The Best Selvedge Jeans That Aren’t Raw

The terms “raw” and “selvedge” are used a lot nowadays to describe high end denim jeans. Although often group together, the two words describe a totally independent world in jean manufacturing. Just because your pair of jeans is made from selvedge denim doesn’t mean it is raw.

For example:

Selvedge refers to the type of finishing that the fabric has. It is easily identified by the clean edge on the outseam of the jean’s fabric. Due to this, no additional threading is needed to keep the fabric from fraying.


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Raw refers to whether or not your jeans have been washed during or after the production process. If the garment touched water before you wore it, then it is not raw. Most of the jeans in fast fashion stores that came in a variety of blue hues are examples of washed denim.

The appeal to raw denim is that they mold to the shape of your body, and fades into a lighter shade over time. This means each pair is unique to the wearer and can be seen as their personal denim masterpiece.

Raw denim can take a while to get used to. The unwashed fibers are rough and require time to soften up. Luckily, there are alternatives to raw denim for those of you who seek a pair of quality jeans without the patience or time for raws.

Like “regular jeans,” selvedge jeans come in many washes (aka the color of your jean) and styles. Listed below are some of the most popular washes used by manufacturers.


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Both of these are considered dark colored jeans but are made quite differently.

The “dark wash” jean is when the denim fabric is quickly washed with water during the manufacturing process. This process gives the fabric more texture as it gets rid of the excess indigo in the fabric. After the denim has been washed, then the jeans are assembled.

The “rinse” jean follows the exact same process except for one additional step. After the jeans are sewn together, they are then dipped into more indigo dye. This process allows the the richness of the dye to penetrate the seams and it gives the garment an even dark color.

Although technically not raw, rinse denim will bleed and fade slightly due to the additional indigo layer. Also, they will be slightly darker than dark wash jeans.

In my opinion, the dark wash and rinse denim are the most versatile type of jean. They offer a clean look that is not distracting. You can wear them casually with sneakers, or you can dress them up a little bit with a pair of derbies and a sportcoat.



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Medium to light wash denim are made using the same process as dark wash fabric. The key difference is that this process is repeated over and over again.

At the factory, the denim undergoes multiple water washes and drying periods. Each time this process is repeated, more indigo is removed. This process continues until the denim loses enough indigo for the desired shade of blue.

Medium and light wash jeans are what people think about when they hear “denim jeans”. They are classic staples that have entered and reenter the mainstream time after time again. Though not as versatile as the rinse wash, they holds their own as a casual style icon.



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Vintage distressing is not a type of wash, but it is still worth mentioning. It is the process in which manufacturers use to make a pair of jeans look worn or shall we say, “lived in”.

In vintage distressed jeans, aside from a wash, manufacturers will create wear patterns by using abrasive tools, sanding paper and bleach. In more state of the art factories, jeans are distressed by lasers that can cut, and mark up a pair 20x faster than if done by the human hand. Factory distressed denim jeans creates cookie cutter patterns that could be mass produced in a short amount of time.



The manufactured washes above contrast the organic process in which wear patterns are created in raw denim. Raw denim starts off dark and stiff. The indigo fades slowly and where fading occurs depend on where stress is emphasized. Typically the part of the jean that fades the fastest is the area between the crotch and waist. Fades in his part of the jean create what is known as whiskering.


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They are curved straight patterns that run across the top of the jean creating a whiskery effect. The next fade that develops the fastest are honeycombs. Honeycombs form behind the knee in a crisscross pattern creating shapes that resembles a bee’s nest.


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Fastest Fading Denim

Wrapping Up

But I’ll be frank, raw denim is not for everyone. Not everyone is willing to buy expensive jeans that fade or jeans that they can’t just throw in the washing machine with your other clothes. I’ll say like beer, raw denim is more of an acquired taste. For those of you who want to get into higher quality denim that you can comfortably style, try venturing into the selvedge denim first. Many of the brands that make raw denim also make selvedge denim that isn’t raw. As you can see from the list above, you don’t need to reinvent your style or get into workwear to wear quality denim. Pick a wash that you like and is familiar with and have fun!

Featured image via @canadianidenim and @amsterdenim on Instagram.

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Humphrey Tsui

Humphrey is a native Brooklynite who loves clothing! He is an expert in leather, shoe construction and American pop culture history. Message him on Instagram for any inquiries.Follow him on Instagram.

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