The Complete Guide To Understanding Raw Denim Weights

Naked x Famous 32,11

A 32 Oz. and 11 Oz. jean side-by-side. Note that nine pairs of 11 Oz. equals three pairs of 32 Oz.

Often you’ll see denim weights shown on Rawr Denim, but may have been wondering what it is that they mean. Well, this is our brief guide to understanding what we mean when we call a denim 12 Oz. or 18 Oz., heavyweight or lightweight, or describe a 32 Oz. monster.

The whole idea of categorizing a jean by weight comes from the weight a square yard of fabric weights in ounces, which relates directly to the density of yarn woven in and the weight of said yarn. However, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll break the weights into three main categories:

  1. Lightweight – or under 12 Oz.
  2. Mid-weight – or from 12 Oz. – 16 Oz.
  3. Heavyweight – anything above 16 Oz.

1. Lightweight Denim – Less Than 12 Oz.

Rogue Territory  6 Oz. RK Stanton - Lightweight Denim

Rogue Territory 6 Oz. RK Stanton – Lightweight Denim

Lightweight raw denim is the first, and easiest to wear category. A raw denim under 12 Oz. is particularly easy to break in as it won’t require anywhere near as much wearing time as a heavier fabric to attain a pleasant level of comfort.

A lightweight raw denim is much more comfortable from the beginning, as well as just generally being lighter on your legs. There will be much fewer sweaty experiences caused from claustrophobia around your legs. The only drawback is that the fades achieved with this level of denim won’t look quite as spectacular as a heavier weight of denim.

2. Mid-weight – Between 12 Oz. – 16 Oz.

3sixteen's 14.5 Oz. CS-100x  - Mid-weight Denim

3sixteen’s 14.5 Oz. CS-100x – Mid-weight Denim

Second is the mid-weight denim, which is probably the most common of the raw denims in the market today. These are getting to the point where the denim starts off quite stiff, and are potentially quite heavy and hard to the touch.

The positives include the potential for a much better fade, a slightly warmer jean come winter and fall, and a longer lasting jean that is much harder to wear through. You will, however, take a longer break in time, and will have a little bit of lost flexibility upfront.

3. Heavyweight – Above 16 Oz.

Naked & Famous 32 Oz. - Heavyweight Raw Denim

Naked & Famous 32 Oz. Monster – Heavyweight Raw Denim

Finally are the heavyweight jeans, the over 16 Oz. jeans, which can run up to a 32 Oz. monster created by Naked and Famous. These jeans take a real commitment, they’re going to take time and effort and honestly won’t feel great at first.

You’d have to be slightly self-loathing to want to stick your legs into a jean that can stand up on their own, but if you keep at it long enough you’ll be left with a very impressive reward. A number of these jeans will last you a lifetime, as they’re incredibly well built and hefty, but you’ll take up a bit of that lifetime getting them comfortable enough to enjoy.

It’s easiest to enter the raw denim game with something in more of the lightweight category, but even the mid-weights can be simple enough for someone working through their first pair. After that, summer is the best time for the light jeans, and the heaviest of the raw denim can just be unwearable in the warmer months.


Based in Vancouver, BC, Canada, Connor grew an interest in raw denim thanks to the process, maturation, patience and craft that goes into each individual pair. He also writes at REPOSITORY which he started alongside Rawr founder Nick Coe.

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  • Kyle Brooks Robinson

    Personally I think 14.5 oz. or so is the sweet spot. It fades great, feels comfortable, and usually isn’t too hot (though this of course depends on the weave, texture, and other factors.) That’s what Eternal, Pure Blue Japan, and Flat Head use, and everyone knows that those produce some of the best fading, period.

    Heavyweight denim’s just never appealed to me very much. Since I live in Japan and it’s hot for about 30% of the year, mid-weight denim is a whole lot more practical, and I like being able to wear the same pair through the whole year (with long underwear, I can’t tell any difference in warmth between my Samurai S710s and Flat Head 3009s, but the 710s are much hotter in warm weather than FH denim.)

    Another thing worth pointing out is that your creasing will look different depending on denim weight. Heavier jeans result in bigger, thicker creases; really thick honeycombs and whiskers aren’t really my thing. But it’s something potential buyers should keep in mind.

  • Kennydoggyu

    I was once a mid weight user, but since I started wearing heavyweights the only time I wish I wasn’t using heavyweights are when I need to run. Sweating in it just makes it fades faster. Yippy

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  • Gray

    I have had 2 pairs of 14.5oz denim (midweight) and now I am wearing a pair of 17oz Viapiana and I will never go back. Once you get the heavyweight denim to wear and start to get some comfort from them their like sweatpants lol

  • Connor

    I’ve been wearing Naked and Famous Elephant #2’s (22 oz.) since August. A note on the comfortableness for those considering heavyweight. I haven’t had any issues with them being too hot yet, they seem to breathe just as well as my pair of 13 oz. denim. They were pretty uncomfortable at the start but as I work through month 6 the only issue now is sitting with knees “closed” for extended periods of time. That being said I’ve grown to like that pain because the contrast on the fades coming in is unreal.

  • OligarchyAmbulance

    Heavyweight denim definitely ruins you. I can’t go back to lighter jeans anymore, just like raw made it impossible to go back to prewashed denim.

  • Hebat Hisham Mohd Yusoff

    i hv no problem at all wearing iron heart 21 oz and Oni 18 oz in Malaysia . Both of them look great and feel great too :-)

  • GingerMagician

    I have to take issue with this quote re ‘heavyweight’ – “…they’re going to take time and effort and honestly won’t feel great at first…”. Nonsense. Anyone who’s experienced the comparative softness of Iron Heart’s 21oz denim would surely disagree – miles more comfortable from the off than most of the mid-market 13.5/14.5oz I’ve tried down the years.

  • Jon Lukacek

    “A number of these jeans will last you a lifetime, as they’re incredibly well built and hefty, but you’ll take up a bit of that lifetime getting them comfortable enough to enjoy.”

    I don’t believe this as they still a single twill weave they are prone to ripping and tearing as any other weight of denim. However heavy the weight of the cotton, it’s still cotton and it won’t last a lifetime.

  • Bass Woman

    I have a question.. What about the shrinkage whenever it’s time to wach them? Should I pick a pair in a size larger than I usually would. I have my eyes on a pair of Selvage Nudie jeans. Waist 31 fit about like a secons skinn, but I’m worried that they will become too tight wherever I wash them, which of course wount be in a while.. but, I really hate when they become too tight. What to choose?

    • laundryman

      1st was them in cold/lukewarm water. That’ll seriously reduce shrinkage

    • William Knox

      hang dry then iron a little, trust me, all cotton shrinks unless it is washed in cold water and hang dryed

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