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Fade Theory

To Wash,
Or Not To Wash,
That Is The Question

By Kris Chu

The Experiment

With so many theories on fading making the rounds, I had the idea to start my own experiment with two pairs of the same jean, worn equally but cared for differently, and see how each would fade.

The first pair was to be washed weekly, which I dubbed So Fresh So Clean (SFSC); the other would remain unwashed, which I called Old Dirty Bastard (ODB). I alternated wearing each pair every week for one year (6 months of wear each), but I missed the mark taking weekly pictures. Meh!

The Jeans

In late 2018 Eric invited me to the FITTED Underground workshop to take a look at some new fabrics. A representative from Nihon Menpu, one of Japan's finest mills, was there while we sorted through swatches. After looking at denim for almost an hour, the rep asked...

Rep: “Did they send you the final sample?”
Eric: “No, I don't think they did. What is it?”
Rep: “You have to see it... it is a masterpiece of denim."

Eric and I looked at each other. Of course, I had to choose what we termed Masterpiece Denim (MPD) as my fabric for both pairs. The MPD fabric is a 16oz, 100% cotton, ingigo x white Japanese selvedge denim that is a little slubby through both warp and weft, and fades down to a beautiful shade of indigo. It's a classic all around. 

Week 1 (front)

Week 1 (back) 

The Results

After a full year of wear, here's what I found...

So Fresh So Clean
The SFSC faded faster, but more uniformly. The result is a brilliant, 1960s shade of indigo - and after only 6 months! Clearly the rope dyed indigo yarns lightened significantly with the additional distress from the wash cycle. It gives off the feeling of a pair of stonewashed Wranglers from back in the day - though made from more beautiful denim. 

SFSC Week 26 (front)

SFSC Week 26 (back)

Old Dirty Bastard
The unwashed ODB resulted in higher contrast fades. Note the whiskering, knee fades and clearer pocket fades on the front and honeycombs creasing on the rear. Plus the range of indigo - from the lightest at the knee to darkest at the shin - is much greater versus the SFSC. They've made a lot of progress in just 6 months, but it is a longer process to create high contrast fades!


ODB Week 26 (front)

ODB Week 26 (back)

Also, both rear pocket fades have developed well, especially my right rear pocket where I keep my wallet. Eric put in this cool quilted pattern and hidden break beneath the Brooklyn Bridge arcuates, and they pop on both pairs.

Upon closer inspection, the slub has come out nicely too. That slubby character through the warp and weft, plus the beautiful shade of indigo is what makes this denim a "masterpiece". Plus is becomes super soft over time. Hard to believe it's 16 ounces! 

I haven't had a blowout on either pair, and I credit that to the custom fit. I did get a hole in the cuff crease on the ODBs. This may be because the crease has been in the same exact place for six months; or because the bacteria built up in the fabric and ate away at it; or maybe the lack of water didn't tighten the weave... I dunno. Who am I, Dr. Fauci?

In the future, I'll likely wash my jeans every two months or so, with stank summers getting more washes than cool, sweat-free winters. I'm not stressing how to wash my denim anymore, and there is no right answer to how often one should wash their raws. However, there are different results. So do what works for you!

Side To Side Comparison


SFSC Week 26 (front)

ODB Week 26 (front) 


SFSC Week 26 (back)

ODB Week 26 (back)




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