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How To Keep Raw Denim Rigid and Stiff (with Starch)

On the heels of spelling out the different ways that people can break-in their pair of jeans, it’s interesting to acknowledge that some people want the complete opposite for their denim–they want it crisp. The idea of rigid denim brings to mind the uncomfortable nature of wearing a new pair of jeans for the first couple of weeks. As they begin to conform to the body and soften up, they hit what can be called the “sweet spot.”

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An entirely different group of people don’t want this soft stage, and those people are the ones who starch their denim. The casual jean owner might ask: “Why the hell would I want to starch my jeans?” In the same manner as a pair of khakis or a sharp dress shirt, some starch their jeans so that they always have clean lines and look more “presentable” than beat-up selvedge.

The Process

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Starching is pretty simple–wash the pair of jeans, let them dry, and lay them flat. If the person has a can of sprayable starch, they simply evenly spray the denim and then iron the fabric. This results in super-crisp jeans devoid of smell–that is, assuming “scentless” starch was used.

Starch can also be homemade for those looking to save a few bucks; mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cold water so that it dissolves, and put it in a spray bottle. For the utmost crispiness, both the inside and outside of the jeans can be sprayed and ironed.

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It’s important to note that besides just wanting a clean appearance, people starch their jeans in search of the best fades possible. The logic is that the crisper the denim, the more roughly it rubs against itself. Champions of this strategy say that honeycombs and other visible signs of fading are much more pronounced.

However, a lot of denim manufacturers actually suggest customers avoid ironing their jeans for fear of breaking down the fabric. Also, it’s unclear whether this repeated starching shortens the lifespan of the jeans. Whatever is the case, it’s clear that people will do just about anything to get quick fades on raw denim.