Q I got "raw" selvage jeans that I love about a year ago. You’re not supposed to wash them, but…it’s been a year! I have to! What do I do? —Janna
A: Dear Janna, This question provoked more than a few eye rolls and pained sighs in the fashion department. And it’s true, the world of raw denim is an enthusiast’s world: Like Comic-Con or artisanal mustard, raw denim inspires its own communities, opposing factions and spirited debates. Diehards insist that you should never wash raw denim and point to studies of "normal" bacteria levels in never-washed jeans. ("Never-washed" makes me think of the Never-Nudes of Arrested Development; some enterprising raw-denim-er should create special raw-denim cutoffs.)
Middle-of-the-roaders say after six months—once the raw denim has had a chance to mold itself in your image, as it were—you should first soak and then very gingerly wash them (rawrdenim.com has fantastic how-to videos). Drip-dry, of course!
Or: "Really, washing your jeans once in a while isn’t the worst idea," says Lucky fashion director Anne Keane, plonking a bottle of Denim Solution ($22, 3×1.us) from NYC denim store 3×1 on my desk.
Whatever washing strategy you finally arrive at, always roughly cuff at the hem—without that detail, people might think you were wearing … regular jeans.
Model Jourdan Dunn’s slim, chic take on selvage.
Photo by Anthea Simms