Guide to Dry & Raw Denim

My best friend Kate is huge Dry Denim enthusiast. “Why would I want to buy jeans that are made to look like I already wore them? I just don’t get it,” she says, “What I do, is buy raw denim and, at first, they may be awful, but then I sit in my bathtub wearing them, and soak in them…and then I wear them til they’re practically dry on meÔǪOh my gosh! It is toruture! But totally worth itÔǪ” she squealsÔǪ “Then, I wear them constantly, do crazy things like lunges in them, jump around in them, maybe even work out in them, dance around the house in them, and of course, I never wash themÔǪThen they behave. Then it’s not as if it looks like I broke them inÔǪbecause, I actually did! The best part is when they get all of the creases in themÔǪaround the backs of my knees and on my legsÔǪand they are my creases. Man, I wish they were more of a girl thing though…it’s so hard to find great women’s dry jeans. Love my Levi’s though!”

Brand New Raw Denim After their First Soak in the Tub!
Brand New Raw Denim After their First Soak in the Tub!

I can remember one week last year when Kate came to visit me. She had the most amazing pair of Levi’s on. When I say amazing, I mean really amazing. They were the kind of jeans that look like you had to lay down to get them on, but really, she didn’t have to do that at all. She just glided right into them. They were straight leg and just slightly high waistedÔǪbut nothing too trendy. And as she had mentioned in her previous dissertation on broken in dry denim, they were faded everywhere, just right to her body. What was the secret? They were dry denim of course.

So What is Dry Denim?

So, maybe many of you already know about Dry Denim, or, as it is sometimes called, “Raw” Denim. Dry Denim is, in fact, developing a cult following these days with huge fan forum’s and websites out there. Like my best friend, there are many people who agree, that a natural fit and fade to one’s own body, is preferable to a fade that is made to order. There are companies out there that are specifically devoted to Dry Denim and guys and girls alike who refuse to buy anything else. Finding Dry denim for women, however, I do have to agree is typically more challenging, and much of the women’s dry denim is…well…watered down a bit…but…let’s get down to basics first…

Characterized by its unaffected state, Dry Denim relies on the denim and the wearer themselves to get the material and color to that cozy and, if you will, sometimes destroyed stage that we love so much. Denim is an American Favorite for many reasons. The main basis, I would venture to say, is it’s comfort factor. No matter what style we make a jean (skinny, wide, boot, boyfriend, straight, etc), they still remain pretty comfortable. There is pretty much nothing we can do to make denim uncomfortable (ok, there are times when we wear it too tight and yes, that crosses the line!). But, as a whole, denim’s ability to soften up and adhere to your particular body, creating, at times, an almost cashmere feel, is what has made the industry impenetrable and the look iconic (understatement). The difference between Dry Denim and the majority of our designer denim favorites today is that the makers of dry denim are leaving it completely up to the denim and you to do the softening and wearingÔǪ.they are taking themselves out of the equation. Way to trust the jeans!

So, although it certainly is not the quickest way to an A+ fit, it seems to be the most authentic these days.

Pictures of Dry Denim

 

Nudie Dry Denim -Bran New & Unwashed
Nudie Dry Denim -Bran New & Unwashed
Levi's 501s after 1 Month of wear, no Washing yet
Levi's 501s after no washing and 1 month of everyday wear
GStar Raw Midge after 7 Months of Wear and no washes yet!
GStar Raw Midge after 7 Months of Wear and no washes yet!
ALD Denim with 1 year of Heavy Wear and NO WASHES!
ALD Denim with 1 year of Heavy Wear and NO WASHES!

Mens Styles of Dry Denim

 

From Left: COH Perfect Selvage Bootcut; Gilded Age Wilson Pant Selvage Raw
From Left: Helmut Lang Raw S2; Nudie Slim Jim Dry Broken Twill
From Left: Kicking Mule Workshop 1950 Classic Raw & 2010 Straight Raw

Womens Styles of Dry Denim

 

From Left: Earnest Sewn Harlan Cigarette One Rinse; Nudie Slim Kim Organic Dry Ecru
From Left: G-Star Raw 110; Cheap Monday Tight & Cheap Unwashed
From Left: Level 99 Kate Dry; ACNE Hex Dry DC Jeans

Dry Denim- Major Brands

 

  • Nudie
  • Levi’s
  • Earnest Sewn
  • Sling & Stones
  • Samurai
  • Atelier LaDurance
  • APC
  • Pure Blue
  • Flat Head
  • Evisu
  • Eternal
  • Sugarcane
  • Skull
  • Warehouse
  • Fullcount
  • ACNE
  • Pace
  • Cheap Mondays
  • Denimbirds
  • Julian Red
  • Tsubi
  • GStar
  • Kicking Mule Workshop
  • Gilded Age
  • Oni
  • Paul Smith
  • Naked & Famous
  • Dior
  • Diesel

Frequently Asked Questions

 

WHAT IS THE TECHNICAL DEFINITION OF DRY DENIM?

