The denim debate: to wash or not?

By Aimee Blanchette / (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

Published Jun 29, 2014 at 12:01AM

Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh had some style advice for 501 fans recently at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference: Stop washing your jeans.

“These jeans are maybe a year old, and these have yet to see a washing machine,” the denim honcho said of the pair he wore during a chat onstage. “I know that sounds totally disgusting.”

To find out if Bergh’s denim-washing routine — or lack thereof — is unusual, we sought the advice of Erick DeLeon, manager of Minneapolis men’s clothing boutique MartinPatrick3.

Whether to wash your denim “has been making headlines lately, which is funny to me because to me it was always obvious,” DeLeon said. A good pair of jeans will age better — and fit better — if unwashed for as a long as possible, he said. Tossing your bluejeans into the washing machine along with detergent will break down the denim faster.

DeLeon offered these tips to keep your denim dapper, but not disgusting:

• Don’t wash, do fold. “Once I get home for the day I fold them up and put them back in the closet.”

• Spot treat stains.

• If your jeans get smelly, try putting them in the freezer — seriously! — for 24 hours to kill bacteria. Or try a product made specifically for freshening up denim, such as retaW or Mr. Black Denim Refresh.