Don't let my jeans go light on me.
February 12, 2009 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a brand of jeans that doesn't fade (or fades relatively slowly)? I'd also appreciate any tips you have to maintain color.

I love dark denim. I only wear dark denim but I find myself regularly buying new pairs of jeans (more often than I can really afford) because the color fades too quickly.

90% of my jeans are from Express Mens. I find that their jeans fit me really well. Of the jeans I purchase these fade the fastest. After only 3 months the jeans are no longer dark navy, but a medium, worn out, grey-ish blue. (Side note: most of the jeans I buy from there warn that the jeans will fade for a worn-in look... for some reason I keep telling myself that maybe this pair won't fade as much as the last pair)

I recently bought a pair of Calvin Klein jeans that are a bit too loose and baggy but have mostly maintained their intense dark blue color for a good 6 months. I'll probably check out more CK jeans in the future but I'd like some other suggestions.

I take decent care of my jeans. I wash them in cold water (with detergent and fabric softener) approximately every other week or once a month depending on use.
Sometimes I iron them, but I'd be willing to stop or increase ironing if that helps maintain color.
I store jeans that are dark enough on hangers in my closet.

A few more notes:
I'm male
Color and fade resistance are more important than fit... but I still like a good, fitted pair
I'd prefer not spending more than $75 on one pair
I'd want to try before I buy so stores near me would be awesome (I live in the US. Illinois to be exact.) ... on-line stores, not so awesome.
I will not not wash my jeans. I heard some people suggest this and just aggressively Febreeze... but, I prefer cleanliness.
posted by simplethings to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Levi's black jeans keep their color for a long time.
posted by zippy at 8:37 AM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: Dry clean.
posted by magicbus at 8:38 AM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: Wash them inside out. Denim is dyed on the outside only (you've probably noticed that the inside is lighter than the outside). It's not that jeans fade so much as the outside wears down over time, little by little sloughing off the fabric that actually contains the dye (so, the places that crease when you sit are going to fade faster than, say, your shins). Wash them inside out only when they really need it (gentle cycle!), let them air dry, be very kind to them, and the color should last a long time regardless of what kind of jeans you wear.
posted by phunniemee at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have you tried line-drying them? I've been line-drying my wife's dark cotton t-shirts for a year or so, and it really seems to slow down the fading process compared to high-heat machine drying.
posted by jon1270 at 8:50 AM on February 12, 2009

Wash inside out and as infrequently is possible, and line dry them.

You could also redye them yourself, using RIT's rinse dye. The navy works better than the denim dye, by the way.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2009

I've been told that adding a bit of normal, household vinegar to the wash water (and washing on cold) helps lock in the dye. Google seems to lend credence to this approach.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you already have a brand that you like, I'd suggest trying to preserve the jeans you buy from Express longer rather than finding a new brand with color that stays longer, which seems like a fairly difficult task.

Wash them in cold water and as phunniemee says, inside out. Hot water will leech more color from the fabric. You might also want to try to set the dye using a vinegar and salt solution. Soak the jeans in a bit of white vinegar (about a half a cup or so) and a bit less than a quarter cup of salt mixed with lukewarm water for about a half hour before washing the first time. That might help set the dye better.
posted by k8lin at 9:00 AM on February 12, 2009

Response by poster: I definitely wash inside out.

I've considered dry cleaning but things that I regularly have dry cleaned look clean but don't really feel or smell clean to me.

I'll try line and air drying. I've also considered using a dye but I imagine it being a messy and complicated process, I'll look into it though.

Are the Levi's Black Jeans actually black? I like dark but I still prefer blue.
posted by simplethings at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2009

From personal experience, washing them on the delicate setting inside out works well. Line drying vs using the dryer is an extra layer of protection because dryers tend to be hard on fabrics (all that lint in the trap is from your clothes), but since I don't like how line-dried jeans feel, I just wash them inside out. This has worked well for me, regardless of the brand.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2009

If you do line-dry the jeans like people suggest, dry them indoors. The sunlight will bleach the jeans, making them fade faster. Also, you should be able to soak the jeans with the vinegar and salt in your washer - I forgot to mention that above. Most washers have a "soak" cycle. Finally, make sure you're using a color-fast detergent.
posted by k8lin at 9:03 AM on February 12, 2009

I only wash my jeans once they are appallingly dirty. (I would tell you how infrequently but that might make you lose your lunch) Quality denim will last for many years and the one thing that ruins them the fastest is a trip through the washing machine and/or dryer.

