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Do you need to break-in jeans? If so, how?

Buying new jeans can be boring, thrilling, exciting and discouraging…sometimes, all at the same time. You’re seeking that perfect fit, that feeling of being just right, that timeless style and that great new look. The problem is, most jeans aren’t going to look perfect right away. They might be a little loose here, a little tight there. That’s because jeans need to be broken in a little before they start to be just right. But how much breaking in jeans need and what kind of breaking in they need varies. Upgrade your jeans knowledge and learn all about the breaking in process for the different types of jeans you’re probably going to wear in your lifetime. When you know how to break in jeans like an expert, you will know how to buy that perfect pair every time.

Jeans, a Fashion Love Affair

Jeans have become a fashion item that bridges all divides. The hottest celebrities, the richest people in the world, the highest political officials and you have all been seen wearing jeans. Iconic movie stars and legendary musicians have made them look awesome. Powerful people who shape the fate of nations casually sit around in them. Everyone wears them and everyone has at least one pair. You probably don’t even know exactly how many pairs of jeans are hanging in your closet right this minute.

Jeans folded on the floor

They are fashion items that you see on the runway and in glitzy photos. They’re a go-to item you grab when you want to look great. So it may surprise you that jeans definitely didn’t start out as a fashion item. In fact, it took decades before jeans were seen as something to wear for style.

The Early Days of Jeans

Jeans were originally invented for working men. After a wife who was tired of repairing her husband’s work pants lodged a complaint with a tailor named Jacob Davis, he collaborated with a store owner who sold fabric, a guy named Levi Strauss, to design and make a truly tough pair of work pants. The result was a pair of jeans, a design the two men patented together in 1871.

And the jeans became super popular…with working men. Miners, builders, ranchers and other tough working types loved the durable denim fabric and the comfortable design. It was decades before jeans started to become a fashionable item, helped along by hot young Hollywood stars of the 1950s like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. The two sex symbols both wore jeans casually and made them look so swell, everyone started to see jeans as fashion.

Casually wearing jeans outside

Getting Fashionable

The world was never again the same. Designers quickly latched onto the trend and made their own expensive, curve-hugging creations. Jeans changed to become more flattering to the figure and soon, a multitude of different jeans styles filled the market. Today, there are tons of different styles of jeans you can wear.

But when it comes to breaking in jeans, and how much and what kind of breaking in they might need, that has nothing to do with style. That’s all about the denim itself. When it comes to jeans, isn’t it always all about the denim anyway?

All the Stuff You Didn’t Know About Denim

Denim was invented by mistake. Textile makers in France were actually attempting to re-create a popular fabric that was widely used in the region. The fabric was imported from Italy and the French textile makers figured that they could save money if they could learn how to make their own version of the fabric. The result was denim, a material that would go on to become one of the most-worn fabrics of all time. Not bad for an accident brought about by some people who were trying to save money.

Jeans hanging on hanger

How Denim is Made

Modern denim material is made with cotton fibers that are woven together in a diagonal pattern. One set of cotton fibers are dyed with indigo, while the other is left white. This is what gives denim its unique blue coloring that is somewhat mottled on the outer surface. Denim is highly durable. It’s wear-resistant and tear-resistant but it’s still a soft material that’s breathable on skin and comfortable to wear.

In short, it’s pretty much a super fabric that resists abrasions, lasts for a long time and when worn, it looks great. This is why denim is used to make all sorts of clothing and cloth items, including pillows and furniture.

Walking away wearing denim

Denim was ultimately picked by Davis and Strauss for their blue jeans, a decision that would make fashion history. Now, denim is so synonymous with blue jeans that some people simply call blue jeans “denims.” Jeans just wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t made from denim. In fact, if they don’t contain some portion of denim then pants aren’t really considered to be jeans.

But even though denin is made a particular way with cotton, there are multiple types of denim out there. The way you break in your jeans depends entirely on what type of denim they’re made with.

Breaking In Different Types of Denim

There are many different types of denim that have different properties. However, a few common types of denim are more frequently used to make jeans than others. Knowing how to properly break in your jeans begins with knowing what type ofo denim you’re getting. The label on your denim jeans should tell you what type of denim it is by giving you the fabric composition. When you know what to look for in the label, you’ll know how your jeans need to be broken in.

New jeans folded three pairs

But why do you need to break in jeans? Do you need to break in jeans?

In short, yes. Most of the time, anyway. Some jeans don’t need to be broken in while others need some time to be fully broken in. This is because over time, the denim will actually conform to the shape of your body. It will hug your curves comfortably and fit to flatter your shape, which is just how you want jeans to look.

When you get new jeans, they’re not going to do this so well. They don’t know your body yet so they won’t be molded to it. Breaking in your jeans will help you achieve the form-fitting, flattering look that you want from your jeans. But how you get there will differ based on the type of denim you’re working with.

Raw Denim

Raw denim is by far the stiffest type of denim and has a deep, dark blue color. Raw denim is highly durable and has a great look but it is not soft and flexible like other types of denim. Raw denim has to be broken in far more than other types of denim.

Levi's Men's 501 Original Fit Jeans, Rigid - STF, 38W x 34L

Experts say that raw denim shouldn’t even be washed for months. You want to get it fully broken in and used to your shape before it’s washed, as washing denim can make it lose its shape. Raw denim is pretty stiff so it does need to be broken in before it’s going to soften and conform to your body.

