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The A.P.C. ‘washing recipes’ leaflet is likely the origin of this myth.
It verbally says, “let your jeans get dirty as long as possible, go swimming in the ocean wearing your jeans, rub them with dry sand and repeat several times. Rinse in fresh (not salt) water and let dry in the sun.”
The premise here is that going swimming in your jeans and then rubbing them with sand should give you great fades. But why?
Merv Sehti from Okayama Denim argues that the salt in ocean water gives the denim a stiffer and crispier feel. Co-founder of Standard & Strange, Jeremy Smith, agrees and adds that the denim is therefore more likely to crease up to produce higher contrast fades. “But you could do this with a few cups of salt and a bathtub,” he suggests.
Danny Hodgson from Rivet and Hide never tried it himself, but he suspects the salt residue can be quite irritating and possibly bad for the denim if you don’t rinse the jeans properly in freshwater.
And you can’t just take your jeans to the ocean and get great fades just from washing them there. Nick Coe from Heddels, reminds us that how good the fades get largely depends on other factors such as for how long and how hard you’ve worn the jeans prior to the wash.
Importantly, Kiya Babzani of Self Edge reminds us that the ocean wash doesn’t clean your jeans. In Blue Blooded he argues:
In the end, it will deposit more dirt and hard water into the fibres than what was there to begin with. Due to the sea water scent and the high mineral content of ocean water, you’ll need to machine wash your jeans after an ocean wash to truly get them clean,” he says.
Menno Van Meurs from Tenue de Nîmes is all in on the ocean wash. However, he’s not a fan of ‘cheating,’ he says, so he doesn’t rub sand on the jeans.
Sand rubbing can indeed speed up the fading process, Merv argues. He adds that you’d have to rub the sand for an extensive period.
Unless you’re some kind of sand-rubbing-robot (or have a lot of time on your hands), you’re not going to do meaningful damage to your jeans with sand,” Jeremy reasons.
This whole approach is a gimmick, really. “It’s something to tell your friends about,” store manager of Brund, Peter Rerskov, says.
While he agrees that sand rubbing can speed up the fading, he questions why you would want to do that in the first place?! To him, wearing raw denim is about the journey, not the result.
Getting a new pair of jeans is like the beginning of a long term relationship,” Peter says, “it’s not a one night stand.”
MYTH STATUS: BUSTED