What is Raw Denim? Learn About Untreated Jeans

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE

The Fashionisto

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Updated March 3, 2024

What is Raw DenimPin
Learn about raw denim as the ultimate expression of personal style.

Raw denim, often characterized by its unwashed and untreated state, presents a unique opportunity for men to imprint their style through the gradual fading and whiskering that occurs with use. Unlike pre-washed denim, a pair of raw denim jeans are as unadulterated as they come, right off the production line, with deep indigo hues that you can shape over time.

What is Raw Denim? The Basics

Raw Denim BasicsPin
Raw denim offers a blank canvas for fashion enthusiasts, evolving uniquely with each wear. Photo: Shutterstock

Raw denim represents an unwashed segment of denim fabric that retains its natural characteristics. Its appeal lies in its durability and unique wear pattern that develops over time.

Defining Raw Denim

Todd Snyder White Relaxed Fit Selvedge JeansPin
Raw denim is available in several colors, including white. Photo: Todd Snyder

Raw denim, known as dry denim, has not been pre-washed after dyeing. It is recognized for its stiff texture and the classic deep, rich indigo color, although it can also be found in various colors such as black, grey, and even white.

Denim enthusiasts prize raw denim for its unique ability to conform to the wearer’s body and create personalized fade patterns. Selvedge denim takes this appeal further with its premium-edged finish that not only prevents fraying but also signifies a higher level of quality.

The Weaving Process & Textile Quality

Raw Denim ProcessPin
Raw denim combines durability with a premium finish, setting the standard in quality denim. Photo: Shutterstock

The production of raw denim is a detailed process that significantly affects its quality. Raw denim is woven on traditional shuttle looms to produce selvedge denim.

This weaving technique creates a self-edge, a tightly woven and finished edge on the fabric, which not only gives it a clean and iconic look but also prevents fraying and unraveling, contributing to the durability of the denim.

Embracing Fit & Style

Raw Denim Fit StylePin
Raw denim caters to diverse styles and fits, from sleek, slim cuts to comfortable, relaxed fits, proving its versatility. Photo: Shutterstock

Raw denim’s adaptability spans from classic jeans to durable jackets, encompassing a range of menswear. Each piece can be chosen with a particular fit, whether a slim silhouette for a more tailored appearance or a relaxed fit for comfort and ease of movement.

Fit

Levi's Vintage Clothing 1947 501 Original Fit Selvedge Mens JeansPin
Choosing the right fit is crucial, highlighting the importance of the rise and stretch in achieving the perfect silhouette. Photo: Levi’s

When considering a first pair of raw denim jeans, men should focus on the rise and stretch of the fabric, which are pivotal for both comfort and how the jeans conform to different body types. Relaxed or straight-leg cuts provide comfort and are exceptionally forgiving on diverse physique types.

Fit Guide

  • Slim Fit: Tailored, sleek, emphasizes form.
  • Relaxed Fit: Looser, comfortable, for ease of movement.

Denim jackets extend this material’s workwear roots into a modern menswear staple, offering durability and style. The non-elasticized nature of raw denim in jackets provides a structured, flattering shape that complements various builds.

Style

Uniqlo Stretch Selvedge Slim-fit JeansPin
Selvedge jeans make for a brilliant addition to any business casual denim outfit. Photo: Uniqlo

Raw denim reflects the adaptability of men’s fashion, surpassing simple casual wear to embrace a range of styles. These jeans pair as seamlessly with a crisp button-down or a smart blazer as they do with classic T-shirts, offering an authentic and personalized touch to various looks.

For footwear, the selection is pivotal in curating the desired outfit. Low-top sneakers can underscore the denim’s effortless appeal, enhancing its natural line, while boots paired with cuffed hems project a more defined and intentional style.

Taylor Stitch Democratic Jean Sawyer Wash Organic SelvagePin
Raw denim seamlessly blends casual sophistication with personal style, evolving uniquely with the wearer and complementing a range of looks from laid-back to polished. Photo: Taylor Stitch

The cut of the denim is equally significant in achieving the right balance. A higher rise can be smartly paired with tucked-in tailored shirts or lightweight sweaters, which, when combined with the right sneakers or even derby shoes, can transition smoothly into a smart-casual domain.

Meanwhile, a lower rise jean channels a more laid-back approach, ideal for weekend outings and relaxed gatherings. The versatility of raw denim lies in its chameleon-like ability to elevate casual staples or to hold its own in a more polished ensemble.

Care & Longevity

Raw Denim FloorPin
Proper care extends the life of raw denim, preserving its unique characteristics and enhancing its personal value over time. Photo: Shutterstock

Proper maintenance is crucial in enhancing raw denim’s aesthetic appeal and lifespan. Observing cleaning practices and wearing habits can significantly influence the fabric’s evolution and durability.

Laundry Tips for Raw Denim

One should turn their raw denim inside out before introducing it to water. This helps to preserve the color and reduce the effects of fading.

Washing raw denim no more than once every few months is typically recommended to maintain its unique characteristics. Use cold water and a mild detergent, opting for hand washing or a gentle machine cycle.

The Importance of Minimal Washing

Minimal washing is key to extending the life of raw denim and enhancing the individual fades that develop over time. Water exposure can cause denim to shrink and lose some of its rigid texture, so raw denim enthusiasts tend to follow this guide for cleaning:

  • Spot Cleaning: Treat stains directly as needed, using minimal water at room temperature.
  • Airing Out: Regularly hang denim to refresh without using water.
  • Soaking: Occasionally submerge denim in lukewarm water for overall cleanliness.
  • Full Wash: Wash comprehensively, but rarely, with full water use and cold temperature.

This approach helps in preserving the denim’s color and preventing excessive wear.

