A Proper Denim Fade Sets the Tone

The definition of a proper denim fade.

Denim is the ideal canvas. It has texture, durability, and an ability to evolve over time. No other fabric can capture this kind of essence. And as this dark indigo cloth continues to provide a foundation for the denim world, the fades that appear over time are a reflection of one’s lifestyle and approach to the modern daily hustle.

Although many aficionados sweat details like fabrics and stitching when analyzing product, it’s sometimes the subtle elements of fading potential, which only happen later on, that are a key attributes in defining premium denim. And an exceptional fade is only achieved after months of meticulous care, wears, and washes, but it’s what makes a pair of high quality jeans truly unique.

Of course, one can just hit up their local mall and grab a few pairs of pre-faded designer product, get a latte, and be done with it, but there’s no substance in the approach.

It starts with the wonders of indigo.

In order to achieve the epic fades, the ones that almost speak to you, it’s all about patience. It’s a process that requires both time and a certain amount of appreciation for the fabric. And whether it’s a high contrast fade from super dark and raw Japanese denim, or a vintage fade that takes us back to light blue Americana, it starts with the wonders of indigo.

Mostly synthetic these days, but still dank, the epic blue hue that is embraced by denim mills across the globe has been the main component in creating the rich-colored fabrics synonymous with selvedge denim. The depth of indigo is the reason for a garment’s distinct tone and fades, as it continues to fuel the industry and the art of fabric dyeing.

The vintage fade is a balanced approach in allowing the denim to evolve.

The vintage fade is a balanced approach in allowing the denim to evolve.

It starts out super dark. Almost like a dark sea. And as the owner starts to use their pair, the colors gradually change. What is hiding underneath the sea begins to appear, and whether it’s the white, turquoise, or greenish colors, the dynamic of the fabric changes, and the fades take the limelight.

And how does it all happen? Simple. It’s based on the construction of the denim fabric. Only the outside of the cotton yarns typically get dyed, so when someone starts rocking their jeans, the indigo gradually rubs off in those high contact area to expose the white core.

If there is a layer of sulfur under the indigo, then that’s how the greenish or turquoise-esque colors begin to appear. After some initial washes, the fades really start to materialize, patterns start to appear, and a sense of uniqueness unfolds.

There is a time and place for both high contrast and vintage fades.

And there is a time and place for both high contrast and vintage fades. High contrast fades are on par with the more aggressive look. Think dark and heavy denim with bright whiskers and honeycombs. With the raw stuff, giving them a first soak and then wearing them for 5-6 months before washing creates epic patterns. And if it’s a one-wash pair, it’s best to just start wearing them out the box and wait for the same 5-6 months before a wash.

Vintage fades, on the other hand, are, and to no surprise, more old-school. They resemble the softer and more well-rounded patterns. The kinds you would associate with the classic look of blue jeans, white tee, and a buttery leather bomber. Lighter weight denim and looser fits help to create these fades, and although some denimheads are all about the high contrast patterns, it’s important not to sleep on the potential of vintage.

Just like the symbolic greatness of the selvedge pipes, fades are what help define the character of denim. This encourages aficionados to keep their jeans longer, take good care of them, and make them staples in the wardrobe. And as the discerning menswear consumer can agree, that principle should be applied to all our gear.