Are Raw Denim Jeans Worth It?

We asked 3 customers to start with a raw jean, wear it for a minimum of 200 days within one year, wait at least 100 days before washing, then detail the process. Here are their thoughts at the end.

A raw jean after 200 wears
Adam from Colorado’s raw jeans after 200 wears.

The purpose of this experiment

There’s an allure to raw denim jeans. But raw denim has pros and cons. The purpose of this experiment was to provide real customer accounts from people who went a year wearing raw denim jeans.

What are raw jeans?

Raw denim jeans are unwashed jeans. They’re stiff. Denim mills add a starch-like substance to make it stiff. The stiffness makes it easier for the denim mill to handle. The stiffness will wash out and the denim will soften.

People who choose raw jeans over washed jeans do so because they want to break-in the jeans themselves. Raw jeans provide a blank canvas or clean slate, that can pick up fades better than washed denim.

Raw denim jeans can pick up fades better for two reasons: 1) the stiffness of the denim creates more defined creases, and 2) a raw jean has experienced no color loss from washing – allowing for greater contrast between faded areas and non-faded areas. 

The journey of 3 customers and their raw jeans

At the end of Denim Month 2020, we threw out a challenge. A free Pro Original Raw jean to any person in exchange for them sharing their raw denim experience with our community the following year during Denim Month 2021.

We set some guidelines. Wear the jean a minimum of 200 days throughout the year. Wear at least 100 days before washing (yes, raw denim generally comes with unusual washing rules, read more about that here). And detail the process. 4 guys accepted the challenge.

The 4 raw jeans shipped the first week of March. Then Covid hit. By May, we told the guys to not feel obligated to the challenge. One guy actually made it to 200 days. Two almost made it. And one had his weight change, making his raw jeans no longer fit (until they do again one day).

We asked each following questions about their experience.

Denim Month is an annual event each February when we experiment with and showcase different denim.


A raw jean on day 1 vs day 200
Adam at day 1 and day 200.

Adam from Colorado

Was this your first raw jean ever?
Yes.

Did Covid-19 affect your plans for wearing your raw jeans?
Yes, sat a lot more and walked/traveled a lot less.

How many days do you estimate you wore the jeans?
200 days over the period of 3/23/20 – 1/30/21.

How many days before your first wash?
104 days worn.

How many times have you washed?
2

How long did it take for the jeans to noticeably break in?
At about 30 days worn they started getting lose and a little baggy.

How long did it take to start seeing fades?
I don’t really recall, maybe 2-3 weeks?

Would you adjust your fit profile for raw jeans compared to other TS jeans or pants?
I think the same.

Did anything surprise you about raw jeans?
How stiff they are at first and then how they mold to your body.  Also, how long you can go before washing pants was a surprise.  Before this, I would always wash my pants/jeans after maybe 6 wears at the most.

Would you recommend raw jeans over dark jeans?
If you have the time and patience, I definitely would.

What would you say to TS customers considering raw jeans?
It takes a commitment but it’s worth the investment in the end because you wind up with jeans that have a lot more character and “tell a story” of sorts because of all the creases, fades, and wear marks.  You can see where I keep my cell phone and wallet in my back pockets and my pocket knife in my front left pocket, there’s extra fading on my knees from getting down on the floor to play with my daughter when she was a baby who’s now a toddler, etc. 

My raws are also more comfortable than my pre-washed jeans since the raws come in a “blank slate” and then conform to your body and movements over time.  In fact, I’ve spent so much time in my raws that they now feel like bespoke pants made just for me that fit like a glove.  I wore my TS darks yesterday for the first time in almost a year and the difference was night and day.  I almost felt like I was wearing trousers/chinos due to the uniformity in color and lack of creases and fading.  It was kind of like wearing some other guy’s pants.  My raws, on the other hand, are like an old familiar friend when I put them on, especially since we’ve been through this crazy pandemic together. 

