How To Clean and Wash Your Raw Denim – Tips, Instructions, Video

One of the biggest bones of contention people usually have with raw denim is how they should be washed and cleaned (also see our earlier post, “After 15 Months without washing, Nudie Pants show ‘normal’ bacteria levels“).  We should probably preface this post by first saying that we don’t necessarily condone washing raw denim.  As explained below, we advise wearing your raws for at least 6 months, thereby achieving that second-skin denim feel!

Raw Denim - Wash and Clean The Right Way

Raw Denim – Wash and Clean The Right Way

Before delving into the instructions, tips, etc. portion of this post though, it’s important to reiterate that the sooner you wash your denim, the less chance you will have for sharper fades.  This is because one of the primary steps in manufacturing raw denim is the color treatment stage, (aka indigo dying) where the denim is dipped in vats of indigo dye (natural or synthetic).

As the indigo is not 100% absorbed into the material, after you wash your denim, you are losing that deep blue/black color and as well the rigid feel (due to starch loss).  Thus, you want to wear your raw denim for at least 6 months prior to washing, but no longer than 1 year – otherwise the crotch in your denim will rip (or “blow out”)

Now, to get to the meat of it:


  • Hemming – Do not hem your raw denim jeans prior to washing as the denim will naturally shrink in length
  • Separate – Due to the natural indigo bleeding during washing, always wash your raw denim separate from other clothing pieces
  • Water Temperature – General rule of thumb: the hotter the water, the greater the shrinkage
  • Drying – Always hang dry flat.  Do not place on a heat radiator, use a dryer, or crumple when drying, as it will damage the fabric and ruin the fit, fade, contrast, and overall quality

Minor Wash and Care

  • Spillage – If you ever spill any liquid on your denim, try dry rubbing or dabbing with a paper napkin.  Do not use soap or any other cleaning solution since you will risk losing some indigo dye and create an uneven fade.  You don’t wanna be that guy with dark raw denim and big light circle, do you?
  • Smell – Many feel compelled to wash their raw denim before the 6 month mark because of how they start to smell.  The best solution here is to apply a very light cleaning spray, such as Fabreeze, and hang dry flat (preferably outdoors) for at least 24 hours.

Major Wash and Care

How to Clean and Wash Your Raw Denim - Woolite Dark

  1. Draw a bathtub of cool – lukewarm water, about 3-4 inches deep
  2. Mix in a small amount of very light washing powder, preferably Woolite Black, since it is specifically designed to lock in darker colors.  Do not use bleaches or regular laundry detergent
  3. Lay your raw denim inside out and flat in the bathtub and submerge them in the water by placing heavy objects on top
  4. Let soak for 45 minutes
  5. Rinse with cool water to remove soap
  6. Remove from water and hang dry, ideally outdoors & in the sun
  7. Optional – Apply starch to stiffen jeans (see our earlier post “To Starch or Not To Starch, And How“)

Note: If your denim is heavily dyed (18 Oz. and up), you may want to help settle loose dye in the material by first running your denim through an initial cycle of cold water, 1/4 cup salt, and 1/2 cup vinegar.


We’ve watched a lot of “how-to” video tutorials on this subject, and the below two are probably the best.  Again, always aim to wear your denim for at least 6 months but no longer than 1 year before washing.

Nick Coe

Nick is the Founding Editor of

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  • Helcmanovsky_j

    I bought my Edwin raw denim about a year ago and would like to wash them now. The problem is, I gave it to a tailor once and told her to only repair the crotch, but the old (probably deaf) bitch also hemmed it down to normal length.

    Will the denim shrink much when i wash it with lukewarm water?

    • Rawr Denim

      It more so depends whether or not the denim is sanforized (pre-shrunk) or unsanforized (not pre-shrunk). If it is the former, they will shrink 1% – 5%, while if it is the former, shrinkage can be anywhere from 7% – 10%.

  • Anonymous

    this is a great post. i just found out about this site! just soaked mine for 45 min after wearing for 15 months w/o wash. hope it looks good :)

    • Rawr Denim

      Thanks! How did they come out?

  • Guest

    Is it possible to shrink 2-3 sizes down?

    • Rawr Denim

      Depending on the denim, it’s possible to shrink approx. 2 sizes down in the waist, but not in other dimensions.

