Dear Jean Denim Advice – Fading, Ocean Washes, and Hemming
Raw denim and quality clothing in general aren’t the most intuitive of subjects. If they were, there would be no need for sites like ours to exist. We do our best to cover a wide swath of the most common questions and problems facing denimheads today, but by no means do we cover it all. That’s where Jean comes in, write in to our denim advice columnist for educated answers to your questions, denim or otherwise.
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I recently bought a pair of Rogue Territory Stealth Stantons as my more dark and formal jeans. I love the dark color and I want them to stay that way. But I’m worried the color will lighten up as I wear them and then I’ll have to buy an entirely new pair and start over. Is there any way to “lock in” the dye so they stay that way?
-Afraid to Fade
I’m afraid too, that is I’m afraid to tell you that all jeans fade. It’s just a natural property of indigo that it will gradually chip away and slough off the more you wear them no matter what you do. This goes doubly so most raw denim that’s rope indigo dyed, which has an undyed white core in each yarn and will contrast more once the outer layers of indigo have fallen off.
There are however some steps you can take to minimize fading. We cover most of the good ones in our article How to Minimize Fading on Your Raw Denim, the gist is you can soak your RgT’s in the tub with a small amount of white vinegar, which should slow it down a tad, but if these truly are your formal jeans and you’re only wearing them once a week, it will take months if not years for those first fades to show through.
Otherwise, you can always buy some jeans that are specifically designed not to fade. Japanese brand Pure Blue Japan has a NC (“no change”) series of jeans that should hold onto their indigo much better than standard jeans. Hope that’s enough to keep your Dark Stantons off Fade Friday!
I did an ocean wash a few days ago and I can’t get the gross beach smell out of my jeans, what gives?
Ah there’s no better way to spend the day at the beach than with your friends, family, and an old pair of pants. I’m actually not a fan of the beach wash–it artificially rubs off indigo (which can minimize instead of maximize contrast), it’s kind of weird, and as you noticed, it can leave a lingering scent of low tide. But if you MUST give your jeans the briny dip, then you MUST also wash them in freshwater afterwards.
As we’ve explained in Six Signs You Should Probably Wash Your Jeans, seawater is dirty. Your jeans will smell like low tide plus the salt in the saltwater will stick around after they dry and act as an abrasive, making your jeans blowout faster. Drop those jeans in the nearest tub or washing machine and give them some fresh soap and water.
I just got a new pair of jeans in the mail, I live in a small town and it would take me a few hours to drive to the nearest place where I could get a chainstitched hem. I’d prefer to keep the chainstitch on the cuff, but am I really missing all that much if I just get it done at my local tailor?
The chainstitch is probably the prime example of how the importance of “authenticity” has been blown way out of proportion amongst raw denim fans. There are two reasons you would want a chainstitch 1) it’s the type of stitch that was used to hem jeans and work pants for the majority of the twentieth century, and 2) it torques the denim and creates a striated roping effect on the fade of the hem. Everything else is hype.
If either of those reasons matter to you though, know that they only apply to chainstitches made by the Union Special 43200G hemming machine, a machine you can usually only find at serious denim shops like Self Edge and Blue in Green. There are dozens of companies making chainstitch hems on other sewing machines, but they will neither rope fade nor were they done by the same machine that hemmed vintage garments.
So you have three options here: 1) mail your jeans in for a Union Special chainstitch somewhere like Railcar Fine Goods, which will set you back $25 plus shipping. 2) Take them to the local tailor and ask to keep the “original hem”, which means they will chop off the hem and sew it back on higher up on the jean so you keep the chainstitch, BUT this can be a problem if your jeans taper heavily and I’ve seen some pretty mangled stitches where they’ve sewn the hem back on the jean–I would not recommend this route. 3) Have your tailor hem them with a lockstitch. This is the cheapest and fastest route, and the lockstitch is nothing to sneer at, some very respectable brands like Stevenson Overall Co. even offer it stock.
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