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Acid Washed Jeans

Source: Wikipedia.org

Early examples

Acid-washed denim, (a misnomer since no acid is used in the process, acid would react violently if mixed with sodium hypochlorite bleach releasing dangerous levels of chlorine gas and destroy the fabric), is washed with pumice stones and chlorine until it is bleached almost white. Members of the 1960s counterculture, especially surfers in California, prized Levi 501s that had been bleached by the salt water due to their authentic, "lived in" appearance. As natural wear took weeks, or even months, it was not uncommon to hang a few new pairs of jeans to fade in the sun, then turn them over to fade the other side. For many surfers, this process simply took too long, so they sped up the process by soaking the jeans in diluted bleach and some beach sand. Simple chlorine bleach and muriatic acid were readily available at this time, as they were used to sterilise swimming pools. 

Snow washed jeans, with dark blue seams fashionable during the 1990s.

2010s acid wash jeans, similar to the aforementioned snow wash, but bleached almost white.

A street punk wearing self-bleached denim vest of the type commonly seen during the early 1980s.

Mainstream popularity

During the early 1980s, skinheads and punk rockers would spatter bleach on their jeans and battle jackets for a mottled effect similar to camouflage. This early faded look, known as snow wash, tended to retain the original dark blue dye around the seams and waistband. One of the first companies to sell "pre washed" jeans (as they were then called), was Guess inc. in 1981. Despite its association with punk fashion, however, the faded effect was copied by many individuals not associated with the subculture, who dipped their jeans in diluted bleach and embellished them with metal studs, embroidery and rhinestones.

The modern process of acid washing was patented in Italy by the Rifle jeans company in February 1986. They accidentally tumbled jeans and pumice stones wetted with a weak solution of bleach in a washing machine without water. American Garment Finishers (AGF) from Texas industrialized the process in North America in June of 1986 and offered it to Levi Strauss. Shortly afterward, AGF improved the technique by using Potassium Permanganate instead of bleach, achieving a more natural abraded look that is far less damaging to the cotton fibers. Other abrading materials such as marble sand or expanded glass foam were also used as an alternative to pumice stone (see stone-wash). Specific areas of the jeans, shirts and jackets were also acid-washed by spraying a solution of bleach or potassium permanganate to simulate a wear pattern. Extremely popular worldwide from 1986 to the mid nineties, it is still used by fashion designers today.

Decline and revival

Acid wash jeans, worn with fringe jackets or the Perfecto motorcycle jacket were popularised by hard rock, outlaw country and heavy metal bands in the late 1980s. Fans of hair metal favored frayed "destroyed denim," and jeans that had been bleached almost white. Snow washed jeans, which retained more of the original blue dye, remained popular among grunge fans during the mid 1990s, until they were eventually supplanted by darker shades of denim associated with hardcore punk and hip hop fashion. Acid washed jeans made a comeback in the late 2000s among teenage girls, due to a revival of 1980s and 1990s fashions that continued into the 2010s.


History/Process - Acid Washed Jeans


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