      For instance, Samurai Jeans’ “Zero” model denim will shrink a lot in the waist. The top-block and legs will shrink as well, but not as much. It will also stretch out about the same amount with regular wear.

      • Guest

        What about length? Am I better off going to a tailor?

        • Rawr Denim

          With unsanforized denim, it’s common that the inseam with shrink somewhere around 2 inches. That’s why most raw denim is cut with an inseam length of 36 inches, so it will shrink to a 34.

          If you need it shorter, you can take them to a tailor or consider cuffing them.

  • 91

    ” and now if you wear it for like another couple months it’ll speed ip the process of fading.”

    >>> does denim fade faster after giving it a first wash..? i don’t  get it..because in my understanding, its the other way around….

  • Sharky the Streetwear Designer

    Thanks a lot for posting the video! We made an updated video, another 18 months after that video, the 2nd wash but seem to have lost the footage!

    • Rawr Denim

      No problem, let us know if you come across it!

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  • Piersonator

    Hey guys! Why will wearing raw denim for more than a year cause crotch blowouts?

    • Pikachu

      cause of repeated friction applied around on the crotch area…..?

      • Cameron Dyke

        Because the bacteria in the fabric starts to break it down. Alternatively you could never stain your denim and always freeze-clean it.

        • bob

          That doesn’t work. Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria, it just makes them go dormant for a little while.

  • jus shilling

    so, if i understand correctly.. you wash them at a certain point to prevent blowouts.. but after the wash, from what ive noticed, is that they jeans just start to fall apart anyway, but at a faster rate.. you also hear of people retiring their jeans after first wash (if theyve waited a while, i.e. a year or more).. correct me if im wrong, im just trying to understand more.. thanks..

    • benzittlau

      I haven’t seen any concrete evidence to suggest that after a wash jeans would fall apart faster (and our guru Sean here at Rawr hadn’t either).  

      Some people do retire their jeans after washing, but this is largely a matter of taste (and possibly idealism), as you can still get some great wear and life out of jeans after they’ve been washed if you choose to keep wearing them.  For example:

  • jus shilling

    also, thanks for the vid.. rawrdenim is right.. this is the best breakdown so far.. people always say, “do this, do that”, when it comes to raw denim.. you ask why.. and the answers never really fully explain to me what it is i need to know.. its like when i was young, “dont smoke”.. ok why? “its bad”.. ok word.. or sundays on your way to church, “how do you know there is a GOD?”, there just is.. “ok”.. this sites the most on point for info.. lotta love for that.. and forget asking around on forums.. i see what they do to newjacks!

  • kurtyd

    Washing some Acknowledge denim right now! First time. 6 mo. wear, didn’t soak initially but I got these on clearance for $28 so i don’t have much to lose. they were cut unusually large so i’m hoping for some good shrinkage.

  • guyhigh

    finally giving my n&f skinny guy’s a wash after about 9months of wear, crotch is definitely nearing its end. looking forward to the end result, hoping for a bit of shrinkage as I’ve lost a good amount of weight from last year also looking in to maybe hemming after as well.

  • sc

    I’m wearing my 2.5 yr old Somets, and I’ve never washed them. No tears, no crotch blow-out, and they are gorgeous. I will give them a woolite inside out soak, now that I see that is safe. I was told to wear them without washing for as long as I could bear it, so I guess Somet gets an A++ for quality. (To Note: I’ve been febreezing the insides of them and keeping them overnight in the freezer to kill bacteria and funk. For 2 years, that did the trick)

    • Rawr Denim

      Good stuff – as mentioned below too, you’ll have to share the results in our forum afterward! They must look unreal after 2.5 years and no washes.

      • sc

        And, the soak took back all the stretch that the 2 years had earned me! I’ve been unable to wear my beloved Somets for a few years now, because the darn beautiful things can’t get close to buttoned. For all ladies: beware: soaking may make your ultra awesome denim unlivable. I’m working at re-stretching them at home, where no-one can see them half-way off my ass. When the glorious hour arrives, and they finally button, I’ll send photos. And angels will sing.

        • showbe

          thats why you wear them when you soak them if your a girl so they dont shrink too much..

