How to Care for Your Denim

The process of caring for denim is more complex than many assume it to be, but certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Here, we break it down for you: take notes.

It is, admittedly, not a question most owners of a pair of jeans - and, since they’re the single most widely-worn garment type on the planet, that’s a lot of people - debate too deeply. Just how should a pair of jeans be washed? As required, in a washing machine, would be most people’s response. But then denim, notably in its raw, untreated state - such as those by The Workers Club, Udeshi or Barbanera - is a fabric that inspires a certain nerdiness: the regard for its ageing properties - the way it fades with wear over time - verges on obsession for some.
Indeed, there’s a whole terminology to describe the resulting patterns - crocks, honeycombs, whiskers. There are international fade competitions. Shop around and there are even specially-developed detergents. Just throw a pair of raw denim jeans into the washing machine too soon and all that is lost: the result will be an even, lighter blue pair of jeans that henceforth won’t fade with any character. Consider that too if spot treating a misdirected dollop of, say, ketchup: rub the offending sauce from your jeans with any vigour, or using a wet cloth and soap, and you’ll likely take the indigo away from that spot with it. The result will be a distinct patch of light in the dark background of your denim that will last for most of the life of your jeans.
All this matters, of course, only to those who care for said character. And, while there are disagreements as to the best way, those that do care suggest multiple ways in which your raw denim jeans should be washed. The most commonplace and most troublesome suggestion is, well, don’t. Raw denim jeans should be worn as long as possible before their first wash - doing so helps initial fading bed in and excess indigo wear off rather than be hurried away with a dollop of Persil. That means wearing them for, it’s suggested, a good six months, by which time the indigo is ‘locked in’. And by that, hardcore denim-heads mean every day. That applies even before giving any unsanforized jeans their first hot soak, required to shrink them down to the tagged size.


January 2020