Exactly What You Need to Know About Raw Denim Before You Buy Your First Pair

Raw denim. It’s a huge subculture you might not be familiar with. But when it comes to investing in items that last, raw denim is the first place to look. Need a quick overview? Find the basics here.

Photo by: @sel.vage

What is raw denim anyway?

Raw denim (or dry denim) refers to the jean’s wash, and is just what it sounds like: denim that is totally raw, in its purest form. Meaning it’s never been washed and hasn’t gone through the laundering process that usual denim jeans have gone through. This gives raw denim a bit of a stiffer touch to start than the pre-washed denim you may be used to. 

You'll hear a lot of talk about Cone Mills (or simply "Cone") when you start diving into raw denim. Cone Mills is a mill located in Greensboro, North Carolina and is one of the last remaining American manufacturers of selvage denim. Our collection of selvage is made with denim from this very factory.

One more thing that might be unexpected: most raw denim jeans come in a standard inseam of 36" across the board. The jeans are meant to be cuffed or hemmed to the length you desire. Some brands, like Tellason, offer free hemming services on their denim (if you want to learn more about this service, give us a call). 

Photo by: @whaleysworld

Why would I want it?

The appeal of raw denim is the ability to create a pair of jeans that are truly your own. The denim wears with you, giving in the areas you need it to give and developing custom fades where your jeans crease the most.

Photo by: @tellason

Defining selvage (or selvedge, or self-edge…)

Selvage refers to the weave of the denim. Selvage denim is created from a type of shuttle loom that weaves all of the denim to its sides with one continuous yarn called the weft. It’s a more traditional approach to weaving denim using an vintage loom as opposed to the modern weaving machines, so it’s celebrated for its strong heritage roots.

This process means the denim will not fray or come apart at the edges, which is emphasized in a clean edge creating selvage id lines when you cuff your jeans

You might see different ways to refer to this type of weave (selvage, selvedge, self-edge), but they all mean the same thing. If you want bonus points, "selvage" is more of an American term while "selvedge" is the European term more common over the pond.

Photo by: @jaasonmg

Sanforized or Unsanforized?

If jeans are “sanforized,” it means the cloth has been stretched, fixed and shrunk in length at the mill. Sanforizing denim reduces the amount of shrinkage that can happen after you wash your jeans for the first time. The result leads to 1-3% shrinkage, as opposed to 10% shrinkage with unsanforized denim. In other words, you don’t have to size up when buying sanforized denim like you do when purchasing unsanforized.

Photo by: @lahmansbeard

Treat it with care

Properly caring for your raw denim is key. You'll want to wear in the denim around 3-6 months before your first wash, wash 'em in cold and never dry your jeans in the dryer. Our in-depth raw denim care guide is coming soon with more details and tips for treating your denim right.


Ready to try your first pair? Give us a call and we'll get you set up. You can also check out our Tellason and Taylor Stitch collections in the shop + online.