    • BillygoatsGruff312

      put them up for fade friday

    • bob

      “To Note: I’ve been febreezing the insides of them and keeping them overnight in the freezer to kill bacteria and funk.”

      Stop saying this stuff people, it just makes you look stupid. FREEZING DOES NOT KILL BACTERIA

      • KTom

        Fact. This idea is actually perpetuated by a lot of people, including the CEO of Levi Strauss. He said he only freezes his jeans

  • Bryant

    Is it a must to use woolite to wash?

    • Rawr Denim

      It’s ideal to use as it helps darker colours hold, but by no means a *must*

      • Bryant

        How do i prevent the length of the denim to shrink? Only the length.

  • Nadjim

    Hey i have heavy starched levis will be alright to wash them like that?

    • Rawr Denim

      Your denim will lose much of the starch but it shouldn’t be a problem

  • Renvier

    How can I wash raw denim if I don’t have a bathtub? This is for a college environment… would a bin work, or must the jeans be able to lay flat without folding in any manner?

    • Rawr Denim

      Yes, a bin certainly works. RSVP put together a video recently that might help!

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  • juicebox

    You guys — I have one of those white circles. It’s on my knee, and it’s because I used to work at a sandwich bar and had to crouch and kneel all the time. Guess I rubbed one knee too violently when scraping off something from the floor. Anyone have any tips?

    • Buckhum

      Wear it with pride

  • Dan

    I just bought a pair of selvage jeans and wore them the other night and the dye transferred to my shirt. How can I keep that from happening without washing them right away?

    • Rawr Denim

      In this case, it would be best to give them a soak without any soap detergent.

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  • Daniel Moore

    Just wondering what is the best way to hang dry my jeans? I’ve seen some say to leave them inside out, some say hang them upside down (from the cuffs), others say even to wear them wet.
    I’m asking because I’m washing some right now and will probably just turn them back in (inside in) and hang them by the waist outside but if there is a definitive answer I’d like to know, thanks!

  • major

    I bought a pair of PRPS raw denim about 4 months ago.Today i noticed tons of spots on the calf area on both legs and i believe its debris from my boots. The dirt appeared to be caked on so i scraped it off but the spots remain. Any suggestions?

  • trehsu

    ” the hotter the water, the more greater the shrinkage”

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  • Ash Edwards

    Have several pairs of raw denim and usually never wear any of them more than once a week. The Nudies are the oldest of the bunch (2 + years) and as they are so heavy only wear them during the winter. They have never been washed and so still have the original fit and stiffness. Having a number of pairs, none of them worn regularly, saves me from having to wash them … at least for a long time. And in the heat of summer I usually switch to wearing chinos that fit more like jeans and so the denim gets a break. Does anyone else do this? How long could one conceivably go wearing jeans like this without washing them?

  • Rozen98

    Hey, is Shout, stain remover known to really take the dye out of stretch-selvegde naked and famous jeans, some was accidently used on my pair? And is it best to leave it dry or try and spot wash/clean the Shout out of the area? Thanks

  • cavallo-romano

    can’t find the option to post in forum. so i will ask here. anyone have first hand knowledge on making jeans. I have made 10 pair already,but now i want to make a pair from raw denim. the question… much shrinkage should i allow for when cutting? not worried about length-wise..more concerned about crotch and leg widths..any help would be appreciated

  • ferndaman

    How would I go about washing my grey N&F denim? Can’t use the recommended Woolite Black so what other detergent would you guys recommend? And is the powder form is better than the liquid form?

  • murt

    Honestly I don’t have the patience to handwash my jeans like this – what happens if I just throw them in the washing machine? (Ie., what happens if I just wash my raw denim jeans in the washing machine regularly just like pre-washed jeans?)

    • bob

      It defeats the whole purpose of buying Raw Jeans. And RTFA they already answered your question.

      “, it’s important to reiterate that the sooner you wash your denim,
      the less chance you will have for sharper fades. This is because one of
      the primary steps in manufacturing raw denim is the color treatment stage, (aka indigo dying) where the denim is dipped in vats of indigo dye (natural or synthetic).

