Trust the Process and Stay the Course

We’re off and running. We’ve just rounded the first turn in the course (only eleven more to go). There’s a lot of track ahead of us, so this is a good time to remind ourselves why we’re doing this in the first place. 

Le Mans drivers off and running

Denim fading is a painfully slow art. Those who produce fade masterpieces know that they must wait for them. They allow the fades to emerge gradually over months and months of daily wear. There’s a reason why the kanji meaning ‘Endurance’ is on our latest tee; great faders, like the ninja, patiently wait for their moment.

This competition is, if nothing else, an opportunity to test our patience and strengthen our resolve. Most of us have at least a few pairs in the rotation. These unworn pairs call out to us, but the competition gives us all a very good reason to resist these calls.

We are reaching the point now when competitors might start to cast longing looks at their other pairs. It’s been over a month, and, if the weather has kept us mostly indoors, our jeans are still crisp and dark blue. We might feel like we’re standing still or crawling—especially when we see some of the fast starters already starting to produce beautiful fades.

Remember that many of the most impressive fades we’re seeing early in this competition are coming from Southeast Asia, where summer is just beginning. If cold or blustery weather is keeping you indoors, your time will come.

Don’t be discouraged, and don’t lose patience. Stay the course. This is a marathon. We’ve only just begun.

The Race Hasn’t Really Started Yet

Yes, we’ve waved the green flag, and some of the competitors have laid down streaks of hot rubber on the asphalt. Based on what we saw last year, though, those who leap out to an early lead are by no means safe at the front of the pack. The real race hasn’t started yet.

Don’t let the fast starters discourage you. Photo by McLaren Automotive


I’m writing this on day 43 of the competition. Last year, on day 43, one of our podium finishers was still a week away from receiving his competition pair. He started almost two months behind everybody else, but he was patient. By the time the competition ended, he was running with the race leaders.

We’re looking at a LOT of fresh and raw pairs right now. Most competitors have just started to set their creases. We’re losing a little blue in the whiskers, the combs, and on the knees. Some pairs are fading quickly, others are fading very slowly, but fans of well-made heavy selvedge know that stubborn faders are more than worth the wait.

What we learned from last year’s competition was that when we cross the 100-wear line, the field starts to tighten. When we cross the 200-wear line, the field tightens yet more. At the 300-wear line, hundreds of faders will be running neck and neck.

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay having earned the right to look down

Think of the competition like a mountain and the 10-month mark as the mountain’s peak. The first 10 months are all about surrendering to the process and finding our rhythm. We fade our jeans day in and day out, and we update every month without fail. We put one foot in front of the other. Then, on August 1st, we’ll all arrive on that peak together.

It’s only then, when we’ve crossed that 300-wear mark, that we can finally look down and see how much we’ve accomplished, only then that we can start to see what our pair will look like when we cross the finish line.

Until we get there, it’s a guessing game—and it’s anyone’s game.


Race Against Others or Race Against Yourself


If you’re highly competitive, this competition provides you with the opportunity to go head-to-head with the world’s best faders. Got a secret fade recipe that you think is a winning formula? There is no better testing ground than the Indigo Invitational, no better place to test your fading mettle and to put a pair through its paces. 

Last year’s champions (@notyourordinaryfades / @denim_rambler / @kill_your_jeans / @dnmboi / @puriwatnanchaika) are all back for round two. We’re still too far from the finish line to know whether they’ll defend their titles or be knocked off the podium, but they’re excellent faders to watch if you want to gauge your progress. 

At the same time, there are hundreds of newcomers. The year’s field is packed with fade all stars who slept on year one of the competition. Over the coming months, we’ll be highlighting some of these veteran faders and upstarts (perhaps you’ll be one of them).

It’s a field crammed with champions

You can keep pace with the leaders if you like, but those who get the most out of this competition (including last year’s winners) tend to just focus on their own race. They didn’t become world-class faders by winning. The winning was just a by-product of their art. They are in love with the process as much as the results (the mark of high performers in every arena).  

Champion faders live life fully and energetically (and always in their denim). They seek out opportunities to roll the odometer in their jeans, but they don’t do this with their eyes locked on the fader in front of them. They’re just running their own race. 

Get out there and push

Remember, though, that this competition isn’t just about results. It’s an exercise in community building as well. This was a big reason that the first year’s competition was so successful, and we’re off to a running start this year.

If you’re a more experienced fader, and you see somebody struggling to keep up, get out and push. Share your expertise. With a little push, you’ll help turn new members of this community into full-fledged faders, which helps level the track, giving everybody the motivation they need to cross the line.