A raw jean after washing on day 100 vs day 200

I like to cook so to use that analogy, raw denim is like cooking a great meal from scratch: there’s a lot more prep and work required but when the finished product is done and ready to enjoy, it’s a lot more tasty and you can take great pride in the work you put into it.  Pre-washed jeans, on the other hand, are more like fast food: quicker and a lot more convenient but the finished product doesn’t taste/look quite as good and is a lot less special

The best part is that my raws are only going to get better with time!


Clay in his raw jean after 180 wears
Clay 11 months in.

Clay from Virginia

Was this your first raw jean ever?
No, I’ve had raws from Sugarcane and Left Field.

Did Covid-19 affect your plans for wearing your raw jeans?
Maybe a little less. I got furloughed from my job for the spring and summer, so I did a lot of hiking/finding places to swim/etc., with my kids where denim wasn’t an option instead of wearing them to work, but still wore them more than 180 days. It really changed how I wore them. They just got less movement overall – no travel, way less driving, no walking around an office or out to lunch. Those are things that lead to awesome fades, which I had on my previous pair of TS jeans. These were worn for more days but didn’t get the same level of “wear” given I was mostly at home.

How many days do you estimate you wore the jeans?
About 180.

How many days before your first wash?
First wash was Oct. 19.

How many times have you washed?
Once.

How long did it take for the jeans to noticeably break in?
Actually pretty quickly – the stiffness was gone after a couple weeks.

How long did it take to start seeing fades?
I get really quick fades where I carry my chapstick – I always feel like those show up within a month or so of regular wear. After about two-and-half months I started to see the creases in the thighs and behind the knees become permament.

Would you adjust your fit profile for raw jeans compared to other TS jeans or pants?
No.

Did anything surprise you about raw jeans?
No.

Would you recommend raw jeans over dark jeans?
Yes – it’s way more satisfying.

What would you say to TS customers considering raw jeans?
Do it! Just follow the team’s advice on stretch, etc. when sizing.


Tony in his raw jean after 2 months of wearing
Tony at the 2 month mark.

Tony from Italy

Was this your first raw jean ever?
Yes.

Did Covid-19 affect your plans for wearing your raw jeans?
Yes. My work travel completely stopped, which impacted the “wear” of the jeans.

How many days do you estimate you wore the jeans?
I sent them back for adjustments after the first wash, and due to being overseas, I missed at least 3 months of wear so technically I’m still working toward my 200!

How many days before your first wash?
100.

How many times have you washed?
1.

How long did it take for the jeans to noticeably break in?
I noticed that they softened up about 2 months/40 wears in.

Would you adjust your fit profile for raw jeans compared to other TS jeans or pants?
Yes. I would size down slightly with future raw jeans. The raw jeans stretch a bit with regular wear and without the regular wash/dry of normal jeans to “shrink” them back to normal, they wear slightly looser than normal.

Would you recommend raw jeans over dark jeans?
If you’re looking for a unique look and have the patience to do it right, then absolutely choose raw!

What would you say to TS customers considering raw jeans?
Size down from normal. And be prepared for the smell…or perhaps that was simply due to my wearing them regularly in the Neapolitan summer lol!


People considering raw jeans can ask themselves 3 questions

How important is comfortable clothing to you?
If comfy clothes are important to you, don’t buy raw denim jeans. Raw denim is stiff and not known for its comfort until it’s broken in, which can take months. 

How often do you like to wash your jeans?
If you like to wash often, there’s no reason to buy raw denim, buy a dark wash instead. Because if you buy a raw denim jean, you’ll want to go as long as possible without washing, like a few times a year.  

Do you care about the process of breaking in a jean from scratch?
Breaking in a jean from scratch is the only reason to buy raw. If you don’t care about the break-in process, don’t buy raw. 

If you’re considering buying raw jeans but have questions first, please contact us at support@toddshelton.com

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