      As the indigo is not 100% absorbed into the material, after you wash
      your denim, you are losing that deep blue/black color and as well the
      rigid feel (due to starch loss). Thus, you want to wear your raw denim
      for at least 6 months prior to washing, but no longer than 1 year – otherwise the crotch in your denim will rip (or “blow out”)”


      • showbe

        Your wrong. They are just jeans. You can throw them in the washing machine. Just make sure you put it on a low spin cycle so it doesnt leave lines on their. You can even machine dry them. What I do is just take them out half way through drying so they are still a little damp and just hang dry the rest.

        I have owned many pairs and have soaked/hand washed in the bath tub with wool lite and tide and have never seen a difference in how they turn out. Make sure you washem by them selves though since they will bleed. Washing often is what defeats the purpose of buying raw denim. Washing in a machine is fine just make sure you keep boht the dryer/washer on a low setting.

        They fade just fine washing in a machine from what I have noticed from wearing raws since 2006. Do whatever you prefer. But if you google it youll see tons of people use the washing machine/dryer without problems. I use cold water since my machine doesnt have warm water hooked up. But I will soak them in hot water in the future so they shrink a little more since I lost weight. But they are sanforized so they wont shrink a lot.

  • BWheels

    So I bought a pair of Goodale Salvage denim and they fit great and look wonderful. They unfortunately came with a funk of its own, they carry a musty smell. Any suggestions on how to get ride of the smell with out ruining the jeans?

    • Sh0n

      I just got a pair of these as well, but no weird smell. Maybe yours sat in the warehouse a little too long? Try putting them in a plastic bag with a dryer sheet and putting them in the freezer

  • Alex

    So after the first soak. Can you then just toss them in the washing machine when ever you want? Or do we have to wash them like this every time for every 6 months?

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  • G.M

    I’ve got my N&F Black Power Stretch stained by neon paint….please help….

  • Jae

    Does it really matter if you wash/soak inside out?

  • ripper677

    OK, you convinced me,,,,, never to buy raw denim jeans but even more importantly, to not associate with people that do. Not only are the prices obscene but your interest in obtaining a “look” goes far beyond obsession (my OCD brother would consider this behavior crazy). But, NOT washing an article of clothing for six months so it LOOKS better? Spay on Fabreeze if they smell? I would hate to be in a room of you denim aficionados. FFS there isn’t a 3rd world country that would consider that hygienically acceptable. No wonder a pair of raw denim jeans will last for 1000 wearings; you never wash them. Keep your raw denim, I’ll spend $30 and get as good a fit as anything seen on here plus get a couple years use out of them AND have clean jeans to wear every time. Best of all, I, nor my GF will need a clothes pin on our nose to perform oral.

    • Sh0n

      This is the most idiotic reply I’ve ever read on here, and shows a complete lack of understanding.

      • terri

        ok then please explain… I do not understand what the purpose of the raw denim???? I could not imagine not washing my jeans after wearing them

        • Krampus

          There are other ways to clean denim than using detergents. detergents fade denim quickly. I’ve been wearing raw denim since the 70s (not the same pair 😉 but I do have some from the 1983). In the last 15 years I’ve evolved in my denim care.

          I don’t do the same as was instructed here, though this is very good advice. I prefer to avoid using any detergents ever, if possible.

          I soak my jeans in a very salty brine for a couple hours, then rinse them in cold water. Distilled white vinegar is also a good antibacterial but I’m not fond of that idea. The point is to clean them without washing them when practical and definitely avoiding detergents.

        • bob

          You just don’t shit in them stupid.

    • watchmaker

      I totally agree. I don’t see the need for radical fades anyway. I think all of my jeans look damn good and I wash them after 1-3 wears.

    • thegreatgeats

      I feel similarly about people who use five commas as an ellipses.

      • David Hughes

        I feel similarly about people who can’t spell ellipsis.

        • worldwide_webster

          Um, “ellipses” is not spelled wrong. It’s the plural of “ellipsis.”

          • David Hughes

            The previous commenter is commenting about a single iteration of an ellipsis in the immediately preceding comment. Ergo, ellipsis would have been correct. Perhaps I’d have been clearer if I’d said ‘misuse’ instead of ‘can’t spell’.

            My bad for assuming that people can see the purple sarcasm font.

          • worldwide_webster

            Nope, the purple font stands for pedantry. 😉

          • LeslieCz

            But if the commenter were commenting about the single iteration in the preceding comment, he would have used an article before “ellipsis.” IMHO it’s more likely he was referring to a general tendency to use five commas as “ellipses.”

