Sometimes You Should Wash Your Jeans

There’s nothing that feels quite as comfortable as a well-fitting pair of blue jeans. There is also nothing quite as maddening as having to replace a pair, or several pairs, after years of loyal service.

Recently I had to face the reality that my best dress jeans had reached retirement age and a new crop was in order. I thought I’d share my experience as what was once simple seems to have become fraught with perils.

I am a long-time devotee of both Levi’s and Wranglers, the former for casual dress with blazers, sweaters, etc. and the latter for just kicking around the house or when I’m really dressed down.

The first challenge is getting close to a proper fit and doing so consistently in multiple pairs. I was looking to acquire four pairs of Levi’s 505 jeans in dark stonewash, size 32 waist with – and here’s the next challenge – basically a 33-inch length.

Also, if the challenges weren’t great enough, there can be a remarkable variance in the actual cut and fit from pair-to-pair, as much as an inch in the waist, rise, thighs and inseam in my experience.

Now there are plenty of online resources devoted to all things denim and jeans, most of them filled with suggestions about how to not wash your jeans for fear of shrinkage. I even spoke with the folks at Levi’s customer service who were quite gracious but offered no solution and had an informative conversation with the manager of the NYC Levi’s store in SoHo about their custom tailoring services for off-the-rack jeans.

I came away from all my research far more knowledgeable about denim than I ever expected to be but still without four pair of jeans … remember, that was the goal.

Ultimately a bit of tenacity, a helpful exchange policy at Amazon, and some trial & error resulted in my achieving the goal and I now have four almost perfect pairs of jeans hanging in my closet.

There were four steps in my quest, and maybe I can save some of you the same angst by listing them here.

  • Ordered a pair of Levi’s 505 Dark Stonewash in 32 x 32 and 32 x 34 using Amazon Prime Wardrobe and determined the 32-inch inseam was too short, so returned that pair.
  • Ordered three more pairs of Levi’s 505 Dark Stonewash in 32 x 34 and exchanged one pair since they were measurably smaller in the waist, rise and thighs. The replacement pair were equal to the other three in initial fit, so I was ready to move to the next step.

Now, here’s where the trial and error – actually no errors, just some patience – kicks in.

The jeans I had before washing were just a touch loose in the waist and thighs, and almost an inch too long. I knew that even prewashed jeans will shrink at varying rates, so I didn’t want to overdo it.

  • Washed all four pairs in cold water with liquid detergent and fabric softener then dried them on high heat until very dry. Tried on each pair and noted that two were now perfect in waist, thighs, rise and length after shrinking about a half-inch in the waist and thighs, virtually nothing in the rise, and almost an inch in length.
  • With the other two pairs still a bit loose and long, I washed just them in HOT water and dried them on high heat again, and voila … perfect fit.

Now, I simply wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle and line dry to maintain the perfect fit and length … I’m sorry but the “never wash them but put them in the freezer every now and then” thing just doesn’t do it for me.

2 thoughts on “Sometimes You Should Wash Your Jeans

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  1. I am trying to wash my clothes less often to make them last longer but your blog post has just offered a solution to a problem i have. I bought a pair of jeans off the rack. They were the right size for me, on the label, but when i tried them on at home they were looser than hoped. I’m going to wash them on a high heat now and hopefully they’ll be a better fit at the end!

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