There are so many jeans in the world. Just walk down any street in Shorewood and you’ll see a myriad of washes and burnishes. There are so many, in fact, that it’s often hard to know which wash is which, let alone which one is most flattering on you. To help clear up some of this confusion, we’ve created a guide to the most common types of denim washes.


Medium stone washed jeans by Agave Medium stone washed jeans by Agave

Stone washing is basically what it sounds like. Jeans are laundered with a bunch of rocks (pumice stones), which gives the jeans that faded, worn-in look. The fabric becomes lighter in color the longer it’s in the wash. The process also provides the added bonus of softening the denim.


Overdye jeans from Citizens of Humanity Overdye jeans from Citizens of Humanity

Your favorite blue-black jeans were likely overdyed. This means they either spent extra time in the dye, or were dipped a second time. We love the cool look of overdyed jeans—they start out black and then fade to indigo in the creases and other spots of high friction.


Rinsed denim jeans by Joe's Jeans Rinsed denim jeans by Joe's Jeans

Rinsed denim is super dark because unlike stone washed jeans, which tumble around with pumice stones for a while, rinsed denim undergoes just a quick water rinse. If you purchase a new pair of rinsed denim jeans, make sure you wash them alone and inside out the first few times you launder them, or until you’re sure they no longer bleed.


Acid isn’t cool anymore, but acid-washed jeans are. Acid washing is like stone washing, but the pumice stones, which are very porous, have been soaked in chlorine first. The result is dramatic, high-contrast fading. 


Enzyme washing is also like stone washing, but more efficient and less traumatic to the denim. Instead of using pumice stones, jean makers treat the denim with special enzymes that remove the indigo more gently. Being nicer to the jeans results in a stronger, longer-lasting fabric. Aww.


Raw denim jeans by Agave Raw denim jeans by Agave

Raw denim, sometimes known as dry denim, has skipped the washing process entirely. No stones, no enzymes, no acid. Raw denim is also not burnished (the process that creates whiskers, honeycombs, etc.). The result is jeans that are stiff, starchy and extra dark because they are full of dye. But this is good—it means the color fades and softens as you wear the jeans, creating a truly natural worn-in appearance. Some washes or burnishes, usually done by lower-end jean makers, can look fake or overdone (or just plain weird).

See also our blog post: “What is Raw Denim?”

Note: Men often confuse raw denim with selvedge denim. Know the difference by reading our post, “What’s the Deal with Selvedge Denim?”

Experiment with different washes and see which ones look best on you. Come into Harley’s today and we’ll help you navigate your options. Find us here.

August 07, 2015 — D W Haberdasher Limited

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