    • showbe

      Too bad they dont smell if your not a total slob. Youd have to be pretty unorganized and a complete slob to make your jeans smell that bad. Sloppy.

    • silverdarling

      man ur dodging with some serious clothes worship here … you could get boil washed for sayin that

  • Ricky Vinson

    Damnnit, you’re good, Nick Coe. Your command of the King’s English is indeed impressive. You also are quite talented in ‘arousing’ certain areas of the male anatomy that may awfully well go unnoticed to the untrained, or otherwise, less observant man.

    I, too, enjoy, and take ‘loads of pleasure,’ in the finer things that this life offers; and furthermore, your step-by-step guide to washing raw denim—or, in this case, not washing the raw, so to speak—was an absolute joy to take-in . . . a delightful, provocatively stimulating experience that left me, both literally and figuratively, on the ‘edge’ of my chair. Ooops! note to self: “You don’t wanna be that guy with dark raw denim and big light circle, do you?” After all, we must remember to keep our ‘spillage’to a minimum, or, at the very least, left to those whom have the best “skull,” no pun intended, of course.

    I so look forward to reading your beautifully cryptic art in the future.

  • Sad Panda

    Hi Nick and others. Awesome site and information here. Thanks for creating it! I’m loving learning about RAW denim. Not sure If I need to post in some forum or here but I have some follow up questions please:
    1. Do you use this method for all ongoing washes or just the 1st wash?

    2. Do you stretch the inseam gently to retain the length? (I wear mine cuffed, not stacked and like the extra length)

    3. Do you unroll the cuffs when you wash?

    4. why not wash in cold water? Is warm water to get shrinkage or higher contrast fades (or both)?

    5. what’s you opinion of wearing when still damp for 15 mins in order to stretch out the denim to your exact shape for a perfect fit after the shrinkage due to the wash?

    6. Wash inside out, but do you also hang dry inside out?

    7. Do you always pre-soak unsanforized denim?

    8. do you presoak sanforized denim as well or can you pre-soak it without ruining the fades you get after a 1st wash? The theory is to prevent or decrease the severity of crotch blows out due to the removal of starch during the pre-soak?


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  • Traditionalist

    So “Raw Denim” is denim that has not been corrupted with Spandex? The fabric that jeans have been made from for forever before the stretchy, dare I say it, jeans revolution? If not, what is the difference between 100% Lee, Levi, Wrangler brands cotton jeans I wore in the ’70s, 80s, 90s and when I can find them now?

  • Kris Barger

    Should I put them on wet (after 1st soak) and wear for a while during the drying? Or just simply hang to dry inside out inside of course. It’s too cold out to hang… they are just shy of 3 months, I wear just about every day.

  • Sean Detente

    Just chuck’em in the washer and hang flat. No big deal. I’ve got nine pairs of Samurais and various other Made-in-Japan-oorah-raw-denim jeans I’ve done this with. Natta on any shrinkage or fade.

    I could see handwashing a $500-800 raw denim jacket, but FFS, not quite the same thing.

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  • denimdummy

    I have my first pair of raw denim jeans. They need to be hemmed. I’m not supposed to hem them before washing them. I’m not supposed to wash them for 6 months. Am I simply supposed to roll the pants legs up for the first six months?

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  • sonsonny

    My first pair are on they’re way. As a newbie what happens if you dry clean them? Has anybody done this? What about heavy denim shirts? Same treatment as jeans?

    • Shane Andrew Gillespie

      Dry cleaning is perfectly fine, I just took in my Raleigh Denim’s after 4 months of solid wear (nearly every day). They are dark indigo and there was no fade upon pickup. I would recommend a green earth cleaner as they use a silicon formula instead of PERC.

      Only dry clean if you are worried about your jeans fading, and want them to stay dark.

  • DaveF

    Must say I am a bit baffled by all the fuss on how to wash or not wash your jeans, I have worn Levis for over 40 years and all I have ever done with my shrink to fits is hot soak them then wear and wash as required , have never bothered turning inside out etc and the jeans just fade as they do with wear and tear/washing and good old sunlight, do you honestly think back in the 60s/70s we bothered about turning inside out or don’t wash for months on end? nor did those way before us.

