Good Jeans

Sarah Mirk  /  2 Min Read  /  Culture, Design, Our Footprint, Worn Wear

What’s the secret to a really good pair of jeans? Comics journalist Sarah Mirk tells us what to look for and how to keep them in play longer.

Editor’s note: When we learned what went into making most of the denim that’s out in the world today, we knew we had to do better. After discovering that the most damaging part of the denim-making process happens during what’s called the “finishing process,” where the jeans are put through mechanical and chemical processing that helps turn a solid dark jean into a lighter, frayed and more worn-looking pair, we chose to skip this step entirely. By choosing to “finish” your pair through regular wear and fewer washes, you can help cut the environmental cost and lengthen the life span of your jeans.

All illustrations by Sarah Mirk

An illustrated pair of jeans says, "Hey! Don't wash these jeans!" Narrator: If you wash your jeans less often, they’ll last longer and you’ll save water!
An illustrated pair of jeans says, "I prefer a slight earthy finish, notes of aged cedar, fresh grass and sweaty bicycle.” Narrator: Most jeans are finished through a water- and energy-intensive process. They’re beat up with destructive machines and bathed in chemicals to strip out the dark color.
Illustrated vats of chemicals with frowning faces on them. One says, “Bluuurp! Sorry, guys!” Narrator: That usually means the lighter the color, the more those jeans have been pre-washed and pre-worn. And that’s wasteful!
An illustrated pair of jeans with robotic hands grabbing at it says, "This is distressing!” Narrator: The result is a pair of jeans that will wear out fasters and need to be replaced sooner.
Four illustrated pairs of light blue jeans with bruises on them stand around talking. “Hey, boot cut!” “Hi, sum.” “Low rise, love your look, so ‘90s!” “You look a little patchy there, boyfriend.”
Narrator: Patagonia jeans are different. They start with recycled and regenerative organic cotton. Illustration: Cotton factory fabric scraps, plus, the natural fluffy stuff, equals, new fabric!
Narrator: Then they’re dyed with a waterless foam-dye that cuts down on water and energy waste. Illustration: A piece of denim floats in foamy water. Compared to conventional denim, this process uses 79% less water, 20% less electricity and creates 25% fewer CO2 emissions!
Narrator: The jeans are left unfinished so it’s your job to wear them often and wear them in! Illustration: A person riding their bike with a dog in the front basket says, “Come on! We have unfinished business!”
Narrator: Your life will give the jeans their own unique look. Illustration: A person standing next to their bike says, “hey!” as the dog tugs at the hem of their jeans.
Narrator: And they’ll last even longer if you don’t wash ‘em! Illustration: A person kneeling down to pet their dog says, “Well, I guess the slobber adds to the style.”
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