“Customizing” = “Cheating” Your Raw Denim?

Good ol' Sandpaper - Cheating or Customization?

Within the raw denim community, there’s an astounding amount of variation in the processes people use to acquire their personal fades. Some folks swear by wearing their jeans sans wash for a minimum of 6 months, others wash them every month. Still others go more than a year without washing their jeans (e.g. this guy) and then give them coral beach washes.

Whatever the system, the variety stands testament to the creativity of every individual within this awesome community of ours. That having been said, there are a few fade-gaining methods that are commonly acknowledged as ways of supposedly “cheating” your raws.

Many of these methods can be done separately, or they can all be done as a step-by-step process:

Step 1 - Buy Raw Denim Jeans

Congrats on your purchase!

Step 2 – Soak & Starch

Give them a hot soak with mad amounts of starch. For more information, hop over to our article on starching your raw denim.

Step 3 – Wear, Wear, Wear

Wear your damp jeans, sit cross legged and browse Rawr Denim’s archives the internet for several hours until near-dry. Sitting this way will help shape up the whiskers and combs, while the starch will help them set more rigidly.

Step 4 – Lay In Peace

Once dry, remove your jeans and lay them down without disturbing the shape/creases.

Note: This could be seen as the “point of no return”

Step 5 – Pinch

Pinch the whiskers and combs tightly with your fingers. This makes the creases sharp and combined with the starch, will make them much more rigid.

Step 6 – Sandpaper Time

Using sandpaper, lightly sand the pinched creases to create a high-contrast fade. Use a softer sandpaper of a higher grit rating. Using the rough stuff will just shred your twill and ruin your denim.

(Final) Step 7 – Wash & Hang Dry

Wash and hang-dry your jeans. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you are satisfied with the fades, and voila! You should have your very own hand-faded jeans.

Alternate methods:

Using pumice-stone instead of sand-paper, using a Dremel hand-tool, using a potassium mixture to lighten the creases, bleaching, etc.  Denim Design Lab also offers denim customization kits here.

Denim Design Lab's Finishing Kit

Denim Design Lab's Finishing Kit

Why Do Some People Consider This “Cheating”?

Very simply, because it’s not an “authentic” fade. Many raw denim enthusiasts preach the values of raw denim including (but not limited to) personalized fades, better fit, and a more “natural” looking pair of jeans. I sometimes question just how “natural” it can be to wear jeans for 6+ months without washing them, but that’s just me.

But Who Would Do Such A Thing To Their Raw Jeans?

Some denim-heads love breaking in their raws over the course of months and wearing them everyday for a year or two. Other people don’t have the luxury of time to do that, having to wear uniforms or suits 5+ days of the week. In their case, it’s easy to understand this process being an attractive option to them.

Something to consider when opting to sand your denim:

By using abrasive techniques like sanding, you’re not just wearing the indigo off the threads, you’re shredding the threads themselves. Even with a softer, high-grit sandpaper, you’re still wearing the threads. This could adversely affect the strength of the denim.

Though this post is for informational purposes and not meant to out anyone as cheaters, we don’t necessarily advocate the sandpaper technique. However, if you’ve sanded your raw jeans and are happy with the results, please do send us your photos (info@rawrdenim.com). Is it cheating? You tell us – we’d love to hear everyone’s opinions.

Additional Resources:

Stay Raw!

-Sean
tw: @rawrdenim | fb: Rawr Denim | subscription: Rawr Denim

Sean

An enthusiast for all things denim, vintage and manly; speaker of Japanese; Rawr Denim's Managing Editor. When he's not being a grammar-nazi, he can be found finishing his degree in East-Asian Studies.

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  • Ian

    No way!  Not into that in the slightest!

    • http://www.thedescendingnude.com Style1artists

      I have recently started making my own jeans from raw Red selvage denim. Before cutting the first pair I had experimented with over dying and distressing denim samples (a great waste of time and money) and in the end remembered that I have never purchased a pair of pre-distressed jeans myself so why would I want to do any of this to jeans I’ve spent many hours making. And when I slipped on that first pair I loved  the feel of the raw denim and how over time you notice the stiffness less and less untill one day you realise that they have become a part of you based on the daily habits that slowly embed your charecter into the jeans rather than an artificial identity that has not been based on you and how you live your life in your jeans. So for me If you don’t have the patience to age your denim the natural way don’t buy raw..

