I’ve started getting into a bit of raw denim lately. For those of you who haven’t been steeping in hours of Reddit/rawdenim, raw denim is denim that still has all of its indigo dye. It hasn’t been washed and it isn’t faded. Because of this, it is stiffer than most jeans you’ll find at the shops. But after a period of wear, it will develop a fade pattern that is unique to the wearer.
The world of raw denim is a peculiar one and once you do the deep dive as I have, you’ll realise there’s a lot of ritual, tradition, hearsay, myths, and controversy on the internet. Do you soak or not before wearing for the first time? How do you soak? What are the benefits of chainstitching hems? Should you wear your jeans into the ocean??
I started off with a pair of Levi’s Vintage Clothing 501xx 1947. LVC is a fantastic line in the Levis universe which recreates iconic items of clothing from their long history. And the 501xx 1947 is, you guessed it, from 1947.
The cut is different to modern 501s in that it is a bit slimmer in the hips and thighs while maintaining a straight leg. I made the classic mistake of assuming a size is a size and didn’t do my homework so these jeans started off painfully tight in the thighs and waist but the waist has stretched a bit with wear while the thighs are still a bit restrictive. The general advice with the 1947 is to go one or two sizes up.
My next pair (because I was still being a bit cheap at this point) was a pair of Levi’s 501CT in selvedge. These were made with denim from the recently closed Cone Mills plant and different to regular 501s in that they are tapered below the knee to the leg opening, hence the CT for “custom tapered”. These also have a higher rise so they are great for pairing with a sportcoat or blazer or cardigan and look a little bit more modern than the vintage cut of the 1947s. When I got these I did the shrink to fit thing, which is to soak them in water then wear them wet until they dry. This way, the denim conforms to my body to provide a better fit. It does tend to give you a saggy nappy arse until the next wash though. And I managed to go about 3 months before my first wash (the longer you can go without washing the higher the fade contrast).
I did find I liked the vintage cut however so for my latest pair, I splurged on a pair of 3sixteen CS-100x. This cut is based off the 1947 (but the sizing isn’t weird) with a high rise, more generous thigh, and a straight leg. The denim is 14.5oz selvedge from the Kuroki mill in Japan and is surprisingly soft despite being raw. The leather patch is from Tanner goods and is really nice. Everything about these jeans are many steps above my Levi’s. The stitching is neat, the hardware is well constructed. The inseam has flatfelled stitching which is much neater than overlocking. The classic straight fit is also usually overlooked which is a shame because it is a really versatile fit. I like my shoes heavy and thick soled so I find combining them with tapered jeans to be a bit unbalanced at times. The CS-100x has a nice wide leg opening however so I can easily wear them with anything from service boots to longwings. I had mine hemmed a bit longer so I had more cuffing options (I like big cuffs at times). And of course the wonderful staff at 3sixteen can chainstitch the hem (for a fee) which causes it to fade in a lovely ropey fashion (yes it’s crazy!). Of course it’s all about the fade isn’t it? I’ll have to report back on that in a few months…
I got my pair of CS-100x on sale from the 3sixteen website and after hemming and shipping works out about the same price as getting a pair from a local store in Sydney, except that I am yet to find a pair of CS-100x here (plus you would have to pay extra for chainstitching).
I always thought that heat retention (an important consideration for Sydney) would just be related to the weight of the jeans. So I was initially hesitant to wear my 14.5oz jeans on a mild summer day since my 501cts can be quite suffocating. However they turned out to be quite breathable due to the roomier fit. I think I sized correctly this time and the jeans are very comfortable despite being new.
All in all I’m very happy with my denim journey so far and I’m looking forward to the sick fades.