Wear patterns
Credit: Photograph by Talia Herman

Sure, style and fit are important, but it's the wear patterns that matter most to those seriously into denim. For his part, Babzani goes so far as to liken this natural distressing to art, saying, "It's like looking at a painting."

Whether you like the high-contrast whiskering created by rarely washing your jeans or subtle shading around the pockets from every day wear and tear, there's no right or wrong. Where patterns and signs of aging appear on your jeans largely mirrors how you live, and, for many denim fans, that’s the beauty of a raw pair that ages slowly over time.

As you shop, it may be helpful to reference common wear pattern terms and ask retailers how different denim styles are likely to show distressing as they age. Note that marks along the sides or bottoms of pockets will emerge if you frequently carry a phone or wallet inside them. The lap area from the top of the jean down to the thigh is where those thin horizontal lines called whiskers appear. Behind the knees, the pattern that frequently emerges as the denim creases is called a honeycomb. The more crouching you do, the more obvious the pattern will get.

If you purchase a pair of pre-washed denim jeans, you're likely to find the distressing has already been done for you. Common forms of machine distressing include washing for softness, fading, sanding, blasting, and singeing to remove fine fibers along the surface of the jean. There's nothing wrong with any of these touches, but they don't say anything about the man inside the pants.