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The Resurgence
of Raw Denim

The Resurgence of Raw Denim

Making your own fades has been and will always be better

imogene + willie indigo rigid denim

Trends come and go, but one constant in menswear has always been (and will likely always be) a good pair of jeans. In fact, they've now officially been around 150 years in 2023, thanks to the originator, Mr. Levi Strauss and the 501. And while lighter washes and distressed styles were the go-to looks for the past five years or so, we're now seeing a return to the original classic. We're talking about a fresh pair of raw selvedge indigo-dyed jeans—the perfect blank canvas for anyone to wear. Of course, you can spiral down into an absurd amount of style forums trying to figure out which brands are the best, read dissertations on fabric weights, wefts, and the debate over unsanforized (no shrinkage) versus sanforized (pre-shrunk). But you don't need all of that.

All you really need to know is that while raw denim is back, it is a little different than what we were wearing before. Today's unwashed dark denim is cut in more straight and relaxed fits, as opposed to years ago, when they were slimmer with an aggressive taper. I blame the pandemic for the resurgence. Before COVID, guys were happy with comfy, lived-in jeans, but once you start wearing sweats for two years straight, pulling on a pair of crisp, raw denim is almost refreshing.

Over the last century and a half, denim has clearly evolved, but the classic fits are enduring for a reason. They just work. Which is why Levi's Vintage Clothing brings back some retro 501 fits each year. And really, no matter what your favorite denim brand is, I'm sure they've made some type of fit influenced by a pair of 501s or 505s.

We went from not being able to get dressed up to now embracing the time it takes to wear-in a sturdy pair of jeans that will inevitably take awhile to break in. But if you're a little concerned about the break-in period, you'll be happy to know that the new interpretations are more laidback, with a roomier silhouette. There are even cargo and painter pant styles out there—which is definitely a little easier on the legs. The key is to wear the hell out of them, and no matter what the washing myths are, clean them whenever they start to stink. Trust us, you'll know it when you smell it (and don't put them in the freezer). So to get you started, we've rounded up the best denim in a range of price points, so choose the one that works best for your style and budget.

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The Best Men’s
Raw Denim in 2023

imogene + willie Willie Indigo Rigid Denim
imogene + willie Willie Indigo Rigid Denim

imogene + willie worked with Vidalia Mills denim to create a crisp pair of raw denim.

imogene + willie worked with Vidalia Mills denim to create a crisp pair of raw denim.

Willie indigo rigid denim,
$235 by imogene + willie

Raleigh Workshop Rowan Selvage Raw Denim

Rowan selvage raw denim,
$445 by Raleigh Workshop

3sixteen CS-BF1X Classic Straight Jean

CS-BF1X classic straight jean,
$250 by 3sixteen

Levis 1944 501 Jean

Levi’s reproduction of 1944 501 fit feels like you’re stepping back in time. Classics only get better with time, and these are proof.

1944 501 jean,
$295 by Levi's

RRL Vintage East-West Selvedge Jean

Vintage East-West
selvedge jean,
$375 by RRL

One of the best pairs of raw denim for under $200.

Vintage relaxed straight jean,
$198 by Madewell

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Noah 5-Pocket Jean
Noah 5-Pocket Jean

5-pocket jean,
$228 by Noah

18 East Cello Carpenter Denim

Cello carpenter denim,
$145 by 18 East

Sid Mashburn Slim-Straight Jean

Slim-straight jean,
$295 by Sid Mashburn

A.P.C. New Standard Dry Selvedge Jean

New Standard
dry selvedge jean,
$240 by A.P.C.

Todd Snyder Relaxed Selvedge Jean

Relaxed selvedge jean,
$268 by Todd Snyder

Buck Mason Japanese Selvedge Full Saddle Jean
Buck Mason Japanese Selvedge Full Saddle Jean

Japanese selvedge
full saddle jean
$175 by Buck Mason

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Lee x The Brooklyn Circus Cowboy Buckle Back Jean
Lee x The Brooklyn Circus Cowboy Buckle Back Jean

Cowboy buckle back jean,
$285 by Lee x The Brooklyn Circus

The Real McCoys Lot.S003 Denim

Lot.S003 denim,
$323 by The Real McCoy's

J.Crew 770 Selvedge Stretch Japanese Denim

770 selvedge
stretch Japanese denim,
$158 by J.Crew

Wash your jeans

This detergent is good for 12-19 washes, but that should last a while since you should be washing your jeans about every three months. This will help preserve the indigo color while making them smell nice thanks to the oud wood fragrance. Need more help, check out 3sixteen’s washing guide.

Dark & Denim laundry detergent,
$24 / $18 by Steamery

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