A family member recently pick up his first pair of Raw Denim. I sent him the email, below but thought there might be others that would find this helpful.
Stoked to hear that your new jeans arrived safely.
I figured I'd pass along a little info to help in the break-in process and to help you develop your crunchy raw denim into something you honestly look forward to putting on - like a second skin.
Denim, like leather, is one of the unique fabrics that molds to your body and will actually allow you to get a better fit over time. It does this by stretching and opening up in the right places and draping naturally as the fabric softens. It is a process though, and I have found that finding joy in the process will allow you to build a better relationship with your jeans. I know this might sound weird, "having a relationship with your clothes", but I've felt for a while that we have no shortage of "stuff", we're surrounded by it. So finding joy in the things you put on, tends to bleed into other parts of your life. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that I'm stoked to see how the jeans I wear change and fade overtime telling a story of my life and how I live.
So here are MY general rules. (take from them what you will)
1. Wear the shit out of your jeans prior to the first wash. I know you might find it tough, but the longer you can go into that first wash cycle the better your jeans will fit. Some guys go 6 months, others longer. But they should be legitimately dirty (ie dirt on the thighs from wearing them so long). At that point wash them whenever you feel you need to, but try and get as many wears between washes as possible. The only way to get flat material to be the shape of your body is to wear them and not let the cycle of washing and drying force them back into a flat shape.
2. Washing - I go cold wash with woolite black or baby detergent that I keep around cause I like the smell and it's very gentle. Front loaders are much more gentle then top loaders so I have found the normal cycle works, and isn't overly harsh. But make sure you turn them inside out. If not you could get "marbling" streaks up and down your jeans from the spin/rinse cycle. There are folks that will only do a hand wash in the tub, or like Pete at Tellason does, just wear them into the shower (see video below).
3. Drying - Never in the dryer. Hang dry only. They'll stay darker longer and will last miles longer if you avoid the dryer. This also plays into that "allowing the fabric to stay molded to you" thing. Extreme heat has a way of forcing the denim back to a flat material, or worse, some twisted thing that doesn't resemble human legs. Seriously no dryer!
4. Repairs - I sold you (Tellason, 3Sixteen, Rogue Territory, Mister Freedom) jeans because they are stand up dudes and a great company. If and when you get a hole in them (either in the crotch or knees) get them back to me. We'll repair them for your to get them back into the lineup. Repairing is Caring!
So bottom line. Put those suckers on and wear them like crazy. If they get a little sweaty smelling, hang them up and let them air out, and switch to the other pair for a day or so. Spray them with febreeze if you need to, but get as much wear as you can in them. In about 10 days of wear they'll start opening up and stretching in the right places. In about 20 days they'll start softening up and becoming more fitted to you. At night hang them up, don't fold them tightly and shove them in a drawer. After you've worn them a while (and maybe at the point your family and friends can smell them by standing next to you) it's time for the first wash. Turn them inside out, shove them in the front loader on cold with like colors, take them out and hang dry them. Put those puppies on and repeat the cycle.
I know it seems like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, you'll get jeans that fit like a glove with creasing and distress that occurs naturally, not sand blasted on by some kid in Bangladesh. In Japan they have a saying - Wabi Sabi - taking joy in the everyday changes and the art of imperfection. Enjoy the process of your new denim. If treated right there is no reason to think you couldn't get many years out of your jeans.