By: Nora Lee and Nicholas Yeam


UNWASHED, unprocessed, and ridiculously uncomfortable. Yet, raw denim is making waves among trend-hungry youths willing to pay top dollar for the perfect pair of raw denim jeans.

Contrary to popular belief that this is a new fad, raw denim has been around for just as long as regular denim.

Unlike regular denim, raw denim is not washed after being dyed. Most jeans are washed during production to soften the fabric and to reduce the amount of shrinkage and dye run-off, which occurs after the wearer’s first wash. Basically, when you buy a pair of washed denim jeans, you pretty much know how your jeans are going to look like in the foreseeable future.

With raw denim, the jeans’ very first wash will be dependent on the wearer. Most people would leave their raw denim jeans unwashed for about six months to a year, but extremists can literally go for years without washing their jeans.

Why, you ask? After an extended period of wear, you’ll notice that your unusually stiff, uncomfortable, and abrasive raw jeans would have softened up, picked up plenty of battle scars, as well as lost a lot of that unprocessed cotton dye. In fact, they would’ve faded to the extent that they look nothing like what you bought months ago.

In a nutshell, your jeans have effectively become a diary of your life. Whether it’s a coffee stain on the right pocket, a tear on the knee area, or even a faded outline of your wallet on your back pocket, your jeans would have recorded it all. You can imagine the mass appeal of being able to “customise” your very own pair of jeans, simply by wearing it.

Aside from the novelty factor, it must be said that a pair of faded raw jeans have the added bonus of being very aesthetically pleasing compared to your everyday denim.

After wearing your raw jeans over a period of time, it would acquire certain patterned fades, namely ‘honeycombs’ (crisscrossed lines found behind the knee area) and ‘whiskers’ (lines found around the front pocket and crotch area).

However, there is not just one definition of what the ‘perfect fade’ looks like as it’s all subject to the owner’s lifestyle. For Muhammad Fazrul Bin Rozali, 20, it wasn’t easy getting his Naked & Famous Weird Guy Elephant 2 jeans to the state they are in today.

He shares,  “I didn’t wash them for about eight months after buying them back in 2010. For the first two weeks, I even wore them to sleep to break them in.

Fazrul continues, “Even now, after three years of frequent wear and four washes, the jeans could still fade even more but Singapore’s weather does prove to be a problem. It’s way too hot to wear such thick jeans everyday.”

So what advice does Fazrul have for other “denimheads”?

“Just wear your jeans as often as possible.”

This is echoed by most denim devotees, including Alvin Sim, 19, who has spent more than $6,000 on denim products.

He says, “At first, my friends and I just bought what we saw was popular on the streets. But after I got my first pair of raw denim jeans, I realized that it’s quite fascinating the way your jeans will reflect your lifestyle and the activities that you do. Before I knew it, I fell in love with denim.”

As raw denim is produced in much smaller quantities than processed denim, it costs more as well. A pair of raw jeans costs between $150 and $600. At that price, one would wonder why students, who aren’t even working full-time yet, would be willing to pay.

Bryan Lee, 19, who owns a pair of A.P.C New Cure jeans, claims, “To people who love denim, it’s more than just a piece of clothing. It’s a lifestyle. These people wear their jeans every single day.”

He adds, “Look at it this way. When you buy raw denim, you’re basically committing to wearing those jeans as much as you can. If you do that, then you’re basically making full use of them, which is why I think it’s worth it in the long run.”





Top Five Raw Denim Essentials:

1.    Sneakers

The Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers are a classic pair of sneakers that can be worn with practically anything. Arguably the most recognisable pair of sneakers in the world are the Converse Chuck Taylors. A big plus point, they’re affordable. Considering you’re already emptying your pockets for your jeans. Get them on their online store or at a Converse Retail Outlet near you at about USD$55 (SGD$69.65).

2.    Leather Boots

When you invest in a pair of raw denim jeans, it’s a long-term commitment that lasts years. In that time, you’re going to need a durable pair of boots to complement your jeans. The 6” Classic Moc Boots from Red Wing Shoes is our choice of footwear. Red Wing Shoes is a timeworn brand well known for its quality leather footwear that can endure even construction work. Locate a store near you with their online store locator. Prices range from 220 to 300USD depending on the style.

3. A Natural Leather Belt

Natural leather is the leather equivalent of raw denim. It is unfinished and hasn’t gone through any tanning or artificial finishing, which explains its pale beige color. With frequent wear, the leather will darken as it’s exposed to sunlight and the natural oils from your body. Every individual natural leather product is different and unique to the wearer, like a well-faded pair of raw denim jeans. Check out this article for 5 great brands for your choosing.

4. A Leather Wallet Rein

Remember those stretchable rubber springs you had in your childhood that secure your wallet to your pants to prevent you from losing your wallet? Evidently, they’re back in style, albeit with a leather variation. You’ll see plenty of people on the streets sporting these leather key reins in a bid to amp up their raw denim. You’ve got to agree, nothing looks as good next to denim as leather does. Rivet & Hide has a pretty good range of leather goods including Obbi Good Label’s wallet rein. Obbi Good Label’s home office is found at Kandahar Street, Singapore.

5.    Fabric Cleaner

If you’re only going to wash your $300 jeans once a year, you better make sure you do it right and you might as well go the extra mile to make sure they are cleaned right. The A.P.C x Aesop Fine Fabric Care is specially catered to cleaning gentle fabrics and will ensure that your denim doesn’t lose too much dye during washing. It is a little bit pricier compared to your regular detergent but keep in mind you’ll only need half a tablespoon per wash. Assuming you wash your jeans once every few months, that bottle is going to last you quite a while.


Guide To Cleaning Raw Denim 

So you’ve finally decided to clean your raw denim jeans. Before that, do make sure that you’ve worn them regularly for at least six months. If you wash your raw denim too early, you won’t be able to get those sharp high-contrast fades that define raw denim jeans.

Not More Than Once Year: Try to not go beyond a year without cleaning your jeans as the bacteria build-up will begin eating away at the fabric at that point, which will lead to fragile denim susceptible to fraying, tears and rips.

Freeze ‘em: If you’re not quite at that six-month mark yet and you already can’t stand the putrid odor wafting from your jeans, then you might want to try placing your jeans in the freezer for a few hours to kill off the excess bacteria causing the smell. Of course, you should place those jeans inside an airtight plastic bag first.

Hand Wash: You’ll be washing them by hand because a washing machine would stretch out your denim and leave you with an ill-fitting pair of trousers.

First, fill up a pail, basin, or even a bathtub with lukewarm water, enough so that your jeans will be completely submerged. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or your jeans will suffer from excess dye run-off.

Next, mix in a small amount of a light fabric cleaner that won’t remove too much dye. Do not use bleach. When that’s done, turn your jeans inside out and soak them completely in the water for an hour.

After you’re done with the soak, rinse your jeans thoroughly with cool water to remove excess soap before hanging them up outdoors, preferably where there’s sunlight, to dry naturally. Once again, do not use a dryer as it could drastically shrink your raw denim to the point where it doesn’t fit.