One of the biggest trends in men’s fashion is “raw” or “dry” denim. These are jeans made of material that isn’t pre-washed after the dying process. Because of this, they fade uniquely to the wearer and, according to some, shouldn’t be washed nearly as much as pre-washed denim. At first they’re very stiff, but after a while they’re easy to wear, relatively easy to take care of, and friendly to the environment.
Josh Le, a third-year general studies student at the University of Alberta, decided to see how long he could wear his pair of raw jeans without washing them starting in September 2009. He lasted 15 months. Within this period, Josh wore his jeans, according to his approximation, 330 times while walking, running, biking, sleeping, and generally in his everyday life.
“At first, it’s way stiffer than normal jeans,” Le said. “But then as you wear them, it conforms to your body and fades in ways completely unique to you, so I wanted to see how mine would fade over a long period of time.”
As part of his experiment, Le went to Rachel McQueen, an assistant professor in the university’s ecology department, in order to see whether there would be any bacterial build up on the jeans between an initial test after 13 days and one after 15 months of continuous wear.
McQueen figured she would find some build-up, but the results proved her wrong.
“There wasn’t that much of a difference,” she said. “We found plenty of Coryne bacteria, which is normal and unique to everyone as part of their own micro flora. We checked for pathogenic bacteria and didn’t find any.”
Josh did take some measures to prevent his jeans from smelling too bad. He aired them by hanging them outdoors overnight or in the garage in the winter. He also put them in the freezer occasionally to keep them fresh.
“There’s a general rule of thumb, which is to wash your jeans every six months. But I wanted to see how far I could stretch that,” he said. “I pretty much wore them till they were paper thin and holes were starting to form.”
Le isn’t the only raw denim enthusiast around; he’s part of growing raw denim movement. Le mentioned his plans to go to the Heavyweight Denim Championship of The World, where raw denim enthusiasts come from all over to compete to see which jeans have the best cut and the best fading after 24 months of wear and abuse.