There’s nothing like the smell of new whether it’s a car, the latest issue of your favorite magazine or the crisp scent of a starched pair of jeans. Don’t feel bad; our brains are telling us to seek out new and novel things so our reward system will give us a nice long toke of dopamine. We may love tearing open that package, but too much shopping is killing our environment and not doing our savings account any favors either. Thankfully, even though our brain makes us do irresponsible things (flashback: DIY body piercing), we’re also capable of managing these urges to make more sustainable choices. For example, when we do need to buy something new, like a pair of jeans, we can choose a high-quality pair in a classic cut that’s designed to last. That and learning how to care for them will give us the most ROI: return on indigo.
The first step in caring for your jeans is choosing a quality pair. Sure, there are lots of brands that call themselves premium, but the true test is how and where they are made. One indicator of quality is the kind of denim that’s used. Raw, selvage denim like that used in these jeans from Bluer, is unwashed, untreated and made on a shuttle loom, which creates a tighter, therefore more durable weave -- and it means they’re stiff when you get them. They also look hella cool when you cuff them and show off that selvage seam like the true OG Marlon Brando. Look for jeans that are manufactured in the US, which means they adhere to safety standards that aren’t always enforced abroad. Let’s also talk transparency: white pants= bad, supply chain = good. When buying a new pair of jeans, take a look at how willing the company is to share info about their supply chain. A company committed to ethical and sustainable clothing, like Bluer Denim, is clear about where their denim is sourced, cut and sewn.
Ok, so you found the perfect pair of jeans, they’ve passed inspection and now you’re ready to take these babies home. It’s time to employ the strategy to make them last.
First wear: Snug and scratchy
We’re going to manage expectations here: putting on your pair of raw, selvage denim for the first time will be the exact opposite experience of wearing your go-to jeans. Your new jeans should be a tad too snug, and a bit like a full leg exfoliation. But like all good things (sourdough starter, a fine wine, and a fully funded 401k), raw denim takes time to fully develop into something luxurious. As you wear them, they’ll stretch to your body shape and they’ll soften up. Bluer Denim is sanforized, which means you don’t need to sit around in wet jeans ala Quadrophenia in order to make them fit. (Full disclosure: we are always on the side of the mods. Always.) And Bluer Denim won’t shrink all that much if you put them in the dryer, but OMG why would you put them in the dryer? You’re not a monster.
Storing your new denim
The good news about quality denim is that they can take a beating and keep on ticking. But your jeans do so much for you that you should show them a little love in return. It’s fine to fold or hang-- your choice-- but take heed of storing raw denim next to light-colored clothes or color may transfer. Like all textiles, avoid keeping them in humid areas (pick them up off the bathroom floor for eff’s sake!) and when (if?) you do wash them, make sure they are completely dry before you put them away. Think of your jeans as a fine wine and store them in cool, dry places (sorry, Florida).
Washing your jeans
There hasn’t been this much controversy since Mariah claimed she didn’t know JLo, but how and whether to wash your denim continues to be a raging debate. We are on team wash when necessary (more here), but always use a gentle, low-pH soap. Turn them inside out, wash in cold water and do not put them in the dryer. If you must dry them (denim gods are crying), use low heat to preserve the fibers. In between washing, spot clean. And for those who like to go commando under your jeans, take a shower first! Body oils can build up and erode your denim, not to mention the fact that no one wants to smell you before they see you.
Let ‘er rip?
Denim blowouts happen but that doesn’t mean you need to toss them. Most rips and tears can be easily repaired and there are a number of places that specialize in denim, such as Indigo Proof, who offer repair, restoration and custom tailoring services. You can also take them to almost any place that does alterations and have them stitched up. Worst case, when they are no longer wearable, look for somewhere to recycle them. Bluer Denim’s Denim Rescue program will give you credit for every pair you send in and if the jeans are still functional, will donate them to someone who needs them and if not, will send the jeans to be recycled into insulation.
Give them a Break
We know you love your new jeans but give them a rest once in a while so they don’t get worn out too quickly. In warmer months when the temperature calls for straddling a swamp cooler, store them away, making sure they’re clean first. Otherwise, change them out with another pair so you’re not wearing them more than 3-4 times a week.
Our brain may be telling us more, more, more but thankfully we can be just as easily gratified by problem-solving. That’s good news when you’re torn between buying a new pair of jeans and helping the environment. With the right choice-- like buying sustainable, ethically made jeans-- you, my friend, can do both.