When it comes to washing most clothes, there's but one objective: Get 'em clean. With denim, there's a lot more strategy involved. That's because laundering – at least with raw denim – will affect both the texture of the denim and the intensity of wear patterns permanently painted on the fabric.
"Some people like an extremely high-contrast fade, and that's achieved by a combination of unsanforized denim, not washing your jeans often and wearing the jean tight," advises Babzani.
More frequent washing will lead to softer texture, as well as lower contrast in the parts of the jean that show the most wear: the lap, the knees, and the back pockets. Some denim geeks will urge raw denim first-timers to hold out as long as possible before washing or avoid it altogether. Babzani advocates a less extreme approach.
"It's disgusting to not wash your jeans," he says.
To do it right, he recommends washing once every 45 to 60 wears, or about every month or two, depending on how often you wear your jeans and the fade you want to achieve. Waiting longer can lead to dirt buildup that can cause brittle cotton fibers and premature tearing. Whatever you do, remember that you're talking about a pair of jeans. According to Babzani, "A lot of people are like 'Oh, these jeans, I don't want to mess them up; they're so delicate.' But what they don't realize is it's the hardest-wearing garment they've ever bought. Jeans are way more durable than any jacket or shirt or T-shirt."
When washing, follow these Self Edge rules:
-Turn jeans inside out.
-Wash in cold water in a washing machine.
-Use a gentle soap such as Woolite or Dr. Bronner's liquid soap.
-Let jeans air- or line-dry completely before wearing to prevent stretching or bagging at the knees.
Soaking unsanforized jeans: Right after you purchase this kind of denim, you'll need to soak it before you wear it so that it shrinks properly. The general rule of thumb is the hotter the water temperature and the longer the soak, the more shrinkage that will occur. While some online how-tos suggest soaking in super hot water for hours, wearing jeans in the bathtub, or putting them back on before they dry, Babzani takes a lower-maintenance approach. He gives Self Edge customers a washing machine magnet marked with instructions to use cold, lukewarm, or hot water for 10, 30, or 45 minutes. Depending on the temperature and time you choose, you can count on your pair to shrink about an inch in the waist and up to three inches in length from this process.