So how do you break in a pair of jeans, anyway?
November 20, 2011 2:57 PM   Subscribe

I would like some advice on the care and feeding and breaking-in of a bog-standard new pair of jeans.

Last week, I bought a couple of new pairs of jeans from the Gap. 1969 Brand. 38 x 30. Loose Fit.

They're just a little snug right now in the legs and ass. A little loose in the waist. How should I break these in and -- even more importantly -- avoid shrinking them to an uncomfortable degree the first time I wash them? If there are any other aspects of denim care that I should be aware of and have not mentioned, please feel free to enlighten me.

Many thanks in advance.
posted by jason's_planet to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Wear them until you absolutely have to wash them and don't wash them before then. When you do, do it in the tub in lukewarm water with Woolite Dark (or some other delicate/dark detergent). Do not dry them; hang them to dry.

For the slight snugness, you could try putting some fabric softener in the water with them, letting them soak, and then stretching them by hand. This is just something I thought of because it works for shrunken sweaters, but it might not be what you need.

NB, I do not do all this stuff myself, but that's 'cause I'm wearing $4 Levi's Bootcuts from the Salvation Army. If and when I get myself some nice new jeans, I plan to baby them.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 3:07 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From skidknee's really excellent comment about denim:

"Thankfully there are more choices now that are raw and unsanforized (unwashed denim that will shrink slightly when exposed to water, very much akin to the old 501's that my dad was into in the 70's where he'd soak 'em in a tub to fit him perfectly). If you go to a Barney's or high-end department store you'll get a variety of dark indigo single-rinsed or raw jeans. The most important thing is cut. If it doesn't shrink dramatically in the wash (which is to say it's advertised as rinsed or "sanforized"), I would make sure you try on multiple sizes of each jean. Sometimes they are vanity sized (as with some women's branded jeans), but if they are true to tagged size, you'll want them to be slightly uncomfortable and too small. When they stretch out and form to your body, you don't want them to be saggy and not fit you anymore! (Note: this does not apply to jeans with stretch. They hold their size and shape better and you can just wear what feels best out the store with no problems.)

I would also avoid hot drying your jeans since it can cause some abrasion if they fit slim and go through a lot of wear."

Seek out skidknee's advice if he/she doesn't show up in this thread.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:08 PM on November 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Cold water wash, and whatever you do, do not put your jeans in a hot dryer. Also put your jeans in the wash inside out, and you can try adding some plain white vinegar to keep them from fading.

Also, one of my friends taught me a weird, but effective trick to stretching the ass out a bit, especially for the first time you put jeans on after they've dried and are stiff: put the jeans on like normal (and do up the fly and button). Now, stick your hands down the back of your jeans between your jeans and your underwear, with the backs of your hands touching your butt. Now do a couple of squats - bending your knees deeply and leaning forward a bit. I know this is weird, but doing this move a couple of times does help stretch the butt out when your jeans are uncomfortably tight. Obviously this is something to do in the privacy of your own home!
posted by just_ducky at 3:13 PM on November 20, 2011

Seconding Made of Star Stuff. I don't wash my jeans unless they're smelly or physically dirty. It takes a bit, but they are the MOST comfortable things ever. That 'distressed' look you pay a premium for at the high-end stores? Give those new jeans a month, they'll have them and look ten times better.
posted by Heretical at 3:16 PM on November 20, 2011

Best answer: They will likely stretch after wearing them. I would have to buy them a size or two smaller so that when they actually stretch out, they actually fit me instead of sagging in the rear and waist. So yeah, pretty much just wear the jeans!
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:17 PM on November 20, 2011

Best answer: Also, someone on the green (I just closed the tab, argh, sorry for the lack of credit) linked to this detailed explanation of shrink-to-fit.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:37 PM on November 20, 2011

I've been using the "just don't wash them" method for the past few years and it's working well. As the color of jeans is extremely important to collector-types, one of the tricks I've read about is not to ever wash them (mud and pee aside). If you need to kill stinky bacteria for making your jeans smelly, put them in the freezer.
posted by rhizome at 4:52 PM on November 20, 2011

Best answer: The freezer won't work, unfortunately:

"Don’t bother, says Stephen Craig Cary, a University of Delaware expert on frozen microbes, who wrote to us from Antarctica.

"Most of the bacteria on your jeans probably started off on your own body. Since these critters are happiest living at the temperature of human skin, “one might think that if the temperature drops well below the human body temperature they will not survive,” Cary writes, “but actually many will. Many are preadapted to survive low temperatures.” And it takes only one survivor to repopulate your jeans when they warm up.

"“I would suggest that you either raise the temperature to 121 degrees Celsius [250 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature used for sterilization] for at least 10 minutes,” Cary writes, “or just wash them! The latter surely is the best alternative to save energy.”"
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2011

Well nuts to that!
posted by rhizome at 5:11 PM on November 20, 2011

jeans after a wash tend to shrink and thus are very uncomfortable. I hate this.

I usually avoid washing the jeans. If you want to make the fit better you can send it to a professional laundry house and get a wash done with silicon in it.

this silicon will break the jeans further and give a comfortable fit . I must warn you its expensive.

try googling this further.
posted by fashionlover at 10:11 PM on November 20, 2011

Response by poster: OK. Thanks, everyone! I've got a lot to work with here!
posted by jason's_planet at 6:10 PM on November 21, 2011

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