Jeans were invented in the 1870’s when Latvian immigrant tailor Jacob Davis had the simple idea of using copper rivets to secure weak points on workers trousers to increase their lifetime. In 1873, he reached out to his fabric supplier – none other than Levi Strauss – about going into business together to produce clothing for workers, and by 1873 the duo had patented denim jeans.
Having now become mainstream fashion, the usual mass produced jeans people purchase nowadays are wholly inferior in quality to the original hard wearing trousers of the 1800 and 1900s. The drop in quality is the result of the denim undergoing numerous treatment, colouring and washing processes and such. Whilst this allows manufacturers to produce a variety of jeans of certain colours, styles and fades to be purchased straight off the rack, it undermines the durability of the otherwise resilient material. This is where raw denim differs.
Raw denim is simply denim that has not undergone the above treatment processes after being dyed and made into clothing. It’s practically untouched once it comes off the loom. Raw denim is also called ‘dry denim’ for this reason – it’s lack of being washed. It usually comes in a deep indigo colour and is often stiff and crisp, all a result of no washing or treatment processes distorting the fabric.
This lack of tampering is actually where the one of the unique benefits of raw denim is found. As raw denim jeans are untouched, they maintain their original shape, colour, etc. This means that when the person wears them, the jeans mould to their body, the colour wears in areas unique to the individual’s movements and crease where the person bends, etc – as a result the jeans pretty much become a blank slate for the wearers daily life to crease and create a unique style and pattern. This means every pair of raw denim jeans turns out different, unique.
The infinite varied styles that emerge from raw denim jeans are called fades and there are actually online competitions where raw denim wearers can send in pictures of their unique fades and have them rated, judged and potentially win prizes.
There are numerous other benefits of raw denim such as its durability – it’s not uncommon for raw denim to last up to a decade even with everyday use. So, whilst the costs are initially higher, you’ll often get more than enough use out of them to negate the price in the long term.
The only potential issue with raw denim is that due to the fact they’re unwashed, the indigo dye can often rub off on things they touch (known as crocking or indigo-bleeding), so be warned. The jeans also take a little bit of wearing in as without the treatment processes of mass-market jeans, they remain stiff and somewhat rigid until well worn. Aside from these tiny issues and the fact that the initial price of the jeans are a little steep, the positives ultimately outweigh the benefits; and you really can’t put a price on having an entirely unique, authentic and personalised pair of jeans that have been formed and faded by your own movements and that will never be replicated.
Written by Aaron Thompson