Answers to 7 FAQs about Buying Raw Denim Jeans

The 7 Most Common Questions about Buying Raw Denim Jeans Answered

In this episode of the podcast, I answer seven of the most frequently asked questions about buying raw denim jeans. The questions and answers are pulled straight from a previously published blog post I wrote together with Bryan Szabo from the Indigo Invitational.

The goal of this episode is to help you make a more informed raw denim purchase. And while the questions are most commonly asked when you’re starting out in this scene, the answers (should be) equally relevant whether you’re about to buy your first or your fiftieth pair.

Retraction for episode 10

Before we get to the FAQ and the topic of the episode, I want to make a retraction:

Several female listeners of the podcast have made me aware that in episode 10, where I talk fits, I was being both offensive and incorrect when I said the episode was only for guys.  For that I am sorry.

I also realise that the first half of that episode, where I talk about the components of a fit and different fit categories, is just as relevant for women as it is for men.

In the second half of the episode, I should’ve made it more clear that I’m sharing my experience with men’s fits and how to find jeans that fit for five different male body types I’ve identified. The different fit categories I discuss the same for both men’s and women’s jeans, and I should’ve made that clear.

FAQ of the episode: Women’s raw denim

Considering the topic of this episode, and the retraction for episode 10, I found it fitting to answer an FAQ I’ve gotten many times over the years: Which brands make raw denim jeans for women?

It’s something that deserves much more attention and airtime, which intend to give it. For now, I did a bit of preliminary research and talked to my friend Amanda Barnes from @23oz.indigo and @selvedge_sisters on Instagram.

She shared this excellent resource on Reddit, which I encourage you to consult. Here are some of the brands that I found that make women’s jeans:

  • Naked & Famous
  • Nudie Jeans Co
  • imogene + willie
  • Raleigh
  • Railcar Fine Goods
  • Benzak
  • Hiut Denim
  • Dawson Denim
  • A.P.C.
  • Levi’s
  • Doublewood
  • Samurai
  • Pure Blue Japan

FAQ #1: What raw denim should I buy?

This is an impossible question to answer because there are so many options to choose from!

The answer depends on what you’re looking for and what you want to achieve:

  • High contrasts or not?
  • Stiff or soft denim?

It also, at to some degree, depends on where and how you’re going to wear the jeans:

  • Heat or cold?
  • Relaxed or more formal occasions?

FAQ #2: What is the best raw denim brand?

Raw denim is NOT an objective matter in my opinion. What is the best brand for me (so in my opinion) might not be the best for you.

But here are four factors that influence what you may consider “the best”:

  • Fit (which I talk about in episode 10 of this podcast)
  • Price and ‘value for money’
  • Details
  • Country of origin and/or production (Japan, USA, Europe)

FAQ #3: How much should I spend?

The short answer is as much as you can comfortably afford. And it’s better to buy ‘the best’ pair of raws you can afford (again, ‘best’ is personal for you).

Do some research, try on as many as jeans you can. Once you’ve decided on a pair and bought them, DO NOT buy more until you’ve worn that pair for at least a couple of months. You need to wear the jeans to find out what you like (and possibly don’t like) about them.

FAQ #4: What’s the deal with Japanese denim?

Put very simply and generally, the Japanese have more attention to detail and love and appreciation for denim’s heritage than any other denim making nation.

You can read more about the history of denim in Japan here. I’d also strongly encourage you to read Ametora and listen to the interview with its author, W. David Marx, that Jake and I did on the Denim & Boots Podcast.

FAQ #5: Sanforized vs. unsanforized?

Sanforized denim is pre-shrunk while unsanforized denim is not (and will shrink). Unsanforized denim has more character

As Merv from Okayama Denim said when he was on the podcast: “Raw denim can be sanforized, one-washed jeans can be unsanforized.”

#6: What’s the best fit?

The following parametres determine what kind of fit will be the best choice for you:

  • The shape of your body
  • What you do wearing the jeans (if you do heavy work, for instance, you need more room)
  • The footwear you prefer (sneakers or boots?)
  • Your style

… want more? Listen to the episode where I talk about my men’s raw denim fit guide here.

FAQ #7: What size should I get?

Again, you need to try on the jeans if possible. If that’s not an option, you should measure a pair of jeans you already own and like and compare to the measurements provided by the brand or retailer you’re buying from.

Most importantly, DO NOT focus only on tagged size!

Generally speaking, with jeans that’ve already been shrunken down, the waist should be snug, but not crazy tight. How snug depend on how the denim’s woven. Iron Heart’s 21 oz. denim, for instance, stretches A LOT. 

With raw, unsanforized jeans, you need to allow for shrinkage. Some unsanforized denim shrinks 10% (or even more), but I’ve tried several denims labelled ‘unsanforized’ that didn’t shrink that much!

Again, you need to talk to the brand or store you’re buying from. And/or friends you know that’ve worn the denim.

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Thee featured image is from Brund, photographed by Brian Engblad.


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