When it comes to raw or dry denim, it's hard to argue with the clean look it starts out with, the details or the durability. And most importantly, how it takes on your own personal character the harder and longer you wear it. But it can also be a bit intimidating. Starting with denim that feels not unlike stiff cardboard can prove daunting for even the most iron willed (and crotched) among us. While there are no true short cuts around this, here are some tips to ease the process and ensure you end up with a comfortable, personalized pair of jeans.
We hate to be blunt, but like most things in life, the good stuff takes some hard work and dedication. In the end of this process, you're left with a handsome pair of jeans that are essentially custom fit to your body, with a look all their own—developed by your daily habits.
We're not saying take them to the weight room, but the more you move in raw denim, the quicker it softens up. I once wore a pair of Iron Hearts (named for their thick 21oz denim) working retail at a shoe store. Squatting and crawling to find the right box a hundred times a day was a huge help.
Keep in mind this will cause your jeans to lose some of that prized indigo (the longer you soak and the more you agitate them, the lighter they'll become), but it's a quick way of softening the pre-wash plywood feel. "I recommend a quick, five minute soak—just enough to take the sizing (the starch that makes jeans easier to cut and sew) out of the denim, so they're less crunchy," says John Webb, of San Francisco's AB Fits. "Also, a rinse makes the denim less abrasive which means it won't break or tear as quickly around heavily distressed areas like cuffs and crotches."
This is the "rip off the Bandaid" approach if you will. Wear your raw denim everyday for at least two weeks. It might be annoying at first, but you'll soon feel the jeans loosening up in all the right places. "To start, I wear them at home a few times while transitioning into a new pair," says Ryan Plett, founder of Denim Debate. "A few hours just sitting around the house makes them relax and conform to your body enough for everyday wear."