Jeans — as we call them today — are the ultimate immigrant success story.
It was 1873 in San Francisco when Bavarian dry-goods merchant Levi Strauss and Latvian tailor Jacob Davis patented the rivets on denim pants to create a more sturdy, durable workwear for farmers, miners and lumberjacks that were originally known as “waist overalls”.
Little did they know this humble garment would soon be on a trajectory to becoming one the most ubiquitous items of clothing for the next century.
The evolution of denim throughout history has reflected a multitude of cultural shifts including the ongoing fight for gender equality and counter-cultural movements of the 50s, 60s and 70s where they became the uniform of those rebelling against conformism.
How to Wash Denim
The Less, The Better
This is especially true for those darker indigo garments that can come out of that maiden spin cycle looking much worse for wear. The first thing you can do to keep your denim feeling (and smelling) fresh is to let it air out between wears. Turn it inside out and leave it hanging in the fresh air for a day, and when it’s time to go back into your closet make sure its not too crowded in there. Denim needs to breathe too!
If you’ve spilt tomato sauce on your precious 90s Tommy Hilfiger jacket, worry not! Spot cleaning is an easy way to treat smaller stains. Use a cloth with some cold water and a tiny amount of detergent to dab away the mark, or if it’s slightly more stubborn an old toothbrush with the aforementioned soapy water can work wonders.
If you’ve well and truly soiled your overalls and a spot clean is not going to cut it, the next best thing is to handwash in cold water and lay flat to dry.
If the situation is dire and you absolutely must throw your denim in the washing machine, make sure you wash with like colours only, turn your denim inside out (this helps with colour run) and wash on a short, gentle cycle with a tiny bit of detergent and cold water only.
To Fade or Not to Fade? How To Prevent Fading
If you have a pair of jeans or jacket that absolutely needs to go in the wash, you run the risk of rapid fading. There are a few things you can do to prevent this, like turning them inside out and washing on a cold/delicate cycle. Additionally, the slightly-dubious-sounding but tried and tested Salt & Vinegar Method works wonders.
More than just an excellent combo for a crinkle cut chip, salt and vinegar both have properties that help to lock the dye in fabric. Adding a cup of distilled white vinegar and a teaspoon of table salt to your cold machine wash will prevent colour bleed and help set the dye. Air drying will leave your post-wash denim smelling fresh, avoid direct sunlight as this encourages fading.
How To Speed Up Fading
For some, finding that perfectly worn pair of vintage 501’s is an eternal quest. Historically, large scale denim producers used the technique of stonewashing (literally washing denim with a bunch of rocks in the machine) to soften up the fabric and achieve the perfect fade before the jeans are even worn for the first time, nowadays chemicals and lasers are used to mimic this process.
If you want to wear your jeans out more quickly to achieve that buttery soft, vintage feel you can do a few things. First of all, hot water causes indigo dye to run, and breaks down the fibres in denim.
Drying in direct sunlight or a hot tumble dryer will also cause breaking down of the fibers, while softening in the fabric and slowly fading the colour.
Visit us in-store to check out our constantly evolving selection of overalls, boilersuits, jeans, jackets and — if you’re lucky — maybe even a 2001 JT style patchwork cowboy hat.
Here's to good jeans!