Understand Raw Denim

While jeans have been a clothing staple for men since the 19th century, the jeans you’re probably wearing right now are a lot different from the jeans that your grandpa or even your dad wore.

Before the 1950s, most jeans were crafted from raw and selvedge denim that was made in the United States. But in the subsequent decades, as denim went from work wear to an everyday style staple, the way jeans were produced, changed dramatically. With the implementation of cost cutting technologies and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, the quality of your average pair was greatly reduced. Changes in consumer expectations altered the denim landscape as well. Guys wanted to pick up pre-washed, pre-faded, pre-broken-in, and even pre-ripped jeans that looked like they’d been worn for years.

But about a decade ago, the pendulum began to swing back again. Men started pushing back against the low-quality, cookie-cutter, pre-faded jean monopoly. They wanted a quality pair of denim jeans and to break them in naturally. They wanted to pull on the kind of American-made dungarees their grandpas wore.

What is Raw Denim?

Most denim jeans you buy today have been pre-washed to soften up the fabric, reduce shrinkage, and prevent indigo dye from rubbing off. Raw (sometimes called “dry denim”) jeans, are simply jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through this pre-wash process.

Because the fabric hasn’t been pre-washed, raw jeans are pretty stiff when you put them on the first time. It takes a few weeks of regular wear to break-in and loosen up a pair. The indigo dye in the fabric can rub off as well.

Raw denim (all denim actually) comes in two types: sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage after you wash your jeans. Most mass-produced jeans are sanforized, and many raw and selvedge jeans are too. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, so when you do end up washing or soaking your jeans, they’ll shrink by 5%-10%.

Raw denim does not necessarily mean selvedge denim – more about this in out next post about selvedge denim.

Stay tuned!

Oh – and this is for you ladies, as well. The raw denim trend is absolutely so right now for us as well!

{courtesy of “The Art of Manliness”}


  1. […] I totally see a pattern here…without even trying, I keep ending up wearing a lot of burgundy and black lately…often with stripes. I could maybe blame the acquisition of my striped Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac bag, but there’s something very theatrical and playful about black and white stripes that I love…especially with, yes, burgundy or a dark plum. Yummy. Anyway, it’s recently warming up again here in California which is nice for now, but dammit we need more rain! At least it allowed me to pull out some tank tops for styling ideas again for a little while. Here, I’m wearing a tank from Old Navy with a cute hoodie my sister got from London and bestowed upon me. It has so many cute embroidered and applique details, I’m in love! I wore my American Eagle Outfitters booties with it to round out the burgundy look. As for jeans, I thought I’d try out my hand at the raw denim world. This is my first pair! For those who aren’t familiar with what that is, raw (or dry) denim is basically jeans that are just that…raw out of the factory, heavily dyed, with the wash and detailing treatment skipped. This allows for, providing you wear your raw jeans heavily for months and even years before you wash them (ew, I know), truly custom, faded jeans that tell a story, you could say…and are unique to you! I plan on making another post that gets more in detail about what raw jeans are in the future. For now, check out this great post at Denimology! […]

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