WWD Denim Expert Gives Advice on Acid


WWD Market Editor Ross Tucker, whose expertise on denim, textiles and trade is considered biblical, has seen into the future.

What does it look like? Acid washed.

While some of you are contemplating jumping off a bridge rather than entertaining being seen in a pair, realize that as trends return, there’s always a new spin to them.

For instance, you’ll be wearing solid, dark colored shirts with the acid washed jeans (rather than neon) and a more subdued hair style than the big, crispy perm you once had.

But for expert advice and information on the trend, I turn this over to Ross.

All trends are cyclical, but in the case of acid-washed jeans, a trend of the ’80s, how are we going to give it a fresh spin?

While fashions do come around time and again, the technology and techniques used to create those looks is always moving forward. In the case of acid wash jeans it appears the wash houses achieving the looks have a much greater degree of control when it comes to removing color. From what I’ve seen it looks like they’re able to strip out less color, giving the jeans a sharper contrast between light areas and colored areas.

Should somebody get a whole bunch of acid-washed denim or just get a single pair to compliment their jean wardrobe?

I’m not really a fashion expert, but I don’t think women will be rushing out to replace all their dark jeans for acid-washed styles. Especially today, women like to have a number of different styles in their closet. They might have a boot cut for everyday wear, a trouser style when they want to dress up and a dark skinny pair for going out. Acid washes will probably be fashion pieces. Each brand will have one or two just so they can say they have it in their collection, but I’m guessing women may buy one or two pairs at most.

Women who research the process of getting a pair of acid-washed jeans might be a little horrified by the process. What’s a greener way to wear the trend? (Get old ones at consignment boutiques? eBay? Bash the crap out of them with rocks?)

I’m afraid I don’t know of a greener way to get the look. I mean, acid, it’s right there in the name of the trend. The link below suggests
hydrogen peroxide may work, but I don’t have any firsthand experience with how well, or if, it works:


Some brands use ozone to achieve a faded look, so people could seek out brands that use this process rather than acid washing. That takes some research.

Acid-washing adds another step in a denim process that is already very water, chemical and energy-intensive. It’s an incremental increase in that process, so it’s not the worst thing in the world. And I do have to say that chemical companies that supply the industry are introducing more lower-impact products.

Many denim lovers do like to do their own styling and they’ll encourage you to use almost anything to get the look you want. Rocks, sandpaper, bleach, peroxide, tea to make stains, paint, grease and on and on. You could make a project out of doing your own styling using natural or lower-impact chemicals and methods.

Go buy a pair of raw or dark jeans and soak them in some warm water. If you wring them out a couple of times you’ll take out some of the color, which will definitely dye your hands as well. After they dry, hit ’em with the sandpaper and try the peroxide in spots or any other lower-impact bleaching agent you may have. It’s definitely a trial and error approach and you may want to start with a cheap pair before you dive in on your favorite jeans. Achieving a full acid-wash effect maybe pretty difficult this way, but it may be possible.

Even though we’re passing through a recession, denim sales are up. What makes denim so resilient in this economy?

People really see a lot of value in denim and it makes a lot of sense. Jeans have probably one of the longest shelf-lives of any apparel item. They last for years and over time, they sort of meld themselves to the person wearing them. Those creases, faded areas, a small hole on your back pocket – those things are like a fingerprint reflecting a little bit about you; it wouldn’t look the same on anyone else.

When the economy starting going south people looked for places to cut back. They determined they didn’t need those shoes or that perfume, but they had no problem justifying buying jeans even if they cost more than $200. And many lower-priced brands are able to achieve a great look these days, so people shopping at all price levels have a lot of options. There are a lot more choices than just Lee, Wrangler and Levi’s these days. It’s also a lot more acceptable to wear jeans in a range of social settings and situations these days.

It is interesting to me that jean sales have risen along with sales of so-called fast fashion from places like H&M, Forever 21 and Topshop. Those items don’t last as long and aren’t meant to, but people still buy. Obviously people expect their jeans to last a long time, so why can’t we convince them that a t-shirt should hold up at least a little better than it does?

What are some other potential denim trends you’ve seen at shows? Anything fresh and new?

Overall, jeans are going back to being more faded and washed out. You’ll hear it described as the vintage look. It will be the dominating trend this fall and the major brands and retailers will be betting big on denim. They’ve already started.

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.