I’ve never considered myself much of a denim person. In my closet, I currently own more than 40 dresses and skirts, and only have three pairs of jeans. I’ve always found it incredibly frustrating to find the right fit when it comes to denim. When I was younger, I wore oversized jeans because I had more of a tomboy aesthetic, but also because I always had the hardest time finding a fit I was comfortable with—and this hasn’t changed today.
I rarely even look at the denim sections when I go shopping, but when I saw a discount rack filled with Acne Studios pieces at my local Century 21, I couldn’t help buying a pair of baggy wide jeans that looked like they’d either come straight out of the JNCO archives or from the closet of a ’90s rapper. They were complete perfection (you can see how Frida Gustavsson wears them here!)
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that the plastic tag attached to the jeans ordered me to only wash when absolutely necessary in order preserve the integrity of the fabric. I’d heard denim aficionados singing the praises of not washing their jeans—even going so far as to freeze them to remove odor or bacteria—and several other raw denim brands push the idea of never throwing your denim in the machine, so even though I wasn’t totally on board with the idea of not cleaning my clothing, I figured there had to be something to it. The fact that I’ve had countless amounts of clothes shrink in the dryer also made a convincing case because air-drying heavy denim is not fun.
Over the course of a month, I estimate that I wore the Acne pair about six times, and—even with running around town and up and down subway stairs—they held their shape better than any others I’ve had; the exact opposite of what I thought would have happened. No butt sagging, no stretching, no drooping. Every time I pulled them on, they looked just like they did the time before. When they got a little dirty, I spot-cleaned with a gentle stain remover and liberally sprayed perfume when I felt like they might need a refresh. I didn’t actually encounter any funky odors, but I thought better safe than sorry.
Normally, I wouldn’t have even heeded the “don’t wash” tag, and thrown them into the machine after a wear or two, so I started thinking about the concept of actually paying attention to the labels inside all my clothes and actually following directions. If not washing my jeans as directed actually made them better as a product, would my cheap, fast-fashion pieces that hilariously instruct me to hand wash and line dry also hold up better if I listened? I intend to find out.
One major downside to not washing your jeans, if you’re a bit of a clean freak? Because I felt compelled not to, I didn’t wear them as much as I would have liked. The restriction, to me, made an item that’s typically reserved as an everyday uniform feel slightly unapproachable, like I had to “save” them for certain days. But maybe that’s for the best. After all, why shouldn’t you treat an expensive pair of jeans with the same care you would any other investment piece?
There are also tons of brands making denim that’s supposed to go unwashed. For example, French label APC has an “extremist” washing recipe on its website that clearly states, “Let your jeans get dirty for as long as possible.” Above, shop 10 pairs that are meant to get dirty.