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The 30-Dollar Raw Denim Experiment: Pair #1 Update

Welcome back to The 30-Dollar Raw Denim Experiment. In case you missed our previous installment, please check out the link to get up to speed and check out a full description of the pair one and the process of the experiment. I will still be withholding the brand and model to eliminate any potential bias, but keep an eye out: I’ll reveal it in the next update in a couple months.

Here’s a refresher on the details:

DETAILS

  • Weight: 11 Oz.
  • 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

I began wearing this pair at the end of July of last year, and I wore them every other day, all day, for about ten months, which gives them about 5 months of actual wear. I have a job where I can wear denim to work, so I stuck religiously to the commitment. I live in Southern California, so it does get fairly warm in the summer, and there were a few days when I wanted to trade them for shorts, but at 11 ounces, it wasn’t too bad. After all, sweat increases the creases, no?

While my job isn’t physically demanding, I did get the chance to put them through the paces a bit. I took them to the beach, on daily walks, and since I often ride a motorcycle to work, they saw their fair share of the seat of my Triumph. Other than that, no crazy outdoor extreme sports or anything (other than chasing my daughter around the playground. Don’t underestimate the ability of swinging to break in some denim).

I washed the denim at right around 5 months of wear, not because they needed cleaning but rather because they had stretched a bit too much in the waist to fit comfortably (more on this in the “fit” section). Because I wanted them to shrink down a decent amount, I washed them inside-out in extra hot water, but I used no soap. I have a fancy washer that allows for a cycle with no spin, minimal agitation, and a soak, so I went with that. The cycle lasted about an hour.

Here’s my take on the time I’ve spent in the jeans so far:

Denim

The biggest question in my mind had to do with the fact that these were made with 2 percent spandex, which some brands are including presumably to ease the break-in period. While it did make the denim more comfortable right from the get-go, I was curious to see how the stretch affected the creases. I can now say that my initial suspicion was correct: the creases were not quite as sharp as a 100 percent cotton denim, but it was not anything to complain about. As you can see from the photos below, I developed some solid creases that even stuck around after the first wash.

The initial hand of the denim was crisp but very soft, thanks in part to the spandex. As the denim aged, it remained soft but began to develop a less uniform texture.  Little fibers from the weft started to poke through, particularly near the calf area. I was also surprised by the slubbiness, which was more prominent as the denim aged. This really became clear after the first wash, when the “tate ochi,” or vertical fades, came to life.  It wasn’t nearly as prominent prior to washing.

30 dollar pair one tate ochi side by final

“Tate ochi” after 5 months and one wash

I know next to nothing about the origin of the denim, so it’s hard to compare my fading experience with others who have worn this pair.  But relative to other denim I’ve worn, I was surprised by the speed at which the denim has faded overall.  As you can see in the photos below, by three months of wear, there were defined honeycombs, clear wallet and phone fades, and the beginnings of whiskers. The fades are a bit blurry, possibly due to the stretch.

30 dollar pair one Pre-Wash F Front and Back

After 3 months and no wash

The color went from a uniform, deep indigo throughout to a lighter blue but still dark hue after a few months. After 5 months and a wash, there is still a good deal of dark left, with the faded portions looking almost grey. A few of the warp yarns are faded to nearly white in places. The edges of the felled seams have faded quite a bit, especially on the back yoke.

30 dollar pair one post wash full side by final

After 5 months and one wash

30 dollar pair one post wash yoke final side by

Fading on the felled seams of the yoke

Fit

30 dollar pair one fit pick all final

Fit picture after 3 months of wear and no wash

When I first tried the jeans on, they were tighter than your average slim-straight fit, more on the skinny side. I had no problem with it, since I generally wear a slimmer fit, more out of necessity than fashion (I’m 5’10” and 145 pounds). The waist was a 29, and it ran true-to-size. The inseam was set at 32″, which is the inseam I usually go for.

After a couple months of wear, the waist stretched, which is common with raw denim. But it stretched over an inch, which made it a bit uncomfortable when it came to belting it. The legs didn’t stretch all that much and still fit snugly. I decided to give it a hot wash when I had a chance, as I was approaching the 6-month mark anyway (which is usually when I wash).

After the wash, they definitely tightened up everywhere. I would say the fit is now undeniably skinny. You can see in the photos that the leg opening is definitely more narrow, but they should stretch out again with more wear. They also shrank in length, which leaves them a bit shorter than I like–as they started at a 32 inseam, which is what I wear normally.

All in all, no catastrophic changes. They’re still extremely comfortable thanks to the the stretch.

Construction

Nothing much to report on this front.  Everything has held up really well: no loose stitching, no blow-outs, no holes in the denim at all. This isn’t that surprising, considering I’ve only worn them for 5 months. We’ll see how they hold up with more wear.

Overall

Thus far, I couldn’t be happier with the results, especially after spending only 30 bucks.  As I said (and many people felt inclined to point out in the comments), these retail at 120 dollars, so one should expect a certain level of quality. But the reality is that I spent a fraction of that, and I’m impressed with the character and quality of the jeans.  Keep your eyes peeled for another update in a few months: the experiment continues!

Check out the photos below. To clear it up before it becomes a topic of discussion: I did no editing of the photos beyond cropping and re-sizing; no contrast or saturation tweaking.  All of the photos were taken outside during the afternoon, aside from the fit picture.

Before:

30 dollar pair one raw pic

30 dollar pair one raw pic 2

After 3 Months of Wear (No wash):

30 dollar pair one pre-wash-close-up-side-by

30 dollar pair one pre wash combs side by

After 5 Months of Wear (1 Hot Wash):

30 dollar pair one post wash closeup side by

30-dollar pair one post-wash front closeup

30 dollar pair one post- wash combs side by