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What is Raw Denim?

What is Raw Denim?
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As the heritage movement in fashion continues to trend, so does raw denim. But what exactly is raw denim? Does it really signify higher quality in a pair of jeans, or is it merely a buzzword?

First, raw denim is not to be confused with selvedge denim, which we wrote about here. Selvedge refers to the hems and edges of the fabric, and how it is sewn. Jeans can be raw and selvedge, or just raw, or just selvedge.

Second, the term “raw” is a bit misleading. It makes it sound like the denim is unprocessed in some way, but raw denim is made from cotton processed and spun just like that of regular ‘ol denim. It is also dyed, sewn and pressed just like non-raw denim into jeans. What differentiates raw denim is that it hasn’t been washed after it’s been dyed.

This is also why it’s sometimes called “dry denim.”

Not rinsing the excess dye from the denim results in a stiffer, darker blue fabric. The benefits of this are jeans that will fade gradually in all the right spots as you wear them (the excess dye does fade eventually, since the bond between indigo and cotton is not that strong, according to this Discovery Channel vid on how jeans are made). Normally, jean manufacturers use tools, like lasers, to burnish accents like whiskers and honeycombs (the creases behind the knee) into jeans, but with raw denim, these features are made au naturale by how you walk, bend, sit, and live in them. The end result is a pair of unique, perfectly vintage-looking jeans.

The advantage of raw denim is that they are often a better investment than non-raw denim. You will probably pay more for raw denim jeans, but they will last longer (years longer), look better, and the markings on them are literally made for you. Or, well, by you.

This isn’t to say you can’t find a pair of good looking washed and burnished jeans, but the creases on raw denim are subtler and more natural. Sometimes it’s obvious when jeans have been artificially decorated and this can look kind of cheap. Just sayin’…

Caring for raw denim is different, too. The plus side is that you don’t have to wash them often—about every six months is the most common interval I’ve seen. The downside is that…you only wash them every six months.

For small spills, can spot treat them, and use Febreeze for any funky odors that may have set in. If you absolutely need to wash them, soak them in the tub and hang them to dry. It may seem like a lot of work, but if you only have to do it every six months, how bad can it be?

In summation, raw denim jeans are perfect for a one-of-a-kind, vintage look. They gradually fade and wear according to your body, and last for years. If you are looking for raw denim jeans, come into Harleys in Shorewood and check out our selection.

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