Jeans may have won their first fans during the California Gold Rush, but proper jean care has come a long way from simply plunking down your pan and dunking your dungarees into the stream in between sifting sessions. Some have caring for denim down to a science, but is the extra effort to enhance the aesthetics of your blue jeans worth it?
Carl Chiara, Levi Strauss & Co.’s Director of Brand Concepts seems to think so. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chiara outlined his peculiar denim maintenance habbits. Breaking in a new pair of jeans, to him, is as fundamental as getting a correctly measured suit or scuffing up a pair of too-clean Converse. When Chiara gets a new pair of jeans, he said, he jogs and squats in them to break in the fabric, giving them creases and wrinkles characteristic of the joints on his legs. Chiara claims that wearing the pants daily allows sweat and oils from your skin to accumulate and mesh into the fabric, morphing the denim to the shape of your legs and giving them a mold that is unique to your build.
If you only wash your jeans twice a year, they’ll maintain the shape of your body as well as divots in the fabric where you keep your wallet and keys—a valuable, personal aesthetic touch. In the six months between washings, spot cleaning with a sponge using any under-the-sink cleaner (such as 409 or Windex) can remove grease and stains, while hanging the jeans up in the bathroom during a hot shower can remove smells and grime.
When it finally does come time to clean them, Yulia Briman of the website Pocket Change says to stay away from the ordinary warm-wash and tumble-dry. Minimal machine washing not only prevents the fading of the indigo color, it also guards against agitations that can fray the fibers and make them “bloom,” or swell and tense up, in the process shrinking the cotton.
Jean aficionado blogs like denimblog.com say to wash your jeans in a lukewarm bath with vinegar and mild soap for around half an hour. After a drip-dry (and maybe putting some potpourri in the pockets) the dungarees are fresh and good-to-go for another half a year.
Chiara isn’t alone in pampering his trousers like children. The makers of Nudie Jeans write on their website that jeans are like a “second skin where the indigo and denim are living material… Jeans [are] all about passion and [a] deep relationship,” suggesting that love, too, is a vital factor in jean care. To me, this approaches talking to your plants in ridiculousness.
In one sense, I find the level of care that that these strategies require a little counterintuitive to the purpose of jeans—a characteristically low-maintenance garment. On the other hand, these strategies require far less traditional cleaning and can result in a lasting aesthetic texture and quality that you won’t have after yanking them out of the dryer, crushed, stiff, and fuzzy, for the twentieth time.
If your jeans are of the high-end pedigree, say ACNE or Diesel, then putting wood-scented sachets in your jeans’ pockets after giving them a bath might be the right move. But for the rest of us in the off-the-rack crowd, it’s safe to stick with the laundromat for the time being. Still, forty-niners and busy college students alike can heave a sigh of relief, knowing that neglecting their laundry is in vogue.
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