How to Choose Your First Raw Denim Jeans

Posted by Aaron Rosen on

What Makes a Great First Raw Denim

One of the most enjoyable sales we make is helping someone find their first raw denim jeans. Everyone remembers their first pair of raw denim. Our job is to make sure that your first pair is one you'll wear for years. It will have faded beautifully, fit you like a glove, and be as comfortable as sweatpants. It will also probably have one too many holes in the crotch seam, to the point where it's getting a bit suspect to wear them in public.

We've put together a few recommendations for qualities to consider when buying your first pair. That introductory pair should be well-fitting, lighter weight for an easier break-in, and not break the bank.

We hope you'll look back fondly on this first raw denim pair, and it will be your gateway into the world of raw denim.

Lower price point raw denim

While raw denim tends to be more expensive, there are plenty of brands out there that won’t break the bank. 3Sixteen, TCB, and UES are three great brands to start with if you’re new to raw denim. They retail for $195 to around $250. When choosing your first raw denim, we recommend staying around this price point.

Lighter weight raw denim

Denim weight can vary greatly based on the thickness of the yarns used. The thicker the yarn, the heavier the denim will be. Denim is measured by how many ounces are in a square yard of fabric. You can find denim anywhere from sub 10oz to the heaviest ever made coming in at 40oz!

Here at Withered Fig, you’ll find denim anywhere from 14oz to mid-20oz. For your first raw denim, we recommend starting with a pair around 13-14oz. They’ll be more comfortable off the rack and the mid-weight will be suitable for both warmer and cooler seasons.

UES 400T Denim

Compare measurements on your best-fitting jeans

The single most important decision you must make when trying on a new piece is to ask yourself “Do I feel good in this”. If the answer isn’t “yes”, you won’t get the use out of it.

To make sure your new pair of denim fits, find your favorite pair of jeans and measure them. Follow our measuring guide and write down the measurements of your jeans. You’ll use these measurements to compare the sizing to the products you are looking into buying. This will ensure your first raw denim will fit as close to your favorite pair of jeans as possible. If you have any questions about sizing or are looking for a personalized recommendation, please reach out to us by email.

Measuring the front rise on a pair of denim jeans.

Terms to Know

Slub: Slub refers to yarn that has a varying level of thickness. As you wear your denim, the slub, or thicker portions of the yarn, will fade sooner than the thinner parts. This results in an effect called "tate-ochi" in Japanese, or "Vertical Falling" in English.

Nep: Nep refers to the small knots of cotton that were entangled in the denim when the yarn was woven. These small pieces of cotton will give the denim a speckled appearance.

Warp: Warp threads are the indigo-dyed thread. They are commonly called "surface threads," as they account for the majority of the threads you see on the surface. It is the opposite on the underside of the jeans, where the weft (filler) threads are more visible, and the warp threads are in the minority. They are woven in and out of the weft thread vertically to create the denim twill fabric.

Weft: Weft, or filler, threads are traditionally ecru-colored, however, many companies now bleach their weft threads or dye them. The weft is visible mostly on the underside of the denim but resembles diagonal stripes on the surface. They are woven in and out of the warp threads horizontally to create the denim twill. When you start to see fading in your pair, what you're seeing is the weft peeking through a worn-down warp.

Brand Spotlights


3sixteen is an NYC-based brand that aims to produce the highest quality clothing and accessories using premium materials and quality American manufacturing. 3sixteen delivers clothing with distinct inspirations from coast to coast. 3Sixteen is one of the most popular brands for a first raw denim due to the brand's attractive pricepoint, commitment to fit, and beautiful fading potential.

The xk Kibata Denim is perfect for those looking for a more uniquely textured pair. The classic Indigo denim is a great option for that classic Americana look.


Another popular brand for many people's first raw denim is UES. “UES” derives from “waste” in English, and is a reminder of the brand’s intent to create clothing that lasts and is usable even beyond the original intent as a garment. Made in Japan, UES delivers well-made clothing that is meant to be used often. Withered Fig was among the first US stockists for this great first raw denim brand. 

If you're looking for a pair with more "nep" this is the pair for you. Nep refers to the small snow-like pieces of fabric that protrude from the denim.


The concept of TCB is to produce modern daily denim clothing inspired by denim products from the "good old days" and to propose a "lifestyle with a good pair of jeans". They are committed to putting care into the details of their products while honoring the vibe and the mood from those days. That means paying respect to denim products as workwear. They believe workwear should be durable to fulfill the duty of workwear but at the same time, age beautifully as they wear uniquely to you. TCB is the least expensive option for those looking for a first raw denim.

If you're looking for a standard, no-frills denim, TCB is a great choice.