The Goal is the Finish Line—Not the Podium

When we started this competition in 2019, we didn’t have any sponsors. Fifty faders stood in the starting blocks before SOSO and Redcast Heritage stepped up with an offer of prizes for our winners. We all wanted to win (who doesn’t), but we knew as well that a podium finish would just be the cherry on top. 

Race for the checkered, not for the podium.

If your goal is to win that trip to Japan or the $1,000 gift certificate from Iron Heart, by all means push that accelerator all the way to the floor and don’t let up until we cross the line. If nothing but winning will satisfy you, though, there’s a fair to good chance that, when the winners are announced, you’ll be disappointed. 

Those who view the finish line as the goal rather than the podium don’t run this risk. They are only running their own race rather than focusing on what the faders around them are doing. They cross the line having given their pair all that they could, and they have a beautifully faded pair of selvedge to show for it. 

This is what it means to run your race. To get the absolute most out of this competition, all you have to do is finish. Everything else is gravy.




Step into the Light

Making the Case for Competing


In a recent post, I highlighted a few of the reasons why we compete in the Indigo Invitational. We compete because fading is an experience that becomes more exciting and rewarding when it is shared with other enthusiasts. We don’t compete for the prizes, or even for the glory of victory. This competition is not a battle for first place. It is a year-long communal celebration of a shared passion.


The proof of this is everywhere you look. Look for smack talk and gamesmanship. You won’t find it. Instead, you’ll find competitors supporting and encouraging each other. You won’t find any boasting, bullying, or jostling for position. Instead, you’ll find the Indigo Spirit, a powerfully magnetic fellowship of fading.

All of us can attest to this magnetism. It is felt by all, even at a tremendous distance. Selvedge enthusiasts are, by and large, few and far between. Some of us (the lucky few) are plugged in to local denim scenes. Most of us, though, fade alone. The Indigo Invitational turns the solitary activity of fading into a communal one.


This is reason enough for most people. Some, though, still aren’t convinced.


The Argument Against Competing


If the Indigo Invitational has appeared on your radar, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a few pairs of raw denim on the go. A handful of people joining the competition are making their first foray into the world of raw denim. The vast majority of us, though, have closets bursting with selvedge. We’ve faded at least a pair or two down to white bone.



Having once faded a pair to perfection, we want to do it again and again. We’re hooked, and we start looking for our next project pair.  Here’s the thing, though: the more we look, the more we see. The more we see, the more we learn. We begin the slow slide into enthusiast territory, and along the way, we armloads of the stuff. We end up with a stack of fresh pairs that (we’ll readily admit) only get part of the attention they’re due.


And now, here comes a fading competition that asks you to take a step back from collecting and wear one pair for 365 days. For those who given themselves over to the collecting impulse, this is simply a bridge too far. “I’ve got too many pairs on the go”, they say, or “I can’t do justice to my rotation if I only wear one pair.”


I don’t have an answer for this. It’s not my place to tell you what your denim priorities should be. If you’d rather collect and rotate than fade aggressively, I’ll admit that you’ll probably find the Indigo Invitational more frustrating than rewarding.


If you know that you won’t be able to resist the siren call of your unworn pairs, if the thought of monogamous fading for a month (let alone for 365 days) sends chills down your spine, it’s unlikely you’ll cross the finish line.


From Out of the Darkness


Nobody wants to start something that they’ll lay down half completed. If you know you won’t cross the finish line, the Indigo Invitational probably isn’t for you. Perhaps, though, you’re caught between the competition and your rotation. You have a few pairs on the go, and you don’t want to lay them aside for a year to compete, but the idea of the competition intrigues you. If you’re one of these fence-sitters, allow me to approach this from a different angle.



While there are definitely denim lovers who prefer the look of crisp, dark selvedge to faded pairs, we don’t see many of them round these parts. Most of us were drawn into this world (and into this competition) by the pull of the light side. We light-side acolytes know that denim in its raw state is essentially incomplete. It is not truly finished until it bears on its surface the outline of our body, until the sun shines on the white core of the yarn.



This is what almost all of us want. We want to be on the light side, but the dark side calls out to us each time a new collaboration drops or a long-coveted pair goes on sale. We love the look of beautifully faded raw denim, but we add new pairs into the rotation faster than we can fade them. With each new pair, we swear that this time will be different. We will, we say, dedicate ourselves to this pair and forsake all others. We try, but we can’t resist the call of the other pairs in our rotation, and, to make matters worse, that rotation grows by a few pairs every year.


We want to step into the light, but the pull of the dark side proves almost impossible to resist. The dark side exacts a cost in more ways than one. We spend thousands of dollars chasing the perfect pair. And this isn’t all: when we give in to the power of the dark side, we never do justice to our jeans.