Dry or Raw denim is denim fabric that is not washed during the production phase, after the color treatment process. Unlike most denim, the makers of Dry or Raw Denim allow this process to happen in a natural aging cycle of the denim fabric itself, instead of speeding it up to creating a “desirable” purchase look.

WHY WOULD I WANT TO BUY DRY DENIM?

Most people who are dry denim enthusiasts feel that these jeans are truly a pair of jeans that are going to be fit and worn to your specific body. Because Dry Denim is not going to have wear to it when you first receive them, the denim will then only be affected by your daily life, by your activities, by your unique set of experiences, making each mark, line and even tear, authentic to not only the brand, but to you.

WHY DO MOST DENIM MAKERS WASH DENIM TO BEGIN WITH THEN?

Washing denim after the dye process creates a few typical appearances such as “softening” “distressing” “creasing” “whiskering” “fading” etc.. Concurrently, washing denim after the dye process can also prevent some certain negative affects such shrinkage, although not usually to an ideal, as we all can attest I’m certain! While dry denim is definitely going to be more exclusive to you than a pair of pre-distressed jeans, they don’t necessarily get that way over night. So, be prepared to wear them, and wear them hard! Most Dry Denim enthusiasts will not wash their jeans for 6 months or even longerÔǪ!

I’VE HEARD OF SELVAGE DENIMÔǪ WHAT IS THAT? AND WHY IT IS UNCOMMON?

Selvage is from the term “self-edge” and has more to do with the inside roll or “edge” on a pair of jeans than the actual denim itself. However, you’re certainly most likely to find selvage in a pair of dry denim jeansÔǪalthough they are mutually exclusive. A selvage edge, or roll, is usually done running along the edge of the denim’s outseam. Yet, it is only selvage when the seaming is done in a certain and very meticulous way.

Have you ever noticed that when some jeans are cuffed up, the seaming looks extremely finishes and cleanÔÇölike the edge was made look visible? As if the seam could never come undone? Well, if you’ve seen that, then you were probably looking at selvage denim. This is an extremely high quality finish from an old school “shuttle loom”. Unfortunately though, not all of today’s denim is made on a shuttle loomÔÇöin fact, most is not. Using a shuttle loom to create denim in today’s world is a very costly (not to mention lengthy) process. And, although the finished result is a tighter and superior quality weave, most companies began to use a different method called the “projectile loom” back in the ÔÇÿ50’s to save material and labor cost. Consequently, not too many selvage options at your local mallsÔǪ.

Here’s some pictures of Selvage…

Selvage Denim from Paul Smith, "Red Ear"
Selvage Denim from Paul Smith,
Selvage Denim from Sugarcane
Selvage Denim from Sugarcane
Citizens of Humanity Riley Selvage in Digger
Citizens of Humanity Riley Selvage in Digger

OK, ENOUGH OF THE SELVAGE…I GET IT! ONTO THE OTHER “S”…WHAT IS SANFORIZING ?????

That one’s pretty easy! Think of sanforizing as a dry denim maker’s way to preshrink your denim material without ever effecting the way it will be colored or faded. Pretty great. Not every pair of dry jeans is sanforized thoughÔǪthat’s where soaking comes into playÔǪ

YESYOU DID MENTION SOAKING IN THE BEGINNING. AM I REALLY SUPPOSED TO SIT IN THE BATH IN MY JEANS?

Yes. And no. This is a pretty controversial method. Not everyone recommends it. And, in fact, some people are vehemently against it! Soaking denim while you are wearing the denim (ie in the tub) is usually recommended by jeans that have not been sanforized (rememberÔÇöthat means they haven’t shrunk yet). By doing this, the denim is going to shrink right to your body and yet, it will not shrink past your body. That’s why people recommend actually wearing them while you’re soaking. Use warm water, as this will allow the fabric fibers to really expandÔǪand thenÔǪas they dry, contract, creating that shrink and fit that you’re looking for. The soaking process also helps to break jeans in a little more quickly and fade the denim fast. Please, just don’t forget, if your denim is sanforized, your purchase is true-to-size, and this process is not for you! You’ll definitely want to preserve that cut and might make the jeans too small!

