For most, denim is a wardrobe staple. For some, it’s an investment. Regardless of which camp you fall into, your jeans are probably one of the hardest working garments in your closet and as a result, they tend to take a beating. If you want to maximize your cost-per-wear, you’re going to need to be ready to shell out for repairs. Whether you’ve got a pair of $60 Levi’s or $300 Japanese imports, the guidelines for dutiful upkeep remain the same. While denim is designed to be durable, it’s not indestructible–except maybe for the 125 year old pair seen above.
Remember, a well-loved pair of jeans can fetch a pretty penny—just take a look at the price tag associated with A.P.C.’s pre-worn Butler series—so be sure to take good care of yours once you’ve put in the time to break them in.
Before the buy:
1. Get the right size
This should go without saying, but it’s been the bane of a lot of people’s introduction to raw denim. Different brands fit differently (some run big, some run small). By the same token, some brands will shrink after your first wash and others will give with wear. If your jeans are too small, it will lead to more abrasion and quicker blowouts, not to mention threaten your unborn children. It’s really important when you’re shopping around that you speak with sales assistants that are personally familiar with the nuances of fit associated with the brands they represent.
2. Buy raw
At the risk of preaching to the choir, you should buy raw denim. If you want long-lasting denim, there’s no sense in buying a pair that’s already had a year of life sandblasted off of them.
3. Go heavyweight
The reason denimheads fetishize the weight of their denim is because the higher the count, the longer the wear and the better the fades. So, if you really want to put your jeans through the ringer, go heavyweight (anything above 16oz). More cotton simply means there’s more for you to work through.
After the buy:
4. Wash your jeans
Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh recently went on the record saying that he tries to avoid washing his jeans as much as possible. His point was to highlight the fact that most times, consumers wash their jeans too frequently and waste water in the process. While his heart is certainly in the right place, the headline-grabbing iteration of his “Dirty Jeans Manifesto” was rife with misinformation. To set the record straight, Bergh conceded that there is a lot of debate about how to best care for your jeans and that he does not consider himself a spokesman for proper denim care.
That being said, you should most certainly wash your jeans (if you want them to last longer). If you don’t, your denim will absorb all the dirt, grime, and sweat that comes with wear, creating harmful friction, that will wear down the cotton. When it comes time to wash your jeans, spot-clean first, as not all stains warrant an all-over wash. Also, be sure to wash them using cold water, with a non-abrasive detergent (if necessary at all). Select the gentle or delicate cycle setting if you choose to use a washing machine or put them in the tub. Check out our full breakdown of washing methods.
5. Hang dry them
If you take anything from this article, it’s that you shouldn’t put your jeans in the dryer! Subjecting your jeans to high heat causes shrinkage (which increases stress points), expedites the breakdown of the cotton fibers, and can cause some really funky new creases. Once you’ve finished washing, be sure to either: hang dry, roll, or lay your jeans flat.
6. Be diligent about repair
Crotch blowouts, busted button-holes, pocket bag wear, and frayed hems are all common plights associated with well-worn denim. We’ve written extensively about how to combat each of these maladies before they wreck havoc, but if you let slip, just be sure to take them to someone who knows what they’re doing. An ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure, as a those small tears will grow exponentially and may send your jeans to an early retirement if they are left unchecked.
7. Keep ’em in rotation
Don’t succumb to the urge to wear the same pair of jeans week-in and week-out. Even though your jeans may have cost enough to buy a pair from the Gap for every day of the week, it doesn’t make indestructible. As with Goodyear-welted shoes, you should do your best to avoid wearing the same pair for days or weeks at a time. It will give your jeans a chance to wear and dry out.
Even if you follow all of these tips, your jeans will eventually fade away, but hopefully this info will help you slow down the process.