Do Justice to Your Jeans


The Indigo Invitational was born as a rejection of the dark side. In 2019, I challenged members of the Raw Denim Facebook group to show me their fades. I was seeing a lot of pictures of amazing selvedge, but it all looked practically brand new. When I asked why this was, the answers had a familiar ring. They had too many pairs. They knew they couldn’t fade them all at once, but this didn’t stop them from trying.


They needed a very good reason to focus exclusively on one pair, and I gave them that reason by starting the competition. Sponsors soon joined and gave us an added incentive to hold the line. Nearly half of our competitors bowed out (many drawn back to their neglected rotations) in the middle of the race. Those who crossed the line a full year later, though, felt the full power of the light side. Their jeans were beaten and tattered, held together with homemade patches and crude stitches. They had embraced the light side and, in the process, they’d done justice to their jeans.

This is what has pulled so many of our faders back into the starting blocks this year. Last year, with only a month of lead time, many of us reached for the closest available pair. This year is different. We’ve carefully selected our pairs, and we know that, as long we can hold our nerve, we’ll cross the finish line next October with a pair that has been given its due.


It’s a partnership between the fader and his or her pair. Give a year of uninterrupted wear to one pair and it will return the favour. It will give you it’s absolute best.



Show and Shine


I close my case with this. My best friend (and this competition’s co-founder) Dave recently told me a story. On the quiet street he lived on as a child, there was a man with a ’69 Mustang convertible. On weekends, when the sun was shining, Dave’s neighbour would back his car out of the garage and onto the driveway. He would polish the Mustang for hours and then, after he was done, he would climb back behind the wheel and, feathering the pedal, inch his pride and joy back into the garage.


Dave only ever saw the car leave the man’s driveway once. It was a Saturday morning, and Dave watched as his neighbour eased the car onto a trailer and took it to a show and shine. At the car show, it sat next to other pristine muscle cars. Owners bragged to each other about the low mileage on their babied machines.


Dave’s neighbour was intensely proud of his Mustang, but it was, he said, too nice to drive. He had taken it out for a spin once when he bought it, but the sight of the odometer running was more than he could bear. He took it home and parked it in the garage. He was more concerned with preserving the value of his investment than he was in flexing the American muscle atrophying in his driveway.


The car cried out to be driven on the ragged edge of physics down a windy country road, the top down, the throttle wide open. It deserved to be pushed to its limits, to do what it had been designed to do.


Our jeans deserve the same kind of throttle-wide-open use. They were built to fade, so fade them. The light side is calling your name. Your jeans want you to answer the call. Just as that Mustang wanted to belch smoke and fire and eat up the tarmac, your denim is begging to be used and abused.





There are, at last count, more than three hundred of us, all poised in the starting blocks ready to give our pairs absolute hell—it’s what they were built to do, and it’s what they deserve. Join us. Stomp on the gas pedal and leave a trail of indigo in your wake. Empty the tank and spin the odometer. Your rotation will be waiting for you when you return back to the garage next October.


Step out of the night and into the light.




“Raw denim is a journey. The path  looks a little different for each wayfarer, but we all pass the same milestones along the way.”

“The full denim experience begins with the struggle.”

“Denim heaven isn’t so much about what the jeans look like as what they feel like.”


Where are you on your raw denim journey?

the 8 stages of denim enthusiasm

Denim enthusiasm is a journey with definite milestones that we can all recognise. Where are you on your raw denim journey? To find out, click the link below. 

Read the Article


“The world of raw denim spins on an axis of fades.”

“With a vigorous lifestyle, you can expect to see fades emerging in three to four months.”

“What we end up with depends on what we start with, but there’s no consensus on what the end product should look like.”

raw denim faqs

answers to all your denim questions 

What is the best way to fade denim? How should I spend my denim dollars? Especially if you’re new to the denim fading scene, you’ve probably got a ton of questions. In this pair of articles, you’ll find the answers you’re looking for. Click below to read the full articles. 

Fading & Washing FAQRaw Buying FAQ


“Recipes for top-shelf fades are like bellybuttons—we’ve all got one, and they’re all slightly different.”

“By the time I washed my first pair of Naked & Famous (after a year of constant wear), you could smell me coming before you could see me coming.”

“The initial leap into selvedge is fully justifiable for the fade fanatic. After that first price jump, though, the fade enthusiast faces diminishing returns.”

raw denim myth busting

putting raw denim myths under the microscope 

Is selvedge really a better foundation than non-selvedge? Does Japan really make the best raw denim on the planet? Does heat really accelerate fades? We put these commonly cited denim fading myths to the test. What the evidence tells us might surprise you. Click below for either buying myths or fading and washing ones. 

Buying MythsFading & Washing Myths