20 Raw Denim Shirts Primed for the Podium
Once we’ve faded one piece of selvedge, we want to fade them all. For many of us, the grail of fades is the denim shirt. Fading jeans is relatively straightforward, but the perfectly faded denim shirt proves elusive for many.
Above-the-belt fades are, of course, trickier to produce than jeans, mostly because we are more likely to rotate through a collection of shirts than we are to focus on a single piece for months on end. The formula is simple, though.
Brands you’ll find on the list
In this guide, we won’t just be covering the selvedge shirtmakers of note, like Samurai, Iron Heart, The Flat Head, TCB and Studio D’Artisan. We’ll also be looking at a host of other brands whose button-up masterpieces are primed for a full year of fading like Benzak, Rogue Territory and Blaumann.
To produce a truly spectacular faded shirt, you need:
- a perfectly fitting made-to-fade shirt; and
To help you with the first, we’ve put together this list of made-to-fade raw denim shirts. Even if you’ve struggled to find that perfect fit, there should be something below that will fit you perfectly from cuff to cuff.
To help with the second, there’s the Redline Rally. All of the shirts on this list are eligible, but take some time choosing your champion. The shirt you pick will be your constant companion for a full year. Get the fit and fabric right. The fades will follow.
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The Flat Head Denim Western (10 oz.)
If the sleeves were a touch longer, I’d probably have two of these hanging in my closet. The styling is simply perfect, with a tight trio of yellow mother of pearl snaps at the cuffs and slanted pockets that tip towards each other without skewing the clean, modern design. If the fit is right, snap one up.
If you prefer more classic workwear styling, try their 12 oz. Work Shirt.
Iron Heart IHSH-33 (12 oz.)
Conspicuously well-made, Iron Heart’s denim westerns are, for many, the standard by which all others are judged.
The contrasting yellow thread used in the triple stitched yokes makes this version immediately recognizable as a serious piece of kit. It’s notoriously stubborn, but the fades, when they finally arrive, are well worth the wait.
Studio D’Artisan Denim Western (14 oz.)
This 14 oz. denim tips this shirt into overshirt territory, but after a couple hundred wears and a few washes, this shirt can be worn next to your heart.
An instant classic with an Osaka 5 pedigree (the Ivy League of denim brands), this shirt doesn’t need to make a lot of noise. It’s quietly and heavily brilliant.
Though they are selling so fast that they will probably be gone by the time this goes to print, we highly recommend SDA’s Mud-Dyed Western.
Samurai Denim Western (10 oz.)
Samurai’s takes on the western shirt feature the boldest styling of any of the items on this list. They play with the western shirt’s conventional pointed yokes and pocket flaps, making them sharper and asymmetrical.
If you’re looking to make a denim statement, this one’s got three exclamation points.
But if those pockets don’t do it for you, give their slightly more conservative 101 Denim Western a try.
Full Count Denim Work Shirt (8 oz.)
Full Count’s emphasis has always been on comfort and wearability, and this shirt is as comfortable and wearable as they come.
It’s substantial, but it also breathes and moves easily, feeling soft against the skin. It’s not fussy. Wear it all year round and treat it carelessly. It’ll still look and feel great.
The shirt is also available in a Western version.
Indigofera Copeland 29 Handdip (13 oz.)
With its large chest pockets, this shirt has overshirt written all over it, but the cut is classic western. The slim but muscular fit flatters most figures.
It’s roomy enough to be a layering piece, but trim enough to be worn against the skin. A serious piece for those who want to test their fading might.
The Real McCoy’s 8HU Denim Serviceman (8 oz.)
An homage to the classic American work shirts designed to withstand the rigours of the eight-hour workday (8HU = Eight-Hour Union), Real McCoy’s Serviceman is as true-blue working man’s vintage as they come.
It’s almost too good to get sweaty, but to see its true colours, you’ll need to give it a push.
If the classic work shirt isn’t your bag, you can also check on the availability of their sporadically produced Denim Western.
Benzak BWS-2 Utility Shirt (6.5 oz.)
The lightest shirt on this list is made from Japanese left-hand-twill denim that will quickly turn to butter on your back.
With spacious chest pockets complete with a heart-side pen slot, the Utility Shirt is clearly ready for whatever work you want to throw at it. Copper chain-stitch runoff for bonus points.
If you want to go big, try Benzak’s 11 oz. Military Overshirt.
Stevenson Cody CD-3 Western Shirt (7 oz.)
As far west as you can get without settling for non-selvedge, the Cody’s yokes, which extend all the way to the sternum, are as distinctive as they come.
