Confession time, I am a recovering denim head. What’s a denim head you say? A denim head is a guy or gal who is into raw denim, often shrink to fit that fade naturally, often with selvedge. Before the 1940s, all Denim was shrink to fit which meant that every new pair of jeans would shrink about 10% over the life of the jean until the process of Sanforizing was developed. Sanforizing is the process by which denim fabric is prewashed and shrunk before being sewn into jeans.
For a time, I had a small collection (and fortune) of LVC vintage fit Levis 501’s in models from 1947, 1954, 1967 and 1976, each retailing between $200 and $300 a pair. The jeans were not just clothing, they were a process. There are many theories about shrink to fit and I practiced on some regular 501 Shrink to fits before graduating to the big leagues. First you have to know how to upsize as they literally shrink to fit. The waist is not as much an issue because the raw denim stretches about 1-2″ with wear. The proper length is the key. You can’t stretch the length but you can roll it up. Each time I would get the jeans, I would fill up the bathtub with warm, not hot, water and throw in a cap of Dr. Bonners soap. Then you soak the jeans inside out for twenty minutes than let hang dry. Some people wear them damp or wet but I found that doing that blows out the knees (yes I have worn them in the bathtub and also wore them wet). Then just wear them, a lot after they dry.
The problem with me being a denim head is that those jeans really only look good with a black t shirt and either boots or Vans. They dont really go well for business casual or with boat shoes. The real denim heads wear them with Red Wing boots. But I live in Florida and I have to wash my jeans more often than the every six months recommended. Also the vintage jeans are heavy 12-14 oz denim. When they shrink they become heavier. They also fit like, well 1947 jeans. The idea is that over time they conform to your body and the fades are yours not artificial. But really who has four years to wear jeans until they break in when for $40-60 Levi.com will happily sell you a pair that fits right off the bat in straight, tapered, skinny, slim or even athletic fit. They can have stretch or not and every shade of denim. The last straw was when my wife started asking why I was wearing big leg jeans and I felt like a Grease case member always wearing dark jeans turned up and a black t. I hope the vintage Levis found a happy home after the Goodwill,
Currently, I prefer regular, non shrink to fit, normal human wearing, Levis 501s (button flys straight leg) or Levis 514 (straight leg lower rise) in various dark and medium washes with a bit of stretch. I also have a few pair of Levis 511s (slim straight fit) upsized to a 36 waist so they dont fit like skinny jeans. But writing this blog makes me think, maybe I’ll order a pair of regular 501 shrink to fits, fill up the bathtub and ……