Sunday, February 18, 2018

Raw denim - a 13 month update, and some thoughts on jeans

A few years ago in college, one of my friends fell down the rabbit hole of r/malefashionadvice and took it upon himself to start dressing well. There was a period of time when he texted me and two others in our group every single time he bought something -- raw denim, cordovan boots, leather belt, weird thrifted sweatshirt with a painting of a dog screenprinted on it...

My jeans thing we gave him particular shit about was his obsession with raw denim. Selvedge. Vocabulary words that I still don't completely understand or care to understand at this point. He babied his jeans, cared about each crease and fade, wore them every single day, soaked them in the bathtub. I didn't get it. I still don't really get it.

My tumble down the rabbit hole of raw denim was gradual over the years, and it was only 13 months ago that I bought a pair -- a less expensive pair, from Uniqlo. My two older Uniqlo jeans were stretchy and getting uncomfortably skinny, and I wanted the option of layering tights or leggings underneath them if it got that cold. So I got a new pair of jeans -- men's raw denim -- in size 29. That's another thing: I needed to accept that my body has changed since I was 19. I wanted a looser fit and that's what I bought.

I retired the two old pairs (of three - the other I wear in spring and autumn) and wore my new selvedge jeans damn near every day for the rest of the winter. And then I did it again this winter. They were stiff the first winter, rubbed indigo everywhere (I paid more attention to where I sat and leaned), and I actually think I should have sized down. I had too much fabric around my waist, and it sat weird under a belt. I really thought about getting them tailored.

Not really qualified to say what combo of soaking, washing, etc is the best. But I'm not dead set on having Reddit-worthy fades, so I wash my jeans regularly now. Then I made the stupid, stupid mistake of putting them through the dryer. This shrank them down to be more of a slim instead of a relaxed fit, but it fixed the waist issue. Now they fit like women's size 26 or 27. I'm glad I sized up when I did.

I liked not having to decide what kind of pants to wear every day. Unexpectedly, I got compliments on my style, that it was cohesive for so consistently featuring "dark blue or black" jeans. I don't own black jeans, but my winter ones are dark blue indeed.

So, that's where I am. I kind of wish I had taken more pictures with them over the past year. But, in the end, they're just jeans.


My own story of jeans began with something from Marshall's or Ross in middle school, then three <$10 pairs from Forever 21, then two pairs from Uniqlo in college, a thrifted pair, to present day. My preferred fit is mid-to-high rise, slim or straight leg, true or dark blue. I have to be able to squat and deadlift with full range of motion in them. Must look good cuffed or uncuffed. Nondescript. Absolutely no obvious branding. And for now, the search is over. I had a pretty bad relationship with jeans and body image as a youth, and I'm better at keeping it at bay. I think I'm in a good place now.


  1. I toyed with the idea of raw denim but its price tag (about $200) ultimately is what gave me pause--I drove out to meet some fantastic makers and retailers, but I can't commit to the lifestyle and care for right now. Like you, my body is a challenging fit for most denim styles, so I tend to err on the simpler side, style wise, for safety and consistency.

    Enjoyed reading this little insight.

    1. Yeah most of the well-known raw denim options are too expensive for me to entertain. I think Uniqlo and Levi's are probably the most accessible and well-regarded at that price point. I also feel like I wouldn't be a savvy enough customer to be taken seriously if I met makers and retailers, but I would like some more "expert" guidance in jeans in the future, especially if it's something pricey that I will wear all the time.

  2. I haven't looked into raw denim much to be honest! It's more effort than I think I want to put into jeans.

    My old go-to for jeans are black skinnies, but lately I've really been feeling blue straight leg/boyfriend fit types as per the current trend!

    1. I don't know if raw denim is high or low effort, to be honest. I think I'm just prone to decision fatigue, and am glad to have found denim I can wear during the winter on all but the worst days.

      I was looking for black skinny jeans for a long time, but decided to put the search on indefinite hold. Part of it is black jeans (at least the ones that I have owned) don't age/show their wear as well as blue ones.

  3. Thinking back, I find that I can't remember all the steps of my own journey with jeans! I owned a lot of pairs from Marshall's, Ross, Target, and the like until I started college, but I wasn't good at picking out what I would actually wear, and what I wouldn't. I came of age back when hip-hugger/low-rise flared jeans were cool, and I owned some pretty out there ones. I had a pair from Target with a strip of brocade fabric to decorate the hem. At one point, I bought a pair that were covered with glitter... I never actually wore those.

    After my most recent round of jean-shipping, it seems like I get my best fit from stores that offer petite jeans, which I think limits me to "mall brands." I also sometimes get a good length from Uniqlo's regular jeans for women (but then I'm not sure what taller women do!).

    1. It's kind of nuts thinking about how the silhouette of jeans has changed since I first started picking out my own clothes. Just in the past 5 years the pendulum has swung from super skinny to super wide leg (not jeans, but I'm thinking of the Kamm pants that are everywhere). Some interesting thoughts to be had about the longevity of clothes -- whether it's longevity in the style, or in the material itself, or in the wearer's body shape. But denim has been an enduring staple in the American closet and I'm sure other people have written lots about those questions.