Unfortunately with dark jeans, once they are washed they will never look the same as you bought them. That's why when you buy a nicely dyed dark pair of jeans they start to stain light colored clothes. As soon as you wash them, all of them dye gets washed out along with the richness of the color.

I only hand wash my jeans inside out in cold water and then hang them to dry in my bathroom.

The more you wash them, the more they fade. That's it. Don't wash them if you want them to maintain their color.
posted by comatose at 9:19 AM on February 12, 2009

Stop washing them so much. Like comatose, I only wash jeans when they are appallingly dirty.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:33 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also recommend white vinegar: Before the first wearing soak the jeans in a cold water solution of vinegar and water (maybe half and half) and then run through the wash on cold. It's really helped preserve the color on some of my husband's clothes that had a tendency to fade.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:37 AM on February 12, 2009

I would recommend City of Others. You'll have to wash them at least once before wearing them because the dye and denim are of a high quality. They are great jeans, fashionable, and a portion of your purchase goes to a good cause. (

At $98, they retail a little higher than you are looking for (although you can always find a sale pair for less). But I would definitely recommend.

And as everyone else has said... wash them inside out and hang dry them.
posted by blueplasticfish at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2009

I take decent care of my jeans. I wash them in cold water (with detergent and fabric softener) approximately every other week or once a month depending on use.

you're doing it wrong—that's still way too often. don't wash your jeans until they're so dirty they can stand up by themselves.
posted by lia at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2009

Agreeing with others here, a man who works at Levis told me to maintain the color wash them inside out.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2009

i think jeans nerds also mention hand-washing them in the sink with woolite dark to slow fade. I also will bet good money there's a thread on superfuture's superdenim forum about this issue that's at least 300 pages long.
posted by jeb at 10:31 AM on February 12, 2009

Don't wash your jeans frequently. Every couple weeks or month is too frequent. Wait till they are gross. Add salt when you are washing. It does something magical. Wash your jeans inside out in cold water on delicate. Don't put your jeans in the dryer. Buy nicer denim jeans.
posted by chunking express at 10:34 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Express is known for doing this. Their clothes are appalingly crappy, just like J Crew, BR, etc. these days.

You get what you pay for in the premium brands, and you can generally find them for <>
Nthing washing infrequently, inside out, with a line dry.
posted by kcm at 11:12 AM on February 12, 2009

awesome, my comment got munged - you can find them for cheap, as in less than $100, at online discounters like Bluefly or offline discounters like Nordstrom Rack or Off 5th (Saks).
posted by kcm at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2009

Use a non-agitating machine (that's the front loading kind that tumbles your clothes instead of twisting them with the column thingy in the middle). This is much gentler on fabric. Hand washing is even better; either way make sure the water is cold. Line dry like everyone else suggests.
Also, for some reason I think Tide is really hard on fabric dye. This is just my experience but may not be true. I always wash dark stuff with a different detergent and very little of it.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:29 AM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: Regarding detergent, Forever New is great stuff for retaining color (and elasticity, though that probably doesn't matter for jeans). In my experience it's even better than Woolite Dark. I've only used the one for hand-washing, but it looks like they have a machine-friendly formulation now too.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 1:21 PM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: Oddly enough, the jeans that I have bought that kept their color the best (as well as just plain lasted longest) were Wranglers. If you can find Wranglers that you like I'd give them a shot.

I've got a few pairs of Wranglers that are still in good shape (though finally faded now) after more than 4 years. My Levi's are as faded as the Wranglers (and falling apart) after only 6 months.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 2:29 PM on February 12, 2009

I have a pair of dark Gap jeans that have held their color very well for over a year. They're "1969 Standard Fit". Wash them on your washer's delicate setting with a gentle detergent.

Unless you do some kind of dirty work, you don't have to wash jeans more often than every few weeks. Really.
posted by qvtqht at 4:31 PM on February 12, 2009

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