Soaked in Indigo: Your Shrink-to-Fit Toolkit

To shrink or not to shrink

Timing is everything – this adage rings especially true when it comes to the inaugural shrinking of a new pair of unsanforized (shrink-to-fit) denim. Our friends at Tellason explain that unsanforized denim is distinct in that it has NOT been “stretched, fixed and shrunk in length at the mill . . . Since unsanforized denim does not go through this process, it is expected to shrink up to 10% after the first soak.” The major advantage of choosing unsanforized denim is that despite the semi-arduous process, you can turn a standard (typically straight, relaxed) pair of jeans into a customized, tailored fit, depending on how you break in, soak and dry out the untreated denim. Levi’s put together a short film that expresses the malleability of shrink-to-fit jeans – enjoy the clip below.


Brands like the trailblazing Pure Blue Japan crew have cult-followings the world over for their mastery of shrink-to-fit denim design. They’re renowned for their incredible, slubby fabrics that further develop in character over time. Up-and-comers such as Freenote Cloth are also gaining ground in the shrink-to-fit arena and as mentioned, those trusty jean slingers Levi’s always had the iconic unsanforized 501s up for grabs.

You can find the Pure Blue Japan and Freenote Cloth unsanforized fits at our Vancouver and Toronto locations and our online store.

The Shrinking Game Plan

Our experts at Dutil. advise customers to buy a pair of unsanforized denim knowing that they will shrink approximately one inch at the waist and two to three inches in length (so make sure the jeans aren’t TOO tight – you should be able to fit a finger in the waistband). When you’ve made your selection, wear the denim unwashed for a couple of weeks to get them to stretch out at the key stress points (waist, knees, backside, calves). At this point, put your jeans on and soak in in a tub filled with warm water for at least 30 minutes. Wearing the jeans while soaking ensures that the garment won’t shrink past your body size.


Here’s the uncomfortable and lengthy part – get out of the tub and pat the jeans dry with a dark towel (make sure not to rub them, otherwise you might get some pilling on the denim). Sit out in the sun or next to a space heater and let the jeans dry while you’re still wearing them. This could take a few hours, so it’s a process best left for a sunny day. September is a great month to shrink your unsanforized jeans – you can bask in those last days of summer and be armed with a new pair of custom-fit jeans for the winter.

The Entertainment

If you’re going to spend the day shrinking and drying your jeans, you may as well do it with some fine company. We put together the ideal bluesy playlist that you can all appreciate while drying your jeans (and yourself) off on your front lawn over some beers and great conversation.

The Results

We love seeing the fruits of your hard labour – send us photos (by emailing of your unsanforized jeans before and after shrinking, and share your own tips with fellow denim connoisseurs. The top two submissions will receive 20% off their next online purchase and a Dutil. Organic T-shirt of their choice. We can’t wait to see images of your shrink-to-fit experience!

*Competition is open to all customers in North America.

-Ria Nevada
Featured photo courtesy of Levi’s