess from the photos and descriptions, and you’re free to take a shot at nailing down the exact pair. But I want to avoid any brand-bias and give reviews based solely upon the jeans themselves rather than our preconceived prejudices regarding brand. We all have our favourite pairs and brands, myself included. But how do we discover different denim if we stick to the same old thing?

That all said, here it is: The 30-Dollar Raw Denim Experiment.

Pair One

Front and Back Views of Denim #1

I picked up this pair at a local surf shop. I saw them folded in a stack with a bunch of other denim, and could tell right away that it was raw from the colouring and fabric. It was the last pair they had; I picked them up and was immediately pleased with the crisp feel of the denim, though it was pretty soft as far as raw denim goes.


  • Weight: Unknown
  • Material: 98% cotton, 2% spandex sanforized red-line selvedge denim
  • Fit: Slim straight: sits just below the waist; slim fitting with straight leg
  • Retail Price: $120.00
  • Sale Price: $29.97

Details of Pair #1 of Under $30 Raw Denim


Details of Pair #1 of Under $30 Raw Denim

As you can see, they’ve added 2% spandex to the denim, which accounts for the softer feeling of the hand. When I tried them on there was a noticeable difference between these and other pairs of raw denim I’ve had my legs in, the clearest different being that it wasn’t a total struggle to pull them on and button them up. The spandex is to thank for the easier, stretchier fit, but I do wonder how it will affect the fades. The creases shouldn’t be quite as sharp as with 100% cotton, but only time will tell.

While the comfort is a definite plus, my favourite part of this pair is the attention to detail: you can see the clean double red selvedge line; the grey external stitching throughout which blends with the denim to highlight the denim itself; the graphics on the inner lining; the selvedge line on the fly; the black rivets and buttons.  All this, and the fit is true-to-size.

Stay tuned in the next couple months for updates on the fades and aging.  Until then, keep your eyes peeled for deals: they’re out there!