“The secratt of them Pents is the Rivits
that I put in those Pockots,”
– Jacob Davis, inventor of what became known as ‘Levi’s’
The thing about not washing your jeans for six months is that to people who don’t know, they think you’re odd at best, or just damn smelly at worst.
But there’s a lot more to it than that, so let’s start at the start…
I’ve known this guy called David Hieatt for many years. A long time ago, he started a clothing company with his wife Clare, called Howies, and they went after the mountain bike market in a big way.
So, when I worked at Mountain Biking UK magazine, they crashed into my world, and they always managed to come up some headline grabbing market coup or other.
My favourite thing they did was a t-shirt with one of those ‘Hello, my name is…’ badges printed onto it. The t-shirt came with its own clothing pen so you could write in whatever you wanted on the badge. Being slightly egotistical, I think I probably wrote ‘Jamie’ on mine. Either that or ‘Satan’…
Anyway, David was always nice to me – even though I wasn’t really anyone he needed to be nice to – and those nice, honourable people are always the sort I keep my eye on. He also always had a thing about him, like he knew something that you didn’t, and because of that I knew he’d one day do something more than good, that he’d do something great.
Then a couple of years ago, I became aware of the Hieatts starting a denim company in Cardigan Bay, Wales, and I thought, ‘this is going to be the something great’.
I’ve always been one of those people who enjoys finding out about new stuff – and then telling people about it – so this was exactly the sort of thing that really appeals to me; a brand new, homegrown jeans company.
I dropped David a mail, basically saying good luck and I couldn’t wait.
Some months later, Hiut Denim raised its head above ground and it was all that I hoped for. The thing that really tipped me over the edge was that their story about starting Cardigan Bay making jeans again is awe inspiring – I won’t re-tell it now, but you can read it here. Hiut’s whole ethos is awesome.
I waxed so lyrical about them that my wife @girltini just went ahead and bought me a pair. Now the jeans take a while to turn up, because the Hiut Grand Masters have to actually make them for you, but that wait just makes their arrival even better.
When you take them out of their bag for the first time, they’re the freshest denim you’ve ever held. For this initial pair, I went for the Organic Denim that Hiut source from a mill in Turkey in the slim fit Hack@. It’s unwashed and feels heavy.
This is where your journey begins, this is Day 1. You have to really commit to these jeans, but your commitment is rewarded down the road with a pair of trousers that are unique and could only have been worn in by you.
I tagged their journey on Twitter with #hiutriot.
As you progress with them over the six months that you don’t wash them for, you’ll notice every little mark and scuff that starts to wear in on them – you can see from my picture gallery how my phone and wallet have worn in the pockets, and how the bend of my knees makes the back crease.
In some ways, this is a co-operative venture between you and Hiut – they design and build the jeans, then you put the finishing touches to them.
Now the non-washing thing comes from the fact that if you don’t wait, you’ll stick them in the washing machine and all the dye will wash out in a uniform manner.
But if you take your time, then the dye will start to come out on it’s own as you go about your life, so that when you do eventually wash them, the indigo will be worn out in some places more than others, and you’ll begin to get your own gorgeous pair of beaten up jeans.
I managed to wait six months, to the day, so that when that day came around it was a big deal. During that six months though, I did give them a few rest days when it was raining (you can’t wear them in the rain!), where they split their time between hanging out on the line to make them fresher, or relaxing in the freezer to kill off the bacteria (yes, it’s there and that works!).
Wash Day came around and I realised that it was one of those times where I had to really commit to the indulgence – as a dad, indulgence times are rare so I feel like I have to maximise each one that comes my way. When the kids went out and our baby went to sleep, that’s when I knew that jean washing time was on.
Here’s what happened…
So as you can see I put them in the kitchen sink and hand washed them. I used no detergent, but I did use some Dettol laundry stuff that kills off bacteria under 30 degrees. I gave them a thorough wash, and then left them to soak while I had a cup of tea. And some biscuits. And then another cup of tea.
I’ve got to be honest, I knew a lot of indigo dye would come out, but I was amazed by quite how much did – the water was so dark while they were in the sink that when I put my hands in there I couldn’t see them under the water.
After probably about an hour, I pulled the plug and then wrung the jeans out. They had soaked up so much water that they were really heavy, and before I hung them out on the line I scraped my nails over the denim edges – at the pockets and seams – just to take some more dye out so that when they dry they’ll look a bit more worn.
My nails are still blue now!
I then hung them on the line, but typically of Wales in October, it started raining, so they’re now hanging in our conservatory, which means I can’t show you the finished product yet because they’re still wet.
I can say though, that you can see where the dye has come out, and it’s a really rewarding feeling to know that I’ve put so much work into something that’s now paying me back by just being awesome.
Anyway, I’ll update this when they’re dry and I’ve softened them back up by wearing them.
It’s been such a good journey, and even though at about three months in I thought to myself, ‘well I’m never doing this again’, once I’d finally broken them in and I realised how good they were going to turn out, I do now think that I’ll do another pair.
I’m hoping that Hiut decide to do the new slim® fit ones in selvedge denim.
I never realised before how addictive this process could be, which is ironic when you consider what indigo represents in the Meaning of Colours: Indigo is the colour of intuition, idealism and structure, as well as being ritualistic and addictive.
Breaking Hiuts in is certainly all of those things!
I finally got them dry and I’ve worn them back to comfort over the last couple of days, so here’s a few shots to show you how well they washed.
I keep finding parts of the denim that I’m really into, and being able to see how they’ve progressed is really great.