Washing your Denim

I get asked about this all the time in the store... "When should I wash my jeans? How should I wash my jeans? Why shouldn't I wash my jeans?" I've picked up a bit of info on this highly contentious issue, and have a few thoughts on the subject; so if your interested, here's my take on things...

We sell a lot of "Raw" Denim. Unwashed. Dry. Basically, Brand New! These jeans have been nowhere near a washing machine, let alone an Industrial Laundry. As such, they feel stiff. This is due to the starch and wax on the fabric used on the fabric to keep it flat when the pattern is cut. This hasn't been washed out...

Next up; Indigo dye, the stuff that makes your jeans blue, is too large molecularly to penetrate the cotton yarn your jeans are made of.

There are two reasons denim fades. 1 - the dye is washed out. 2 - the dye is rubbed off through wear. The correlation between these two produces the features we are seemingly never going to get enough of.

So, what has all this got to do with washing denim? Simply put, the more you wear your jeans and the less you wash them, the more contrast you will achieve in your fade patterns. If you wash your denim, the dye will fade uniformly. If you wear it, the dye will rub off at points of stress, like at the knees, or the pockets. 

In order to facilitate this process, various solutions have been suggested to the inevitable outcome of unwashed clothing - the smell! So lets deal with them...

First up, are they dirty? Did you dig up the back yard in them? Did you fix the timing on your vintage Triumph T120 in them? Did you spill your Curry/Bloody Mary/Iced Coffee on them. You did? Then wash them! What are you, an animal! 

If they're not dirty, but maybe not exactly clean, then you may be tempted to place your jeans in the freezer, because various experts have suggested this will kill bacteria. Bacteria survived two Ice Ages; I expect a night in the freezer isn't going to bother it much...

If you want to freshen things up a bit, turn your jeans inside out and hang them in the sun. I don't expect this will "kill" anything, but everybody loves the sunshine!

Somebody with nothing better to do tested his unwashed jeans after a year of wear, and then washed them and tested again two weeks later. The results were negligibly different, and the first test revealed nothing "dangerous" to his health.

So thats bacteria taken care of. But seriously, what we are really worried about is what they look like, right? And this, seriously, is the secret behind our continuing love affair with denim; the fact that it ages with us and reflects our lifestyle.

Denim blogs are obsessed with "Fades" and "Whiskers", and the given wisdom is to wash as little as possible. When I was a kid in my first pair of 501's, none of this stuff was an issue. We just went out and played football! The point being your denim will fade whatever you do.

So. My advice is this. Buy a good quality pair of Unwashed Denim Jeans. Wear them as much or as little as you like. Wash them as much or as little as you like. The end result will be the same; they will end up a part of you and your life, as individual as you are. They will get better with age. Just like us!