Drying Raw Denim for Longevity

Air drying is paramount to preserving raw denim’s fit and fabric integrity. After washing or soaking, gently shake out any excess water and roll the denim in a clean towel to absorb moisture.

Unroll and lay the denim flat or hang it by the waistband in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight, which can fade the color and weaken the fibers. This method safeguards the denim’s texture and shape.

Durability & Longevity

Raw Denim LongevityPin
Raw denim’s durability is enhanced by mindful wear and care, allowing it to mold to the wearer’s shape and tell a unique story. Photo: Shutterstock

Celebrated for its durability, raw denim is designed to mold to the wearer’s shape with time. To extend its lifespan, it’s wise to avoid overstraining the fabric in new denim and to rotate through different pairs, ensuring the wear is evenly spread out.

Taking such precautions mitigates stress on the fabric, enhancing its durability and preparing it for the break-in phase, where raw denim starts to personalize to its wearer.

During this phase, the fabric may naturally shed some dye when rubbed against surfaces—a process known as dye transfer, which should be seen as a unique characteristic of the denim’s journey rather than a flaw.

The Evolution of Raw Denim

Nudie Jeans Gritty Jackson Dry Ruby SelvagePin
The journey of raw denim from stiff fabric to comfortable, personalized wear is a nod to its enduring appeal and quality. Photo: Nudie Jeans

The creation and transformation of raw denim is as much an art as it is a science, involving intricate processes that account for stretch and color changes over time.

Stretching & Comfort

When one initially wears raw denim jeans, they may feel stiff and constricting. This period is known as the break-in phase, during which the fibers of the denim adjust to the individual’s body movements.

With time, the rigid fabric commonly produced by brands like Nudie becomes more pliable. This process can be tracked over time:

  • 0-1 Month: Denim feels stiff and fits snugly.
  • 1-3 Months: Begins to loosen and conform to the wearer’s shape.
  • 3-6 Months: Noticeably more comfortable as it continues to adapt.
  • 6+ Months: Fully formed to body contours, offering a personalized fit.

In stretching, stress points, such as the knees and waist, expand slightly to accommodate one’s movements, enhancing comfort.

The Color Transformation Journey

Pure Blue Japan Raw Denim JeansPin
Raw denim’s fading process is a visual diary of wear, with each pair developing a unique pattern. Photo: Pure Blue Japan

Raw denim, recognized for its deep indigo color, transforms dramatically as it fades. This fading process exposes the white core of the threads, creating a unique pattern that becomes specific to the wearer’s lifestyle.

Brands like Pure Blue Japan specialize in using particular dyes and weaves to enhance these fades.

  • Initial Wear: Jeans maintain a uniform indigo color.
  • 1-3 Months: Early signs of whiskering and honeycombs appear.
  • 4-6 Months: Fades become more pronounced and individualized.
  • 7+ Months: Maximum contrast achieved, showcasing personalized fade patterns.

The raw denim’s color palette shifts subtly with each wash and wear, carving out a visual story of creases and shades known as honeycombs behind the knees and whiskering along the hips. These distinctive traits emerge not as flaws but as celebrated features of raw denim’s evolving canvas.

Raw Denim in the Global Market

Levi's Japanese Selvedge 505 Regular-fit Mens JeansPin
The global appreciation of raw denim underscores its timeless appeal and the shared value placed on quality and craftsmanship. Photo: Levi’s

Raw denim, characterized by its unwashed and untampered state, has created a niche but fervent following in the global market, propelled by its association with quality and longevity.

Popularity

The United States and Japan have been pivotal in cultivating the raw denim culture. Historically, Levi’s 501—the classic American jeans—played a significant role in popularizing raw denim. It has maintained its reputation for sturdiness and authenticity since its inception.

Samurai JeansPin
The cultural exchange between the United States and Japan has enriched the raw denim community, fostering a global appreciation for this enduring fabric. Photo: Samurai

In Japan, denim enthusiasts or denimheads demonstrate meticulous attention to detail, embodying the spirit of raw denim through brands like Samurai and Pure Blue Japan. These brands have been at the forefront, utilizing selvedge denim from heritage mills to create jeans catering to connoisseurs worldwide.

The interactions between the United States and Japan have established an international hub of expertise, particularly in cities like San Francisco, a known hotspot for denim culture.

Key Brands

Japan

  • Samurai: Known for selvedge denim jeans with artisanal craftsmanship.
  • Pure Blue Japan: Specializes in raw denim jeans using unique dyeing techniques.

Sweden

  • Nudie: Offers organic raw denim jeans with a focus on sustainability.

France

  • A.P.C: Features minimalist denim jeans known for their clean aesthetic.

USA

  • Iron Heart: Produces heavyweight denim jeans, prized for their durability.

Personalization & Expression

Raw Denim FadePin
Raw denim serves as a canvas for personal expression, evolving with the wearer to become a uniquely customized piece. Photo: Shutterstock

Raw denim offers the wearer a canvas for personalization, transforming an off-the-shelf garment into a one-of-a-kind piece through wear and custom features. One begins with a pair in its untouched state and molds them to a singular expression of style.

The Enduring Appeal of Raw Denim

APC New Standard Japanese Raw Stretch Denim JeansPin
The commitment to raw denim is a journey towards a timeless, personalized style underpinned by quality and the promise of a garment that grows with you. Photo: A.P.C.

Raw denim is a cornerstone for those dedicated to cultivating a timeless style, especially men seeking to base their wardrobe on durable and classic denim. Initially crafted for workwear, it has seamlessly transitioned into contemporary fashion and is celebrated for its durability.

Choosing the perfect fit is vital because raw denim takes longer to adapt to the body than pre-washed varieties. Furthermore, embracing raw denim jeans means committing to the break-in period, yet it promises a reward: a garment that uniquely mirrors one’s journey.


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