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80s Acid Washed Jeans

by Julie

The early 80s was a very interesting time for denim and in particular jeans. During the early to mid 80s, the jean market went through a major shift from blue selvedge to acid washed denim. In this article I will profile some of the more unique styles and details of these jeans including the fit, details, construction, and fabric characteristics. So let’s get started!

A Background

The 1980s were a decade that saw the “acid washed” jean become popular. It seems that acid washing was first popularized in the mid-to-late 1960s with Levi’s 501 “brick” jeans. However, it wasn’t until the late 1970s when Levi’s 511 and 512 came to be two of their most famous jeans models. The 511 featured a heavy dose of reddish brown wash and was designed for the working man. The 512 had more of a light brown wash, but still carried an ironed appearance to them (as seen on jeans from Uniqlo ). From there, other brands like Lee started releasing their own version of what would later be called a “washed” jean. This popularity in washed jeans continued into the 1980s with brands like Levis, Lee, Wrangler and Nike releasing their own versions of the “washed” jean. The 1980s saw a big rise in the popularity of acid washes as well.

The Construction

Acid washes involve the application of chemical solutions over colored denim fabrics with a cotton or polyester thread wash to achieve different effects on the base fabric. The most common type of wash is a light- or medium-wash which involves brushing and rinsing with a stronger acidic solution and is applied to one side of most garments. The other side is left undisturbed and is commonly referred to as the “control” side. The term acid wash is used because the stronger solution corrodes and breaks down the fibers of cotton denim, creating a more distressed appearance on one side. The water-based dye used in most acid washes becomes insoluble (sticky), making it harder to remove.

The Ideal Characteristics

To find a good acid washed jean you should look for two qualities: the first is a faded indigo which should have faint lines and even lighter pockets. The second is that the weft of the fabric should be white and contrast nicely with the dark indigo. In addition, you should look for a straight leg jean in order to achieve the best fit possible. Acid washed jeans are generally known for their mid-rise and low rise cut, but there are exceptions where they are high-rise or skinny jeans (usually from Japanese brands).

Take Good Care

In order to maintain your acid washed jeans you need to be extra careful with the fabric once you wash it. To avoid damaging the wefting and threading on your garment, wash your jeans at 30 degrees in cold water. Hang dry your jeans as much as possible, as this will remove most of the water from the denim. There are some other tips that can help prolong the life of your acid washed jeans.

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