What Are Stone Washed Jeans?: The Process Behind Stone Washing Jeans

Have you ever wondered how denim makers achieve that super-soft, perfectly broken-in look on a brand-new pair of jeans? With stone wash denim, premium denim manufacturers use a specific process that allows them to create that covetable, well-worn feeling in a fraction of the time it would ordinarily take to age and wash your jeans into that perfect state. If you’ve ever wanted to know what are stone washed jeans and how can you incorporate them into your wardrobe, this blog is for you. The Xabi Jeans team is here to take you through everything you need to know about this popular denim style.

Hanging Denim

The Stone Washed Denim Look

Stone wash denim is denim that has been treated to soften the material and add purposeful distressing to the fabric. Why might someone opt for stone wash denim? The fit and feel are unparalleled, and stone washing creates a unique texture that could otherwise only be duplicated through years of dutiful wear.

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Why Choose Stone Washed Jeans?

This artisanal process is used for jeans, denim jackets, shorts, and denim skirts alike: basically, if it’s made out of denim, it’s a candidate for stone washing! If you buy a pair of stone washed denim jeans, you’ll immediately notice a difference in the feeling of the denim compared to other fresh, off-the-rack styles that are stiff and don’t have quite the same give. Although the look of the jeans may be rugged and rocker-chic, the fabric itself is often softer and more comfortable than other washes of denim. And while the look and feel of your jeans is a highly personal decision, it’s important to have a few comfortable and stylish stone washed jeans in your closet, as they offer a versatile and casual look for both men and women.

The History of Stone Washed Denim

There’s a little bit of lore around what are stone washed jeans and the creation of the stone washing technique, but the most persistent story is that stone washing jeans was pioneered by the Levi Strauss company in the 1950s. In the 1970s, it was often associated with Western clothing and more outdoorsy denim styles rather than mainstream fashion, but by the 1980s, stone washing became much more popular among fashion retailers and designers as a technique for producing purposefully distressed looks.

Stone Wash Denim

The Traditional Process: Selecting Your Denim

Creating any great pair of jeans starts with the right materials. At Xabi Jeans, we rely on suppliers who are committed to sustainable and ethically-sourced materials. Our high-quality jeans are made of luxurious Italian denim, which features a high percentage of cotton and is more comfortable and durable than the synthetic fabrics used by other manufacturers. Any color denim can be stone washed as long as you’re okay with the color and fabric getting a little roughed up during the process -- don’t worry, it’s all part of the look.

Wash with Appropriate Stones

Now, if you’re wondering what stone washed jeans are and thinking that the process sounds simple to recreate at home, think again. To create stone wash denim, jeans are washed in large barrels or rotating drums with abrasive rocks like pumice (the same porous, scratchy stone you might use as an exfoliant at home). Yes, we really do use stones! As the jeans are washed, the stone particles roughen up the fabric and help loosen the fibers of the denim, creating that soft, supple feeling we all know well.

Rinse and Repeat

Stone washing denim is a complex, multistep process, and the process may be repeated multiple times depending on the desired texture and finish a designer or manufacturer is hoping to achieve. Even once the texture is developed, the work isn’t over! The jeans will likely need to be washed again to remove any grit that’s come loose and embedded itself into the fabric.

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Add Hardware

If a designer plans on adding any hardware or embellishments to the jeans, this is best done after the jeans have gone through the stone washing process. This intensive process is specifically designed to suit fabric, and artisanal designers and denim manufacturers will often employ separate treatments on hardware elements like rivets, buttons, and decorative studs. These pieces are added by hand after the washing cycle is complete.

New Developments In Stone Washing Techniques

As often happens, technological and scientific advances have ushered in new alternatives to traditional stone washing methods. Surprisingly, these new techniques don’t use stones at all! Instead, these methods rely heavily on chemicals and enzymes to artificially create a distressed look. The industry still refers to this style of jeans as stone washed, but many of these looks are created without using any stones at all. While it takes more time, traditional stone washing produces a more authentic, artisanal product with a higher quality that can be both seen and felt by the wearer.

Meet Xabi Jeans

Xabi Jeans is a premium denim manufacturer based in Los Angeles focusing on handmade jeans for men and women, including stone wash denim. Unlike many other denim manufacturers, we still use real stones when creating our stone wash jeans, a process that creates a superior look and feel. We invite you to explore our selection of jean styles in our Lookbook and on Instagram. If you’re interested in hearing more about how we make our jeans, including our stone wash process, be sure to take a look behind the scenes.