The best way to break in raw denim jeans is to put them on and be active in them. Lightly jog, do lunges, ride a bike, squat. Bend down, stand up, sit down. Move around a lot while wearing your jeans. This breaking in process will take longer with raw denim than with jeans made with other types of denim. You’ll have to wear your raw denim jeans for several hours for several days in a row before you notice them getting soft and conforming to your body.

You can speed the process up, if you want, by getting the jeans soaking wet in warm water. Let them air dry until they are still damp. Then, put them on and wear them until they’re dry. This method is not for the faint of heart, clearly, because wearing damp denim is going to feel uncomfortable on your skin for a while. But this process will help break in the raw denim more quickly so that it will start conforming to your body sooner.

Sanforised Denim

The most common type of denim found in jeans is sanforised denim. This may also be marked as “pre-washed” denim because that’s just what it is. This is raw denim that has been washed so that it’s already soft. This is why sanforised denim is available in many different denim wash colors, ranging from very light to dark blue.

Levi's Men's 501 Original Fit Jeans, Medium Stonewash (Waterless), 34W x 32L

Because it’s already washed, this type of denim doesn’t really need to be broken in. It’s already going to be soft and flexible the first time you put it on and have that traditional denim feel that you know and recognize. However, these jeans aren’t going to conform to your body right away. That makes there is still something of a breaking-in process that needs to happen if you want these jeans to look their best.

To get these jeans looking right, you need to wear them. Put them on every day for a week for at least two hours. At the end of the week, these jeans should have molded more nicely to your natural shape and should have that great look you want.

Selvedge Denim

Selvedge denim has a distinct characteristic that makes it easy to identify. Selvedge denim is sewen with colored yarn that runs parallel to the inseam. Look at the cuff of the jeans and you can see right away if it is selvedge denim. This is a sewing technique and not a specific type of denim.

HIROSHI KATO Slim fit Jeans The Pen 14 oz Tyler Indigo Washed 31 4-Way Stretch Japanese Selvedge Denim

However, most selvedge denim styles are made with raw denim that needs to be broken in the same way as raw denim. If you see pants that are marked as “selvedge denim” and the fabric looks very dark blue and feel somewhat stiff, break it in the same way you would break in any raw denim jeans.

Stretch Denim

Many types of denim are made with 100 percent cotton. Stretchy denim, most often found in skinny jeans and other close-fitting jeans styles, is not. This denim will be comprised of cotton and spandex, which will be noted on the fabric label. Stretch denim is meant to fit quite close to the body, hugging every line and curve of your lower half.

Lucky Brand Women's Mid Rise Ava Skinny Jean, Waterloo, 32

Because it’s made with stretchy spandex, stretch denim does not need to be broken it. This material will fit close to your body and conform to your shape right away because of the addition of the spandex. This denim is already pre-washed so it will feel soft and flexible the first time you put it on. You don’t need to do anything extra to break these jeans in, though they may loosen up a tad and become slightly more comfortable after you wear them the first night.

How Jeans Should Fit

Because many jeans don’t fit perfectly right away, it’s hard to find that right fit when you’re shopping for jeans. There are certain things you should look for in jeans to make sure they fit when you buy them and they still fit after they’re done getting broken in.

Three sets of legs wearing jeans


The waist of your jeans should always fit pretty well. You don’t want the waist to be loose. There shouldn’t be any gapping. The waist of the jeans should fit around your own waist or hips, depending on the rise of the jeans, but it should not be tight enough to leave red marks on your skin. If your skin is being pinched like this, the jeans are too small.


The length of the legs should not be above the ankle or too far below the ankle. If the pants are above the ankle, they’re too short. The legs may stretch a little during the breaking in process but not enough to fix this issue. On the other hand, jeans shouldn’t be too long either. If they’re on the floor or longer, they’re too long. You’ll have to wear them cuffed. If you don’t want to do that, find another pair.


Can you squat? If you can’t squat in your jeans when you buy them, breaking them in isn’t going to do enough to get this pair to fit well. You need jeans to fit you and conform to you, not cut off your circulation. If you can’t perform a squat or sit down without feeling pinching and clenching around your thighs, your jeans are too tight.

At the same time, you don’t want jeans to be too baggy in this area, either. Unless you’re specifically going for a sort of loose fit, more like a boyfriend jean or a baggy jean style, you don’t want a lot of excess room in this area. If you can pinch more than an inch or two of fabric in the thigh area, these jeans are probably too big if you want to get a form-fitting, body-hugging fit.

Breaking In Jeans

Many pairs of jeans do need to be broken in so they can fit you the way you want them to fit. But once that process is over, your jeans are going to look amazing and they will fit you like a glove. Start with a pair of good jeans that fit the right way in the right places, break them in according to the type of denim you have and soon, you’ll have that sexy pair of jeans you were looking for. Breaking in jeans does take a few extra steps but it’s definitely worth it.



Denimhunters – What is selvedge (/selvage)

Lands’ End – How to tell when your jeans just don’t fit

Sewport – What is Denim Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Stitch Fix – What’s the quickest way to break in new jeans?

StyleCaster – 13 Essential Denim Tips: How to Wash, Break In, and Fold Jeans Like a Pro