Sustainability and back-to-original-denim are what everybody is talking about now, and rightly so. We need to do whatever we can to preserve our planet, and the more we talk about it and spread the word, the better.

Not only is raw denim totally sustainable, but it is also extremely gratifying, once you’ve worn in your jeans. They will be an “extension” of you and totally unique. As opposed to the pre-washed and pre-treated jeans that are mass-produced and lack uniqueness and individuality.

Not that I am against all the distressed and destroyed jeans, really! I am totally addicted and will keep mine to wear until they fall apart. But it’s time to move on and start shopping for more sustainable denim.

Resuming: keep all your distressed and beloved jeans, but bear in mind, moving forward, that there can also be a lot of pleasure in wearing in a pair of raw jeans.

Read on for some good advice:

“Denim lovers hunt down premium American and Japanese jeans knowing that, with time, the indigo-dyed fabric will showcase an individual wear-pattern, often called a “fade”.

“Indigo is not colorfast and it is water soluble, so from a microscopic standpoint, the indigo on your jean is just sitting on the surface and trapped in a microscopic web of cotton fiber,” says Scott Morrison, the founder of premium denim brand 3×1. “It’s this unique attribute that makes the method of washing raw denim such a salient subject.”

Over time, raw denim becomes unique to the wearer, folding and creasing to create a complex set of fades. These fades happen over months of wear, but if the jean is washed during this critical period, the fading can be negated as the indigo bleeds into the water of your wash and redeposits onto your jean. To develop your own characteristic look on your raw denim, start by following Morrison’s steps below to properly care for your jeans.

Note, however: Raw denim is a commitment due to the fact that you won’t see the rewards of your investment for 9-12 months. But that being said, it’s impossible to match the beauty and comfort of a jean worn from raw. There’s just nothing quite like it.”

Hold off the first wash for months

I recommend going as long as possible before washing raw denim for the first time, which is between 4-6 months of regular wear.

The preferred method to wash raw denim is to soak the jeans in a bathtub full of water. It’s more gentle than a machine and it helps preserve unique creases and wear patterns. Every time your raw jeans touch water, that indigo is removed and redeposited on and around your jean. With each washing, you’re essentially stripping color from your jean.

If you want incredible fades you want to make sure your jeans are very well broken in, as the broken-in areas of your jeans will form whiskers and honeycombs thanks to the indigo chipping off in those specific areas of wear, Like  behind the knees, the crotch, and the pockets. Once you’ve “set” those areas, you’ll see that they’ll remain there with subsequent washes, even though the base shade gets lighter and lighter.

Soak and wait

When you’re ready to wash them, run a bath of slightly cool to room-temperature water. I suggest putting a cap full of Woolite Dark and regular castile soap in the water. Then turn the jeans inside out and place them in the bath. No need to scrub or agitate the water, just let them soak for 45 minutes or so. Be sure not to use hot water.


Pull them out, rinse them with clean, fresh water. Make sure you rinse well as you don’t want any soap residue remaining. Flip them back right-side-out and make sure all the residue and any stains are rinsed clean. This step is critical, as you don’t want ANY soap or redeposited indigo on your jean after the soak.

Towel Roll Up

Lay a dark-colored beach towel on the bathroom floor and lay the freshly rinsed jean directly on top of the towel. Grab another towel – again a dark large size towel, and place it on top of the jean. Essentially you’ll be making a sandwich. Roll the sandwich up so the excess water is gently squeezed out of the jean and into the towels. From here, you hang them to try.

Hang Dry

Then let them air dry, or if you’re a little crazy like me, I put them on and wear them around the house for a bit. The jeans can be placed over the shower curtain rod, or more ideally, hung on a hanger. Once they have dried and are only damp, you can wear them around the house to get them to stretch back out in all the right places.

Always hang your jeans, don’t fold them.

Check out some of the best raw denim jeans out there right now:

for her: Sofie D’Hoore, Eileen Fisher, Everlane

for him: Acne Studios, A.P.C., Ermenegildo Zegna