What is Raw Denim?

Raw food is uncooked. Raw denim is unwashed.

All denim starts raw. Denim arrives at every jean maker’s factory in the raw form. Once a jean is made – and washed – it’s no longer raw. 

raw denim fabric
If it’s on a roll, it’s raw. Shown here: Pro Original selvedge denim.

What makes denim raw

Raw denim is 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.

What makes raw denim desirable

Rarely you’ll see raw denim jeans sold in stores. Most stores only sell washed jeans – because they’ve learned most people want comfortable clothing – and raw denim is not comfortable for most people. 

But a small group of men prefer raw denim jeans. Men 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 picks up fades better than washed denim.

raw denim washing one year
Pro Original Raw, worn daily for 1 year. Not washed at the time of these photos.

Raw denim jeans 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. 

Should you buy raw denim jeans

We don’t recommend raw denim jeans unless a customer brings it up first. And we try to educate customers who haven’t owned a raw jean, especially if they’re buying raw because they like the color. 

Raw denim photo
Pro Original Raw vs. Darks. Raw has a greyish top tone that wears and washes out over time.

Raw jeans are not the best option for most guys, but they are the best option for some guys.

Here’s some questions we’d ask a customer considering raw denim:

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). If you buy a raw denim jean, you’ll want to go as long as possible without washing (once or twice a year).  

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

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. 

What is raw denim?
Pro Original Raw and Pro Original Darks is the same denim. Darks has been washed once.

If a customer is on the fence between Pro Original Darks and Pro Original Raw, we will always recommend Pro Original Darks. A customer can still get good fades over time, but Darks will be more comfortable from the start.

If you’re buying raw, should you change your size

There are two types of raw denim: sanforized and unsanforized. Sanforization is a process that removes shrinkage in fabric. If a jean is made from unsanforized denim, it will shrink. If a jean is made from sanforized denim, it won’t shrink (enough to notice). We use sanforized denim, we recommend customers don’t change their size.

All the cautionary tales aside, we sell raw denim jeans for a reason, they’re cool. Pro Original Raw makes up 1 of 4 jeans in our core denim collection. If you have questions about raw denim, please feel free to contact us.

American made clothing for men