Is Raw Denim Really Worth the Price? One Man’s Perspective

Image: Civilianaire Rrom raw to worn-in. Image: Nudie Jeans

By Steve Black | Men
Posted Aug 29, 2016

As a kid I lived in jeans and a t-shirt. And although I’ve ‘grown up’ and a lot has changed, the uniform has remained the same. But recently, I noticed that when I shop for jeans, every pair felt thin and (dare I say) “cheaper” than when I was a kid. The material seems lighter, the label indicates that they’ve been pre-washed (to avoid shrinkage) and sometimes pre-faded and/or pre-wrinkled. As often is the case in fashion, someone gets overzealous in their quest for “newness” and decides to mess with a perfectly good formula, overthinks it and ultimately the product/brand suffers.

It’s not just that I miss the heft of the jeans of my youth; now I ride a motorcycle so I need hardy jeans to protect me from wind, rain, cold and to last as long as possible (all the while looking good enough to wear to work).  I searched for a long time for anything that would meet my higher standards (which ironically was the ONLY standard when I was a kid). It proved more difficult to find in the price range I was comfortable with ($90-$120). In fact, it wasn’t until I got up to the substantially higher price range of $160-$190 that I could find the tougher cloth that I was looking for. First I opted for Dutch brand G-Star. Not my ideal brand (a little too fancy and a little over my budget) but I thought I’d give it a shot. I bought a pair of their organic waxed denim, wore them for a few years and they seemed to do the trick. However, back then I was still washing jeans every two weeks, I started to see the degradation that was happening to my overpriced jeans. I decided to opt for a new strategy my wife had written about and NEVER wash my jeans. I would let them wear out naturally, and barring a black coffee, glass of red wine or gasoline spilling on them they should last a lifetime.  When I went back to purchase a new pair of my new favorite jeans, I found that G-Star didn’t offer them anymore. The quest continued.

Eventually I discovered a brand called Civilianaire out of California (made in LA). Were they expensive? Hell yea. Was their store curated by a turbo-hipster that had a PHD in “retail” and specifically high-thread count jeans? Again, yea. BUT, they were made from organically sourced cotton, they had the deep blue color that I love so much and the high end of their line boasted 13.5oz Raw Denim jeans that claimed to last forever, providing I don’t wash them often (if at all). I decided to take the plunge. I threw down for the $200+ jeans and couldn’t have been happier. They were thick, un-shrunk, unwashed, and stiff as hell. They seemed bulletproof. A hefty price tag, but if you only need one pair of jeans then it all evens out. I also found that I could get them on sale periodically once I knew which size and shape fit me.

Funny story – when I first got them, the raw denim were so slippery that one day I was on the subway sitting at one end of the bench seats, and when the train came to a sudden halt, I slid all the way down to the other end colliding with a total stranger to which I stated “sorry man, it’s the jeans”.

As it turns out this equation evolved yet again. Although I was super happy with my Civilianaires, eventually I need a little cuff stitch-work and was having a hard time finding someone that would do the work and not ruin an expensive pair of jeans with a makeshift patch that didn’t match the quality or color. So I decided to experiment with the Swedish brand Nudie as they have a similar fit, thread count and quality that I need (still at that price point) but with the addition of an in-store tailor that will repair or adjust any of their products anytime you need it. So to me, it’s been worth it.

And although I detest having to pay so much for jeans, I feel like it’s a better option than paying less for a lower quality product (isn’t there an expression – buy less, choose well, make it last?) Buying more pairs because they wear out faster, and participating in  overconsumption of fast fashion and waste, just wasn’t working for me anymore.

Disclaimer: although this Mr. Black is indeed married to our editor-in-chief,  this is not a sponsored post. This article reflects his own opinion and each pair of jeans mentioned was paid for (at full price).


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