Caring for jeans is nearly impossible. At least that’s the impression you might get from listening to denim’s more diehard fans, who tend to recommend some pretty exotic care methodologies. (Like sticking dirty jeans in the freezer to clean them. As opposed to, say, in a washing machine.)
At Trunk Club we prefer to keep things simple, denim care included. To properly clean your jeans, you only need to consider the following:
(1) The difference between raw and treated denim, which will determine:
(2) When to wash jeans, and
(3) How to wash them.
Let’s tackle those three things now, in order.
(1) The Difference Between Raw and Treated Denim
How to wash your jeans depends on what kind of jeans you actually have: raw or treated.
Raw denim is denim in its purest form, without any treatment (no washes, fades, whiskering, etc). A pair of raw jeans will take weeks or months to break in, but when the fabric finally does relax, it will adapt to your body. No two pairs of raw jeans will wear exactly the same. If you want a high-character, personalized garment, raw denim is the way to go. We’re proud to carry Raleigh Denim jeans (pictured above and below), which are made in the U.S., in limited-edition batches.
If comfort trumps fit and style, then treated denim is probably best. There’s no end to variety of treated finishes, but we recommend classic looks like these, from DL 1961 and Fidelity.
(2) When to Wash Jeans
You should only wash raw jeans on the rare occasions when there’s a stain you can’t get out with a wet sponge, or the funk sets in. (Raleigh Denim recommends waiting 3–6 months before the first wash.)
Washing denim breaks down the fiber. So if you’re planning on machine-washing your jeans often, you might as well buy treated denim because you’re eliminating the whole point of raw. Like the finest fried chicken, raw denim is intended to be crispy. To keep it that way, only wash your untreated jeans when absolutely, positively, 100-percent necessary.
Fun fact: After passing quality inspection, every pair of jeans at the Raleigh Denim workshop gets hand-signed by Raleigh’s co-founders and designers, Victor and Sarah.
We recommend only washing treated denim when they’re stained, or lose their shape. When a pair of jeans begins to sag in the knees and seat, washing will tighten the yarns, helping the garment regain its original form.
How to Wash Jeans
- Gentle cycle
- Cold water
- Hang dry
Before washing your jeans, turn them inside out, and button and zip.
One exception to our suggested approach of waiting as long as possible before washing new jeans: The dyeing process for really dark treated jeans involves heavy amounts of indigo, which can leave a residue.
The thing about having residue on your jeans is that it quickly turns into residue on your underwear, shoes, car seat, fingernails, lap dog, etc. To avoid this transfer, known as “crocking,” consider washing super-dark jeans in cold water before wearing them, to remove excess indigo. Again, this only applies for really dark, treated jeans—not raw.
And Of Course … What to Wear with Jeans
Blue jeans have become one of the most popular clothing items in the world partially because they look good with almost anything. To go from looking good to looking great, consider these combinations.
Raw denim works with anything from t-shirts to blazers. But because of their sharp, unfinished look, raw jeans pair particularly nicely with more classic pieces, and even custom-made blazers, like the one above.
For treated denim, go with more casual blazers and non-blazer looks, like the sweater on the left.
Still have questions? Just ask your Trunk Club stylist. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up here.