If you’re not like my friend Kate and you’re not into running around in wet denim, your best bet is to fill your pants up with heavy wide items that you don’t mind ruining, like some big ol’ textbooks. Some people recommend inside out-ting your denim, others say noÔǪas you may be gathering at this point, the soaking and washing practices have garnered more than a few opinionsÔǪAhhhÔǪsighÔǪfashionÔǪ

I HAVE MY JEANS PERFECT NOW! BUT THEY STINK! HOW DO I WASH THEM?

The standard dry denim wash recommendation is six months. Washing dry denim too soon won’t ruin your denim, however, it will ruin your faded pattern. It will take your jeans from whiskered and destroyed to a bit more evenly colored. This long-time-no-wash-standard is one of the reasons that dry denim is not for everyone.

Lorna’s note – What does count though is how much you wear these jeans, washing is not too important unless you have a brand like Nudie where the colour will fade extremely fast, you just have to make sure that you wear them as much as possible to ensure you are getting those creases and fades you desire. It is best to wait as long as possible before your first wash though as the starchiness to the denim will go away once it’s washed and then it does make it harder for the creases to set in. I own 2 raw jeans myself, Sling & Stones and Good Society and they are very hard to break in but it’s definitely worth it. I also put together a post where you can see other forum members raw denim after it’s been worn and washed. Click here to view it.

Regardless of when you wash however, the method is pretty much the same: Wash Alone, Wash Cold, Wash Inside Out, Wash Using Gentle Non-Bleach detergents, and Last, but not least, whether washing or soaking, make sure you line dry those puppies!

SO…ARE YOU READY TO DIVE INTO DRY…

SHOP NOW!

And last but certainly not least…

Also, be sure to check out Dry Denim Community for lots of great tips for hemming and wearingas well as our user friendly forum to ask of all the questions you need to break in your denim right and bring them to the look you have been hoping for!

 

43 Comments

  1. Great job – nice guide! I have yet to try a pair of raw denim myself but I’ve been thinking about it – the trick is picking out the right size so they mold to you!

  2. you should add sling & stones and samurai to the list 🙂 Diesel doesnt count i dont think since they only made one raw thanaz in DDG line.

  3. I forgot to add though this is a great post. I wouldnt dry clean raws though because wont the creases come out and they wont fade very well?

  4. This guide is awesome!! I’m now on the lookout for a good starter pair of dry denim. If anyone knows a good direction to point me in, please don’t hesitate!

  5. i’m almost positive that the COH Riley Selvage doesn’t actually have a selvage, but is just a name… not 100%, though 🙂

    overall great post. i could do without the “IDK, my BFF Jill”, middle school-esque intro, though 😉

  6. Great informative article! I’m not sure if I’m into putting so much work just for a pair of jeans, but then again if people are willing to do all this, maybe it is worth it??

  7. MissJ – I thought the same thing – why work so hard? But there is obviously something to them they way raw denim has developed such a cult following. And some of these jeans look hot, I may just have to try a pair to see what all the fuss is about!

  8. I thought this too and i thought it must be really icky to wear them so long but once you get them its like a project you begin to see creases and then more of them settling in and then fades begin to appear, its awesome to see them develop so much, they are your own personal jeans, moulded to you and there is not another pair with the same creases and fades as yours 🙂 Its a unique project.

  9. Where can I find those gilded age pants… those look like revolve pics but I cant find them on the website

  10. SO, I just bought a pair of good society denims and they bleed on everything they touch. I dig how dark they are however i want to be able to sit on my couch without leaving a imprint on it of my booty in indigo. help me boo!!!

  11. Coming from someone who is involved in creating denim I have a question for raw denim wearers. The denim before we wash is not set. The blue rubs off on your skin. People who wear raw denim do not mind this?? I am curious.

  12. I hate that it stains everything blue but it’s something you gotta put up with. My old S&S Rachels the blue never came off at all which I loved!

  13. Ralph Lauren makes a great pair of raw selvages for short money if you can find them. USA made of Jap. Selvage, runs you $50 USD at a polo outlet or marshalls.

  14. Great article! I’ve been looking to buy a pair soon, but I’m a little confused by some of the other blogs I’m reading: Do you recommend buying the jeans true to size, a size smaller than normal, or two sizes smaller? I’ve heard recommendations for all three!

    Thanks!

