Debunking Denim

Neal T. Boulton, Contributor

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Denim is, like so much of the world, something you live in. In fact, it’s a wardrobe staple. It’s America at its best. As basic as shoes and socks. Hell, you’ve worn denim with everything from a tuxedo to a T-shirt. You’ve even slept in it, rocked in it, and fallen down drunk in it. And you know nothing’s hotter than seeing yours and hers in a rumpled heap near the hotel bed.

Many of you love faded, dogged denim, but for the past 10 years what’s trending is deep indigo and the sturdy nature of raw denim. From A.P.C. to AG, and Diesel to Levi’s, there are so many brands to choose from. But with raw denim comes the amalgam of theories about how to care for it. “I never wash mine,” someone will tell you in line at the Levi’s store. “I freeze mine for two days as a way of sterilizing them,” someone else will instruct you over drinks at a bar.

No one wants their dark denim to fade, but you also don’t want to walk around in jeans you haven’t washed in a year.

We wanted to solve the denim mystery, so Galavante sat down with denim designer Frank Pizzurro of Brooklyn Denim Company – GQ called his first-edition jeans “A born classic” – in trendy Williamsburg with some not-so-trendy questions.

Galavante: How do I select the right fit for my jeans? Some say to buy a small size because after a few wearings, they’ll break in and stretch.

Frank Pizzurro: Raw denim should be bought snug. Denim, by nature of the way it’s woven, will always stretch. Some denim will stretch more than others. For instance, lighter weight fabric, usually 10–12.5 oz denim, will tend to stretch more than a heavier denim. It is always good to consult with the salesperson who is working with the fabric everyday to understand the particular denim you’re interested in. Raw jeans do take some commitment on the part of the user in order to get that perfect fit. But once it’s there it’s like a second skin and feels better than anything else you’ll wear.

G: How do I care for my raw denim if I want them to remain dark? There are so many theories.

FP: I’m not one of those who believes in never, ever washing your jeans. We do a lot of repairs at our shop in our service department and have found that the fabric fibers break down much faster when clogged with dirt and grime. Cotton is a natural fabric that needs to breathe to maintain its durability and loft. If it’s smothered and can’t breathe, the fiber breaks down quicker and weakens.

Excessive washing is also harmful. We suggest wearing your jeans as long as you can stand it or your friends stop calling, usually anywhere from two to six months, depending on how often you wear them. When you do wash them, it should be a small amount of mild soap (there are some good ones out there like Dr. Bronner’s or Mr. Blacks from Australia) in a gentle cycle or a tub soak with cold water and with the jeans turned inside out. Never put into the dryer! Rinse, hang dry, and wear. Repeat every month or two, or as needed.

G: What are some of your favorite raw denim brands and why?

FP: The number of raw jeans available in today’s market is unbelievable! It’s much easier to make jeans with no treatments or washes and far less expensive. Some of our favorites (but definitely not the only good ones out there) are the small-batch brands that have been developed over the last few years like Tellason, 3sixteen, Raleigh, Rising Sun, and Imogene & Willie, all made in the US. Some of the best and more unique brands are being done in Japan today. Momotaro, Iron Heart, and Samurai are a few of my favorites. The Japanese denim-makers bought up the majority of the old selvage looms in the ‘60s when the US market was moving to bigger production and larger looms. They are doing incredible things with denim today.

We also have begun to make our own Brooklyn Denim Company jeans, which I’ve been wearing daily. But Levi’s LVC – Levi’s Vintage Classics – is still the standard-bearer. Levi’s has remade the 501 jean with the exact patterns for every year there was a change in detail or style. This includes remaking the unsanforized denim with Cone Mills to complete the shrink-to-fit experience that was the jean experience from 1873 until 1967, when the first pre-shrunk jeans appeared.

G: What is the philosophy behind your Brooklyn Denim Jean line?

FP: The Brooklyn Denim Jean is a natural progression of the store. Our goal at the store has been to provide our customers with great service, a large selection of product, and knowledge and high-quality merchandise. Our knowledge on fits and fabrics along with the variety of customers who try on jeans everyday puts us in a unique position of getting direct consumer feedback. We want all of our customers to be able to buy jeans that wear well, fit great, and make them feel good about themselves.

Shop at the Brooklyn Denim Company at 85 North 3rd St. in Williamsburg or online.

Interview by Neal T. Boulton, Corporate Development Edtor and founder of Periodical Ink.

(Photos: courtesy of Sam Yocum)

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