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What Is Raw Denim?

Apr 10, 2018

The Real Deal: What is raw denim? 

Consider raw denim the OG - often imitated but never duplicated. In it’s constructed from, this fabric is the purest form of the cotton twill fabric. Never washed, distressed or treated in any way, raw denim jeans have a stiff feel and distinctive color that comes when a pair hasn’t been pre-shrunk; it’s all natural and made to last. As the denim gradually evolves in both look and feel into a true one-of-a-kind, completely bespoke to the wearer. This kind of jean may require a little extra lovin’ but the results are totally worth it. 

The DSTLD Way: Why our raw denim? 

DSTLD’s raw denim uses a 24-dip process with the richest indigo dyes available to achieve an authentic color that will naturally fade into the perfect hue for you. With time and wear, the deep blue hue will soften to reveal a gradient of light blues and soft whites, with combinations that are unique and completely personalized. This stiffer, heavier weight raw fabric is also infused with our signature 2% stretch for a comfort seldom seen in raw denim. The fabric has also been sanforized and mercerized to minimize shrinkage. 

Make it Yours: How to find your perfect fit 

Unlike most of today’s spandex-filled fabrications, raw materials offer less stretch up-front with a precise fit developing over time. For this reason, DSTLD's Design Director Paul Roughley recommends ordering one size down in raw denim, which helps create a more tailored look ultimately. “When you order your standard size to begin with, depending on how often they’re worn, there’s a risk of the jean growing and becoming too big. Sizing down allows you to really break in the fabric so the jeans actually become your size. Essentially the more raw denim is worn, the more they mold to your exact shape for a tailored, one-of-a kind style.”

Raw Denim Care Guide: Show your devotion

Raw denim is a unique fabric with its own rules for care – just like you. Because the material is pure and untreated, it will require a different kind of curating and cleaning routine than your run-of-the-mill jeans. Once you’ve figured out your ideal size and style, here are a few tips to start this long-term relationship off on the right foot…or leg:

  1. First thing’s first: don’t even think about tossing these bad boys anywhere near the hamper. In general, the less you wash your raw jeans, the better so leave your raw denim alone and let it do its thing while you do yours – kind of like millennial dating. We recommend waiting at least 3-6 months before washing your new DSTLD jeans. The longer you wait (without exceeding 12 months), the better. As far as storage: avoid folding at all costs, and hang your raw denim instead. 
  2. To help break in your raw denim, try a few squats and lunges to start stretching out the tight fabric. Let them get a feel for you by wearing them around for a few days and about a week later, you’ll begin to notice the denim soften and shape to your body. As mentioned above, DO NOT WASH to speed up the wearing-in process. We’re saying it twice so you know it’s serious. Instead, use the “shrink to fit” method and soak in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes wearing your raw denim jeans. This will help shape them to fit your silhouette perfectly. Do not hem your jeans prior to first wash. While, the waist will stretch back out, but inseam length will not.
  3. A few months in, you may be compelled to do a ‘light wash’ to address any mild odors that have accumulated. Do this by applying a very light cleaning solution (à la Febreze) and hanging to dry for 24 hours, ideally outside. Be sure to avoid direct sunlight to avoid any unwanted fading!

Clean it Up: (Finally) Washing your Raw Denim

When it is time to wash your raw jeans, show them a light touch and do so gently. Here’s the best way we know how:

  1. Fill a bathtub with about 3-4 inches of cool-to-luke-warm water
  2. Mix in 1 tbsp. of white vinegar or specially formulated soap (preferably one intended to handle dark colors, such as Woolite Black.) Never use regular laundry detergent.
  3. Lay your denim inside out and flat in the bathtub.
  4. Keep your jeans submerged by placing heavy items like closed bottles of shampoo and body wash on top.
  5. Let soak for about 45 minutes. 
  6. Rinse with cool water then hang to dry. Never put your jeans in the dryer unless you intend to shrink them! Always hang or lay flat to dry. 

*A note about shrinkage:  All jeans shrink when exposed to water. All of our raw denim is sanforized, a process that shrinks the fabric before it’s cut and sewn into jeans. Sanforized denim shrinks 3-5% during the first wash. 

In between washes (which should be no more than a few times each year) treat any stains by gently dabbing a wet towel (wet with water - never soap) or using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

…. And now it’s just the beginning

Raw denim is a commitment, no doubt about it. But like most things that require a little TLC, the end result is so, so worth it. Be mindful of how you care for, wear and store your new jeans, and they’ll reward you by being one of the most comfortable, high-quality, perfectly-faded pieces in your wardrobe for years to come.

Watch Design Director Paul Roughley discuss our signature raw denim collection.


Shop our men's raw denim collection now. 

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