So, you’re ready to give raw denim a try. Now what? Your raw denim jeans are going to last a long time, so we put this guide together in order to help you find a pair you'll love.
WHY BOTHER?Raw denim isn’t for everyone, but it just might be for you. For many, raw denim is the best jean—the best fit, the best look, and the best feel.
Raw denim is personal. Our Fabric Guide talks about how it fades and conforms to your body. And, like all good things, personalization takes time. Raw denim, even when it has a bit of stretch, starts out on the uncomfortable side until it’s broken in.
If you’re willing to make the time investment, you’ll get a great fitting (and looking!) pair of pants. And, if you’re willing to make the financial investment, you may actually end up saving a bit over time. Though raw denim can be a little pricey up front, it can be worn day in and day out—from casual wear to formal occasions—with little rotation. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up loving your raw denim so much, it will become your go-to pair of jeans.
Ready to take the plunge? Let’s get started.
And, afterwards, take a look at our collection of raw denim jeans.
FINDING THE RIGHT PANTS
Raw denim can be easier to buy than washed denim. Because it will stretch and conform to your body over time, you don’t have to worry so much about the perfect fit on day one. What should you consider when buying raw? Keep reading.
1. The Right Amount of Tension
Raw denim will stretch. How much depends on lots of factors, including the denim’s weight and quality, the type of cotton, the tightness of the weave, and, of course, your body’s unique tension points—far too many variables for the average person to comprehend, let alone factor into a purchase. But here’s the good news: the right amount of tension isn’t an exact science. It’s actually rather easy. If you’re looking for 100% cotton in a mid or heavy weight, then choose a pair that you can button, but not with ease. We’re talking about a pair that you can get into, though the waist will feel tighter than you’d normally buy. And, err on the tight side for the waist—there’s a lot of tension there, and it will stretch.
For other areas like the hips, thighs, and butt, expect some stretch, but not nearly as much as the waist. Those areas don’t experience much tension except when you’re very active (or if you’re extremely bony). The more you move, the more these areas will stretch. And don’t get a thigh that’s difficult to squeeze into unless you’re going for that super tight look.
Rule of thumb: middle and heavyweight denim will stretch 3% to 5%. In layman’s terms, if you have a 32-inch waist, it’s going to stretch about an inch to an inch and a half.
Now, to complicate things ever so slightly, some raw denims are woven with stretch fabric. Technically, the denim can and will still stretch, but the elastane (or other stretch material) provides give and reduces tension, so the fabric will stretch about half as much as other raw denim. But the same fit guideline still holds, though not as severe: choose pants that are tighter than you’d normally buy, but don’t overdo it. The same is true for lighter weight denim, or a loose weave.
2. The Right Style
Now you know how tight to go, but which style should you get?
Remember, the way to break in your raw denim is to wear it. A lot. So choose the pair that will get a lot of wear. Resist the temptation to choose raw denim as a special or specific occasion item. If you do, it likely won’t get broken in, and you won’t even be able to wear it when the time comes. Rule of thumb: middle and heavyweight denim will stretch 3% to 5%. In layman’s terms, if you have a 32-inch waist, it’s going to stretch about an inch to an inch and a half.
Instead, choose a style that not only works for your lifestyle, but stands the test of time. Because your raw denim will last, pick the fit (slim, straight, skinny, etc.) that you’ll want to wear for the next year or two.
3. The Right Fit
Let’s put it all together. First, find your style. Then choose a pair that’s tight in the waist, snug in the hips and thigh, and just right everywhere else. Simple as that.
And, when it comes to the length, make sure you give yourself plenty of room for shrinking. Because of the the warp threads, your raw denim pants will shrink (sometimes significantly) in the length with your first wash. See our Wear & Care Guide for washing, but expect that even with cold soaking, your raw denim will shrink up a bit in the length.