  15. Hi 🙂
    It completely depends on the jean you buy, if you buy unwashed you need to buy the tag size and shrink them to your size. If you buy stretch jeans I recommend staying tts (brand dependent) and if it’s a rigid jean you might want to size down but they will be super tight at first 🙂 My rigid ones were so tight it was hard to move but then they stretched out a bout 2 sizes and are now too big, it really is brand and fabric content dependent but raw jeans are great! Good luck with your first pair 🙂 I recommend sling & stones, super flattering and pretty 🙂

  16. I am looking into buying G-Star Raw Denim jeans for the first time.

    My normal size is like a 30×30 any reccomendations for what size to get and everything? Also how would I clean them? I am still not sure about this

  17. As for sizing it depends completely on how tight you want them, the fabric content etc. Washing them is pretty easy, just do it how you want to do it 🙂 The most common way is cool water with minimal light soap, it’s about how much you wear them more than how you wash them 🙂

  18. great post!

    i was curious has anyone come across a pair of organic cotton raw denim made in the US?

    been looking for ages but luck – any tips appreciated!

  19. Una tecnica que me ha funcionado muy bien para mantener los jeans con la fijura de mi cuerpo es lavarlos en la ducha con ellos puestos tan pronto te los quites colgarlos, los levis no organicos si les quieres dar look de desgaste dales un buen remojon en la playa eso los pone bien nice

  20. awesome and informative article!!!

    I just bought a pair of G-star Midge jeans and I am not sure about the sitting in the tub part. 🙂 It mentioned something about “sanforizing” how do I know that they are or are not? Also, not sure if I should get the tight or snug fit on these of the looser more comfortable fit? But I am excited to wear them out and make them mine!

  21. Have you ever heard of ammonia treated denim ?? Raw denim with ammonia treatment would be great as it is supposed to give a much softer handle to the fabric, better colour fastness and better strength. This means getting the raw denim look, but without being rigid and tough.

  22. I was just saw a pair of raw denim jeans produced with the liquid ammonia treatment and have to say that they are exceptional. I am convinced that the ammonia treatment will be the future in denim as I was also shown 4 pairs ammonia treated and 4 pairs of mercerised jeans with the same finish and the ones that had been ammonia treated were far better. I am just waiting for some of the major brands to launch ammonia treated jeans. I heard some rumours that Diesel will launch a line next season.

  23. How quickly people forget. Dry denim is a “fad”. And there’s that word, “dry”. You know what we used to call “dry” jeans back then?

    NEW.

    That’s right, that’s all you could get. New, unwashed jeans, which you typically bought from Sears. Stiff as shit, took about three washings to soften them up. You bought them, you wore them, you washed them when they got dirty. That’s basically all you had to do.

    You people overthink jeans. I guarantee you James Dean didn’t worry about whether he went 6 months before a first wash, or whether he should sit in them in a tub for 2 hours. If he were to read this post, he’d go “are you fucking kidding me, are you people insane?” They are just jeans, just buy some Levis and JUST FUCKING WEAR THEM!

    You guys wonder “why” they pre-wash jeans and stuff. It’s because before 1982, all you could buy were plain normal jeans. Some lazy fucks (i.e., you people) just couldn’t wait 3 washes before they softened, so Levis made a KILLING selling a $20 jean for $50. That’s right, Levis became the most FUCKING EXPENSIVE JEAN WASHER in the world.

    I find both the “dry” enthusiasts and the anti-dry hipsters funny. Both of you are trendy posers. I’ll start with the anti-dry. You guys are the latest in a long line of lazy fucks who couldn’t wait for the 3 washes to break in. Your bloodline begins with the people who started the pre-washed fad. That’s right, at first it was a fad. Buying new unwashed jeans was the mainstream for DECADES.

    And now you dry posers. Like i said, buying them unwashed was the rule for DECADES. You haven’t come up with anything new. You want dry stiff jeans? Buy some Sears Toughskins. Guaranteed to sandpaper the hair off your balls withing the hour.

    This whole overthinking of jeans is funny as shit.

  24. The best raw selvedge denim is thedenim whaich was perpare as per the denim was manufactured in 1960s .
    The mathod is to manufacture denim is as under .
    1. Yarn was prepare in hank to dye indigo , the mathod is called indigo hank dyeing.
    2. After indigo dyeing done hank was taken to sizing of yarn , to size hank the mathod is totally different from morden method.
    3. Sized yarn was taken on beams by warping of yarn .
    4. Weaving of fabrics was done on old shuttle looms , were we age getting fabrics 29”with selvedge both the side . Selvedge can be change as per the brands requirements.
    5. After weaving was done fabrics was treated in only hot shope watter to controll shrinkage and color fastness .
    We are the only manufacturer of row selvedge denim as per the old mathod which was used in 1960s on made to order . Now a days all selvedge denim as upcomming in market is manufactured by morden technology.
    For further details you can contact us on utsavexports@rediffmail.com or can call us on phone +91 9819161456

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