    • goldushapple

      >>Must say I am a bit baffled by all the fuss on how to wash or not wash your jeans,

      Welcome to the world of men’s fashion, subculture raw jeans.

  • not medicated

    Don’t know if it’s a ‘sin’ and don’t care. I have a selvedge, raw denim jacket, decided to wear it out in a rain storm for a while today. Sitting here writing this, I’m still wearing it and it’s about 3/4 dry. It’s shrunk a bit against me and feels good… if I’m wrong,I don’t want to be right!

  • Ian


    I bought a pair of raw denim jeans without realising what I got myself into. I’m not into all that stuff and just want a pair of jeans I can wash on a regular basis. Is there any way I can have the jeans dipped in something that will not make them shrink, fade or run?


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  • Ferk

    I love the article, but it makes me wondering: Did the cowboys wash their jeans like this in the 1800’s? No, I guess… Denim is supposed to be one of the toughest natural fabrics, especially from high-end brands, right? So why not USE them instead of petting them… I think a good ‘old pair of jeans can handle some hot water… Otherwise, to me, they wouldn’t be worth the money…

    • goldushapple

      Many who wear raw denim do it for the fades. Cowboys back in the day saw denim much differently. Today, it’s mostly a fashion statement and wearing your jeans “hard” is nothing “hard” compared to, say, actually manual labor. If I took a survey I’d bet a good chunk of those that visit this site, hyperbeast, styleforum etc. are not in manual labor and do thinks like movie/tv production, maybe web design or something non-corporate related but still has you sitting mainly at a desk – either at the office or at home. I mean, I chuckle when people wear their raw jeans camping or on a 10 mile hike in order to get fades. It’s a bit ridiculous.

  • Bruce

    “Thus, you want to wear your raw denim for at least 6 months prior to washing, but no longer than 1 year”

    Is there some assumption about how often the jeans are being worn when the durations are given? I can’t imagine age being the sole factor on when to wash. I think it would be useful to add a statement would indicate number of wears or some discussion of how this is decided. For ex. I can only wear jeans on weekends, so any particular pay may get worn 20 times over 6 months.

  • Erlend

    Hi! I’ve spilled some egg-yolk(that yellow stuff, yaknow) on my raw Nudie jeans. I’ve worn them quite often since I bought them about 6 months ago. What are you’re best advice for removing/washing this off?

  • kayumochi

    Have worn denim 2+ years before a first soak and never had a crotch blowout. Of course, I was wearing the denim mostly to work, sitting in an office, and treating them as if they were expensive wool trousers rather than expensive jeans. If they got a bit of an odor I simply sunned them for a few hours.

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  • Fiona Smith

    I wear mine often for dancing and so they get pretty sweaty, but 2 days in my freezer compartment to kill the bacteria and they smell fresh as a daisy 😉

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  • Liz Rhodes

    there is just so much information and difference of opinions. i got my first pair of Raleigh jeans last October. I haven’t read much on them till now. just kind of went with what my boyfriend told me. freeze if they get funky and spot clean. wear for 6-12 months then maybe wash them. I suppose I’m just confused on the sharp fade stuff what does that mean exactly?….I really don’t want them to fade from where they are. I may have goofed up by having them hemmed and tapered just a bit a couple months ago.

    so I guess my concern is…whats the best way to get them fresh with the absolute least amount of fading possible? (I messed up big time by wearing them to a bachelorette party on bourbon st,) also whats the best way to smooth out the waist band? its just slightly folded from so much loving wear.

    thanks so much for any help or tips. I’m clearly lost

  • Nathan Smith

    I think ultimately it is up to the owner of the jeans to wash them or not. Like they say in the article, it is a journey with the denim, and I do not understand the amount of people on this thread bashing raw denim. Why even read this post or keep browsing it if you are just constantly hating? This community is no more OCD than sports fans or car junkies. Everyone has their thing, so lets all be nice guys. On the washing machine theory, the whole reason that I myself do not wash a machine is because the agitation really kills the fabric and only wears the clothing down. Washing a shirt every single day or every other day will just be beating that shirt up far greater than if you just went a couple more days without it. That’s my reasoning, I’d be interested to see if anyone else is the same way.