Thanks to its easy-to-wear weight, this shirt should be easy to move to the center of your collection. Keep it there and it will become a frayed and faded masterpiece.
While not eligible for the Redline Rally, the washed-down version of this shirt is a ready-to-wear true-blue classic.
TCB Ranchman (8.5 oz.)
Though the yokes on this shirt don’t feature points, they slant inwards at a dramatic angle, matching the angle of the chest pockets.
The Ranchman is a great choice for those who want to find that tipping point between rural and urban. Equally at home on the street or in the saddle.
If you’re looking for sawtooth pockets, try TCB’s Dude Ranch Shirt.
Warehouse Lot. 3038 Denim Western (8.5 oz.)
With subtle contrasting tobacco-coloured thread and matching copper snaps, Warehouse’s modern western is subtly but indisputably brilliant.
Perhaps most striking is the open bottom hem, which should generate beautiful fraying in time—will rocket to the top of your rotation.
Rogue Territory Work Shirt (11 oz.)
Thanks to asymmetrical chest pockets, this work shirt truly has it all. One open pocket, another with a button-down flap, and a concealed pen slot for good measure.
The rounded chest pockets become a more striking feature as the shirt ages. Legendary fade potential.
Blaumann Dark Western (8 oz.)
Blaumann know they are on to a good thing with their modern western design. They offer a virtually identical shirt in a number of fabrics (all of them good), but it’s most in its element in indigo denim. It’s muscular and shaped long through the body and arms for European frames.
We can also recommend this shirt in their 9.2 oz. Kuroki Selvedge. If they don’t include your country in their shipping options, send them an email. They’ll make the necessary arrangements.
Freenote Denim Calico (9 oz.)
One of the sharpest made-in-America westerns out there, Freenote’s Calico is right in the sweet spot. It’s heavy enough to fade dramatically at the elbows, but not so heavy that it feels like wearing armor. The bone snaps are the pièce de résistance.
The Calico is also available in 9 oz. Black Selvedge with matching black diamond snaps.
Tellason Clampdown (10 oz.)
This simple work shirt has been a pillar in Tellason’s catalogue for years. Designed to be worn as an over-shirt, it is cut generously across the chest and shoulders.
Size down if you want a slimmer fit. If you can keep it dry, you can expect incredible fades from this piece.
Nudie Jonas Dry Rustic Selvedge (12.5 oz.)
The most modern take on the western on this list, Nudie’s Jonas, made from Italian selvedge, doesn’t loudly announce itself as a western shirt.
The only curved lines you’ll find anywhere on the shirt are at the hem on the bottom, but the back yoke is unmistakable. Sharp and street-ready.
Mister Freedom Dude Rancher 101 (8.5 oz)
The unmistakable “M” stitching on the chest pockets make this piece recognizable from across the room.
The painted snaps (which will chip as the shirt ages) and the diamond-shaped elbow reinforcements make this shirt a true one of a kind. Faded versions are rare and treasured.
For more subtle western styling, try Mister Freedom’s 9 oz. Appaloosa.
RRL Buffalo Western (7.6 oz.)
While you pay a premium for the RRL label, you also get the best-looking western pockets on this list.
Southwest Americana is the foundation that Lauren built his premium vintage menswear label on, and his legendary design sense is on full display here. Slim fitting and sharp as a whip crack.
It’s not eligible for the Redline Rally, but you can skip to the faded finale with their Dark Wash version.
Eat Dust Western Denim Shirt
Arguably the most distinctive and boldest pocket design on this list comes from Antwerp. The Belgian lifestyle brand makes pieces that are impossible to mistake as anybody else’s.
This middleweight denim western (they don’t list the denim weight) is made from Italian denim and finished with marble snaps.
For a more relaxed fit and subtler pocket design, try their Combat Shirt.
Shockoe Atelier Denim Field Shirt (9 oz.)
Closing out the list is this simple classic from Virginia’s Shockoe Atelier. The pocket shape is classic workwear, but the cut is more runway than factory floor.
Will work either on its own or as a layering piece. The tonal stitching creates a sharp monochromatic look.
It may start subtle, but as it fades, it’ll begin to grab attention.
Got a Shirt or Jacket? Register for the Redline!
The Redline Rally is our year-long fade competition. There is no better way to generate above-the-belt fades than to join the Rally. Year Two kicks off on January 1, 2023.
Like the Indigo Invitational, the Rally helps you move one piece to the center of your rotation and do some real damage. Even slow faders produce results if they stick with the program.