Finding the right pair of jeans is often a difficult task. With all the different styles, cuts, and washes out there it’s no wonder that many men are sometimes left scratching their heads.
Should they go with a straight cut or a slim cut?
Dark wash or light wash?
What about distressed vs. non-distressed?
And what’s with this raw selvedge denim they keep hearing about? Is it even worth spending $300 on a pair of jeans?
I’ve written extensively before on my website in what I look for in pair of quality denim jeans (style, cut, and wash) so I won’t bother rehashing that here.
Instead, I want to focus the discussion in this article on raw selvedge denim. More specifically, what it is, if they are worth buying, and how to take care of them if you decide to buy a pair.
Let’s get started.
What is Raw Selvedge Denim?
Frankly speaking, there are two distinct factors that separate raw selvedge denim from all other denim out on the market. First, raw denim is denim that has not been washed during its manufacturing process. As a result, raw denim has a stiff, almost cardboard like feel to the touch. In contrast, your average pair of denim has already been washed (often several times) during the manufacturing process, giving them a much softer, lived-in feel from the get-go. Second, the selvedge aspect of the denim signifies that the denim’s edges are finished so as to prevent them from unraveling. For a better understanding, take a look at the two images below:
This first image is an example of non-selvedge jeans with unfinished seams:
This second image is an example of selvedge jeans with finished seams:
See the difference?
Finally, I think it’s important to point out that not all raw denim is of the selvedge variety and not all selvedge denim is raw. Confusing, I know.
Is Raw Selvedge Denim Worth It?
Now that you have a basic understanding of what raw selvedge denim is, I’m sure you are wondering what all the fuss is about. Are they really any better than your average pair of denim of jeans?
Well, it depends.
Denim purists are quick to point out that raw denim jeans are of a higher quality than your typical pair of denim. Evidently, this has all to do with how raw denim jeans are made, which is with a shuttle loom. This type of loom produces a heavy, more tightly woven fabric that comes with a finished edge (i.e. selvedge), whereas modern projectile looms produce much larger swaths of fabric more quickly (with an unfinished edge). This is why modern jeans are generally more affordable.
However, I should mention that with the growing popularity of raw selvedge denim, manufacturers have found ways to cut corners (as always) and now you can find raw selvedge denim at price points that are comparable to your run of the mill, projectile loom produced jeans.
Another oft cited reason to invest in raw selvedge denim is that they can be personalized over time by your own unique wear patterns, something that is virtually impossible with your average pair of denim jeans. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear raw denim enthusiasts refer to their jeans as telling a unique “story” with their wear patterns. In an era of pre-packaged and pre-fabricated everything, I must admit that there is a certain charm to this that many people will find appealing. That’s the great thing about raw selvedge denim – by its very nature it is free from any kind of fake or faux distressing. This makes them a great option for guys who are looking for something not only more personal, but also more versatile in that they can be worn in both casual (t-shirts, polos etc.) and formal (button up shirts, blazers etc.) situations.
How to Wash
Raw denim aficionados will tell you that you should never wash your raw denim – at least not right away. Apparently washing raw denim too soon will mess up its ability to take on a proper fade (which is one of the reasons you want to buy the jeans to begin with). This is because during the manufacturing process the indigo dye is not 100% absorbed into the denim material. Thus, prematurely washing the jeans could result in a loss of that deep blue colour as well as its rigid feel. Most people recommend that you wear the denim for up to 6 months prior to washing, and when you are ready to wash the denim that you do so by hand in the following manner:
- Wash separately. The indigo dye will have a tendency to bleed.
- Wash them inside out and make sure you let them soak for at least 30 min.
- Use a detergent that is safe for darker fabrics. Do not use bleach (duh).
- Use cold or lukewarm water to avoid shrinking the denim unnecessarily.
- Always hang dry flat.
For those of you who feel that your jeans might be getting a little funky before the 6 month period is up, it is recommended that you put your jeans in the freezer for several hours in order to kill the bacteria. Another option would be to use a little Febreeze and hang them up to air out/dry outside.
Where to buy
The price points for raw selvedge denim range wildly. You can pick up a pair for as cheap as $60 but some pairs can be as expensive as several hundred dollars. For those of you who are interested in the look and feel of raw selvedge denim but are not ready to invest in a quality pair right away, I recommend you check out The Gap’s Japanese selvedge jeans. You can pick them up for under $100 when on sale. However, if you are interested in a pair of raw selvedge denim of a higher quality, I have heard good things about APC’s New Standard raw denim jeans. Just be prepared to fork up some cash.
Now that I’ve educated you on what raw selvedge denim is and how to take care of it, I’ll leave the decision up to you on whether or not they are worth buying. However, I will say that for many men the arguably higher quality of raw denim coupled with the ability to wear something that is truly personal is often enough to tip them over into the buyer’s category. With that said, whatever route you end up choosing, just remember to focus on fit and finding a pair denim that is simple in overall design.
Until next time,
Here’s to staying fit and looking sharp!