      • Ian

        Word!  I barely agree with a cold soak after nine months, let alone taking a piece of glass paper to my beautiful babies!

  • thinkfink

    For me, the whole point of raw denim is that you can see the individual life of the person who wears it  (i.e. i am a soak and freezer only type of guy) .
    If you do above (sandpaper, dremel etc) you do exactly the same as the industry…so what’s the point of  buying raw in the 1st place? Then you better stay out of the whole thing.

    • http://twitter.com/alexkwa Alex Kwa

      Exactly my sentiments.

    • this guy

      The problem with companies making pre-distressed denim is they make the denim fade to a general body type. By distressing them yourself, at least you’re customizing it to your body, which is the general goal of most raw denim wearers. I don’t see anything wrong with using sandpaper and the sort.
      In my opinion, you can’t really see “the life of the person” through their jeans. They’re just jeans. The goal of raw denim is to have denim that matches the creases and contours of your body.

  • Cameron

    It’s just like designing your own jeans, I don’t see anything wrong with this process even though It’s not something I personally do

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  • Maggie

    this guy doesn’t care about denim elitism — and he does a good job: http://vimeo.com/28950523

  • Salvatore

    I agree with the idea of doing whatever it takes to get what you want out of your jeans..I should say this is my 1st time buying a pair of raw  unwashed denim…Maybe when I become a lil more knowledgeable I might change my mind…For now I used a Mr clean eraser pad or sponge.  I have to say it is pretty genius using it because unlike sand paper u dont get the damage from sanding.  With these Mr clean eraser sponges it simply fades the denim fairly well.  Tell me what u guys think of my 1st pair of Drys.  They are Nudie Grim Tim Dry Orange Selvedges.  Started wearing them on Feb 19th 2012 and for everyday since. NO SOAKS & NO WASHES  

    • http://www.facebook.com/honey.portwood Honey Badger Ray Portwood

      I think your idea is awesome, I might try that on my left hand twills by n&f

    • yeah

      To me the point is that the fading of raw denim will look entirely natural.

      You’ve done a pretty good job of faking it, but it still looks fake – the front mainly, but even with the honey combs, while they are more convincing at a glance, the way in which you’ve faded it doesn’t quite have the beauty genuine fades can possess. It looks artificial.

  • Salvatore

    I have to say the reason why I attempted to even use the dry eraser was I just dont trust that I do enough physical activities in my jeans.  I sit at a desk 10 or so hours a day.  I mean the most exciting thing I do in my raw’s is sit on the concrete steps in front of my house and grind my butt to get a fade.  I think if someone has the patience and the commitment then a person who is like me behind a desk can wait 2 or 3 years for the beautiful outcome.  So called Cheating your raws for some people is for them what riding a dirt bike is for others in their raw denim.  Point being NOT everyone can wear their raws HARD….  TO EACH THEIR OWN

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  • http://twitter.com/VerityDenim Verity Denim

    I think there’s different levels of “cheating”. Above method sounds like going way to far if you ask me. But i some scrubs a bit extra of the whiskers with the sponge when soaking my jeans (while wearing). Doesn’t make it look fake or anything but gives a little more contrast. Depends what you are after…

  • Ben.P

    I know this is pretty old but has anyone tried customizing their fades by placing different shaped objects in their pockets?
    I’m making a leather long wallet, similar to the TG Workman, to wear with raw denim. I thought it might be cool if I cut a design out of the wallet so it would fade onto the back pocket. So the bottom corner of my wallet is cutout in half a maple leaf (I’m Canadian) and I’m hoping it will create a cool fade.
    I’d say it’s still an “organic” fade from wearing the wallet as normal but I’m wondering if anyone else has done something similar.

  • abecaglia

    There is no rule and each raw denim “aficionado” will have a different opinion. Raw Denim were meant to last a worklife and a life of work…if “week-enders” want to shred theirs to pieces to look cool, that is their problem…same with wearing them without washing your jeans; some people don’t like looking dirty, some do.