My friend Austin is enamored with raw denim. He’s embarking on a year long journey wearing the same pair of raw denim jeans every day and documenting it all on his blog, Indigo Trails. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and meet up near South Street for a quick photo shoot.
How and when did you decide to begin your raw denim project?
This has been a work in progress for quite some time now. My buddy, Matt Perez, was working for RRL, which is the heritage workwear line of Ralph Lauren clothing, when he introduced me to the kind of denim I am wearing now. That led to the beginning of an obsession and kickstarted my exploration into this world.
I had already spent a good year and a half wearing a couple pairs of jeans but never documented them really well. Most denim heads are obsessed with every little detail and process of how the jeans fade and break in. I felt like most of the updates from other blogs were only pictures of about 6 to 12 months in and after they had been washed for the first time. After a conversation with my wife, Brittany, I decided to do weekly and detailed updates so I could capture every bit of the experience with a few interesting posts on my friends and their denim as well. So on the way home from visiting my family in Georgia, we stopped at Need Supply Co. in Richmond, VA to pick up a pair and start the following week.
What’s so great about raw denim?
Denim is one of those products that has withstood time. From fashion shift to fashion shift we still find it deeply rooted in culture all over the world. There are very few articles of clothing that can say that. It’s actually quite fascinating when you think about it. From the 1800s until now denim has played a pretty major role in our history. That, coupled with my obsession for handmade products, has led me to where I stand with it now.
Raw denim is what we are talking about here. I mean the kind that feels like cardboard and has never seen or touched water. It’s in its natural unwashed state and made of 100% cotton. The kind I am wearing, more specifically, are referred to as “Selvedge” or “Self Edge” denim. A selvedge line is “the edge of woven fabric finished so as to prevent raveling, often in a narrow tape effect, different from the body of the fabric” (dictionary.com). This denim is hand woven on shuttle looms and dyed with real indigo, which gives it the blue color we are all familiar with. Then companies buy it, most commonly from Japan, and craft them by hand the way they were originally made back when it first hit the scene.
If you wear it for a really long time and don’t wash it, then it will mold to your body and produce high contrasting fades that represent your day to day life, and that’s why I love it.
This is what non-selvedge denim looks like.
This is what selvedge denim looks like.
How did you pick which jeans to wear for twelve whole months?
Well, I tried a couple of different pairs since I started getting into this and so far the “Weird Guy” fit from Naked and Famous Denim feels the best. So when I stopped at Need Supply Co. and tried on many different brands I wasn’t surprised at all when I landed on the ones I am wearing right now. What intrigued me about them though is that they were “left hand twill” denim, which refers to how they are woven versus the more common “right hand twill” style. It would take some time to fully explain that and I would suggest for anyone interested in gaining more knowledge about raw denim should visit Rawr Denim. In short, it makes them a bit more soft to the touch and creates a different type of contrast as it fades.
Here are some pictures sourced from Naked and Famous’ website of the pair I got.
Brand: Naked and Famous
Fit: Weird Guy
Type: Left Hand Twill Selvedge
Do you think you’ll get bored only wearing one pair of jeans for so long?
Definitely not. It’s kind of funny how you can fall in love with a pair of jeans. Every time you put them on they have that “perfect” feeling. There are truly few things in clothing better than quality denim that feels like the perfect pair. This is why you don’t wash them. The fact that they mold to your body is the whole point.
No washing, huh? How does that work?
Yeah. I have so many people ask me that same question. Honestly it just sounds really gross, but it’s really not that bad. There are many tricks you can use along the way to help you combat the funk though. Most of the smell you get in jeans is caused from a build up of bacteria. One trick is to put them in the freezer for a few hours or even overnight. This will kill any odor-causing bacteria and give you a less stinky jean. I have also heard about spraying Febreeze on them or even rubbing dryer sheets all over the inside. The whole point, though, is to take them on a journey. If they get a little stain here and there or start to get too much build up of dirt, it just adds to the character. However, I do understand that this is not for everybody and it can require quite a bit of determination as well as being a ninja at not getting food on them.
What, if anything, are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish with this project?
I think for me it is mostly something that feeds an obsession. So the main thing to accomplish is some killer fades! Even more than that is the fact that I will essentially be living in these things and to think about how many places they will go with me over this next year will be so much fun. Plus, I will get to reminisce about all the shenanigans that will come along with the whole thing. Lastly will be the social side to this experiment. I can’t wait to enjoy all of the goofy conversations or looks I will get when I explain what I am doing (especially from germaphobes).
Do you have recommendations for others who might want to try raw denim?
I would just encourage people initially to educate themselves about it and then go for it. Each person’s experience will be vastly different. I can just forewarn you — once you start, you are guaranteed to get sucked into the world of raw denim and all of its awesomeness.
Thanks so much, Austin! Be sure to follow along with his adventures in raw denim at Indigo Trails.
I met Desiree outside of Clover Market. I thought it seemed like the perfect place to encounter some interestingly dressed vintage lovers. I was right about that.
Desiree is from Philadelphia and now lives in Mount Airy. She loves going to craft fairs and enjoys music, film, and “being a mommy to a wonderful three year old!” Her other city love is Chicago, where she got her BFA in Arts Administration and Photography.
Desiree also loves thrifting and vintage shopping. She loves getting designer denim from resale shops, and describes her style and aesthetic as “grandma chic,” old fashioned, but new. She likes getting one of a kind pieces that you wouldn’t see in chain stores.
She would love to someday run a member-supported nonprofit gallery and studio space. Right now, she works for The Picasso Project, a nonprofit that does advocacy and gives grants to Philadelphia public school teachers who need funding for art projects in their schools.
I really enjoy the pattern of her coat and her bright denim. It’s hard to find an interesting winter coat, and bright jeans give color to an otherwise grey and frigid city. Also, those earrings and that topknot! So good!
Finding street style in the winter is hard, you guys. I had foreseen it as a potential challenge, so when I began I worked about a month ahead. Then the holidays came, I was sick for about two weeks, and it got absolutely frigid in Philadelphia.
So in order to make this project a bit more sustainable through these strange weather patterns and other facts of life, I’ll be mixing in extras. This week, I’ve been working on an interview with a friend who has fallen in love with raw denim. He’ll be wearing the same pair of jeans for a year. A year!
While that’s in the works, enjoy this mini documentary about travel and denim over a two year period. I found it a couple years ago now, and I still watch it every so often. It makes me desperate to get rid of all my stuff and pack lightly for a several-year jaunt around the world.