It’s July. It’s 30°C outside (OK, not in London, but somewhere). There’s no air con inside. You’re at work. It’s muggy. Really muggy. And you stink. Or rather, you don’t stink… your jeans stink. The jeans you bought in February. A pair of A.P.C. New Standards. Raw denim at it’s mid priced finest. You wore them through the back end of winter. They saw a few showers and some puddles. A bit of snow too. Carried on through Spring. Sweated it out in them on the bank holidays in May. And now it’s getting to crunch time in July… it’s the raw denim precipice. They officially started to smell in June for sure, but it’s breaking point in July and you shouldn’t have worn them today. Forecast looked shitty. Who knew it would get this hot?
Face it. It’s time to wash them. And they will never… be the same… again.
My technique used to be to wash them with a glass tumbler full of salt that I mixed with a touch of detergent and some boiling water to dissolve the salt. I mixed it all up in to a thick paste and put this in the machine with the jeans. Then I’d wash them on a delicate setting. The results were always pretty good.
I had a mate who used to wash his in the sea. He’d go swimming at the beach in Douglas in them. I once overheard the lads at OiPolloi talking about baking them in the sun on the bonnet of a car once you’ve washed them cold. This would effectively get the proper stiffness back in to them.
All good techniques, but do you know what? Fuck it! I for one have wasted too much of my life attempting to preserve raw denim. Being terrified of washing them for the first time because they’ll never be the same. They’ll never be that rich grey-inky blue again no matter what you do. If you’ve been wearing them for a month solid, face it, they’re already ruined. The knees have started to go by that point and you’ve already made your first impressions on them.
The turning point in my attitude towards raw denim came about a year ago in A.P.C on Dover Street. An attractive young French lady was guiding me through the denim selection process when I mentioned something about the jeans I had on. She really loved the almost stone washed finish and asked where I’d bought them from. She was nearly sick down herself when I told her they were A.P.C. New Standards. They were three years old at that point, had been worn every other day and were still hanging tough at the crotch. Then her questioning followed; how did I achieve such a faded look? Did I rub anything on them to distress them? What were my washing techniques? Which detergents did I use? What temperatures had I been washing them at?
I shared my secret her. I stopped trying to preserve them when I got a second pair. My focus was put in to preserving the new pair and I started to wash the old pair normally… like the rest of the world washes their jeans (sometimes even at 40°!). Like your Mum washes your Dad’s jeans. I washed them regularly too. Like other clothes. After a few wears or when they were getting a bit ripe I didn’t hesitate to get them in the machine. It was as if I’d told her the world wasn’t flat.
Once she got over the startling discovery and I’d recovered from a French girl getting excited about my pants, I realised that this was a pivotal moment; no more would I painstakingly wash my raw denim like a nutter, because they also look ace when they’ve turned in to your Dad’s jeans (and French girls dig ‘em). From this point on it would be a race to the stone washed finish line.
Another important point for me is that these jeans in particular are a utility purchase. They look good with everything and I love ‘em, but they’re not a defining aspect of an outfit and so I figure they don’t deserve the time I used to waste on them. I have cords and chinos that can ‘make’ outfits, jeans just don’t deliver on this level.
I’m sure I’ve now pissed off many denim connoisseurs and aficionados and this is just my own view, but I think there are more important parts of my wardrobe that deserve the attention once wasted on jeans (e.g. shoes). I feel free now I’m happy to let my jeans fade away (and look all the better for it). I implore you too, to embrace the fade.