The Only Denim Colours and Washes You Need to Know

The Only Denim Colours and Washes You Need to Know

Denim in all its iterations has become a fashion centre piece all over the world. This chameleon of fashion has taken on so many forms, it’s like wearing David Bowie (how awesome would that be?). So to make things easier, check out our definitive guide on denim colours and washes.

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1871. The first ever pair of blue jeans are invented by Jacob W Davis. History is made. Since then, nothing has beaten denim. This titan of textiles has become staple to any and every man’s wardrobe. It has touched every corner of the planet and has graced almost every bedroom floor. So, here’s our take on what’s what with colour and wash.

Colours and Washes

Have you ever noticed that when you’re looking for a new pair of jeans, it’s all about the fit? Slim, skinny, super skinny, spray-on (seriously?), boot-cut, flare, bell-bottom, high-waist, low-waist, practically-no-waist…the list is endless. Yet, colour and wash play a surprisingly secondary role in choosing the right pair.

Whether it’s vintage, statement, distressed or raw, denim is the most personal thing you can wear. It changes with time no matter it’s shape or size, so it’s important to get the right style to compliment your style.

Rinse Wash

Rinse Wash is, quite literally, straight-talking denim. It’s one of the most basic of denim washes and helps to make the fabric wearable by removing residual dye to stop the colour from running. It also makes it a little softer, which is only ever a good thing (in clothing). Rinse wash denim most often comes in dark blues, making it versatile and easy to style with just about anything.

mens rinsed jeans outfit grid
SHOP: Nudie Jeans Original Twill Jeans Rinsed Tight Long John | Nudie Jeans Original Dry Navy Grim Tim

Mid Wash

Mid Wash is one of the most common washes on most jeans. It’s effectively the same as the rinse wash, but more of the original indigo dye has been removed, leaving the fabric a lighter, mid-level blue. This means it’s also really versatile and great for all kinds of looks. Whether it’s a shirt, jacket or jeans, it’s easily paired and styled with just about anything.

mens denim shirt outfit grid
SHOP: The Idle Man Denim Shirt | Levi's Worker Fray Shirt Wrap Neppy Denim

Light Wash and White Denim

Have you noticed the pattern yet? That’s right, this is also similar to the rinse and mid washes, having gone through the same process but for even longer and an even lighter colour.

Compared to darker colours, light wash denim is bolder, braver – a statement, if you will, especially if we’re talking about white denim. But white denim doesn’t have to be as controversial or flamboyant as many of us paint it to be – white denim jackets and shirts can be more subtle than jeans and a great way of making a statement. Plus, it’s really easy to style.

mens light rinse denim jeans
SHOP: Nudie Jeans Steady Eddie Pelican Bay | Edwin Jeans in Dark Blue Slim Tapered ED80

Or, if you’re more of a “go hard or go home” kinda guy, white jeans will always work for a smart look – try putting them with a navy blazer and crew-neck t-shirt.

mens white denim jeans outfit grid

Acid Wash

Also called Marble/Moon or Snow Wash, acid wash denim has had a close encounter with some chlorine and pumice stones, creating the sharp, contrasting colours this style is famous for.

This style of men’s denim is most commonly found in jeans. Shades of blue give you that strong, white noise effect, whilst grey lends itself to more subtle styles. Well-suited to casual looks, this denim is for the rebels, rockers and n’er-do-wells. Try it with a basic t-shirt and bomber jacket.

mens acid wash denim jeans outfit grid
SHOP: Cheap Monday Tight Youth Blue Jeans | Cheap Monday Tight Youth Black Jeans

Black and Grey Wash

It’s no secret that black denim is fantastic. It’s a steadfast companion for those who dare to double-denim. It’s also a way of giving yourself a blank canvas to build your look on. Being so versatile, black denim can be casual, smart, dress up, dress down – anything you want it to be.

mens black jeans outfit grid
SHOP: The Idle Man Jeans in Skinny Fit Black | Nudie Jeans Original Black Ring Thin Finn

Meanwhile, grey denim is the dark horse (ironic, given that we just talked about black denim) and adds that certain “je ne sais quoi” to your personal style. Try styling with classic trainers, a basic t-shirt and hoodie-jacket combo. Or, if you’re going for a slightly smarter look, try it with a shirt-knitted jumper combo, Chelsea boots and a longline jacket or coat. Either way, you’ll be nailing it.

mens grey jeans outfit grid
SHOP: Levi's 511 Magnus Slim Fit Grey Jeans | Nudie Thin Finn Dark Pavement Jeans

Distressed Denim

Distressed denim is an umbrella term for a wide range of styles and washes. It refers to any denim which has been treated or marked (some call it tampering, others call it refining).  From using sandpaper to wear away the fabric to creating permanent creases for the illusion of structure, it stretching across the majority of colours and shades. Distressed denim gives an understated, vintage look to your style and creates a classic tone to any ensemble.

mens distressed denim jeans outfit grid
SHOP: Levi's 501 Dirty Dawn Customised And Tapered Jeans Blue | Only & Sons Mens 5-Pocket Regular Jeans Blue

Worn by miners, cowboys, farmers, prisoners, sailors, actors, hippies, hipsters, presidents, James Dean, Marlon Brando and even Justin and Britney, denim has long been a symbol of many things to many people. We could talk about it until the cows come home and still not give it enough credit.

And On That Note

Whether you’re wearing a jacket, a shirt, a pair of jeans or some mega-hipster denim brogues (yes, they are a thing and no, we don’t sell them), this timeless and versatile fabric can reflect who you are and what your life is about.

Not only does it age and re-shape uniquely to you, but it goes where you go, sees what you see and gets the same marks and scars you get. The more you wear it, the more of your attitude and soul it absorbs, so make sure you know your denim and wear it with pride.


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