All Jeans Start Raw, But the Majority of them are Sold as Pre-Washed

The starting point for any jean is the raw and unwashed state. Right after they’ve been cut and sewn, all jeans are raw! From a functional standpoint, they don’t need any further processing.

And because of the way denim is dyed, the colour changes as you wash and wear your jeans. Over time, they mould to your body, you create your own aged look, and the denim gets softer.

Discover how denim is dyed and why it fades in this denim FAQ video guide.

But while some choose to wear their jeans raw, most consumers prefer to buy jeans that’re already soft and have that faded lived-in look. Pre-washing makes that possible.

In this video—which is a preview of the lesson from the Denim 101 course—I discuss raw denim and pre-washing.

What is Pre-Washed Denim?

Pre-washing is the third and final stage in the making of jeans (after design and cut and sew). It’s all about purposely ageing the garment.

It involves processes that are referred to as pre-distressing, laundering or—in industry speak—garment finishing. It’s not one single process; most washes are created with a combination of several different pre-washing methods, known ‘recipes.’

The aim of pre-washing either to replicate the look that raw denim jeans get with everyday wear and wash. Or to simply make the colour a little brighter, make the denim softer, and reduce issues with ‘crocking,’ where the colour rubs off the fabric.

The Pros and Cons of Raw Denim vs. Pre-Washed Jeans

Looking at denim objectively, it’s not hard to see why most consumers prefer pre-washed jeans. Unwashed denim is stiff; especially when it doesn’t have stretch, and it can be uncomfortable to wear.

One of the key benefits of pre-washed jeans is that you get a garment that looks and feels lived-in, right off the store shelf.

An important disadvantage is that pre-washed jeans usually don’t last as long as unwashed jeans. Because to create the worn-in look and soft touch, the jeans usually go through some pretty heavy scraping and washing.

Learn how to make your raw denim jeans last longer with one simple trick here.

On top of that, it takes months of wear, even years for some, to reach the desired worn-in look. For someone who wants a certain look today, choosing pre-washed jeans is a no-brainer.

But pre-washing essentially shaves off time you could be wearing the jeans. In that sense, raw denim jeans will, all things being equal, last longer.

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Author

Thomas is the founder of Denimhunters. As a marketing professional who has specialised in denim, he consults for the industry. Anyone who knows him will tell you he's a perfectionist and a die-hard denim fanatic.

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