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How to break in a denim jacket? Breaking Stiff Denim!

how to break in a denim jacket

You need to learn how to break in a denim jacket fast if you want it to be a part of your day-to-day fashion.

Here’s the situation. You see someone else look immaculate with a fancy denim jacket and want to give it a try yourself. So, you look around online and find one that perfectly fits your existing wardrobe.

But, when you wear the jacket for the first time, it looks different from what you thought. The fabric is oddly stiff but not hard, the fitting feels off but it is the right size. What is going on?

What you’re experiencing is quite common with new denim jackets. Quality denim is tough enough to last decades but it’s also a bit stiff out of the factory.

Luckily, all you have to do is break in the denim jacket to soften its structure. Keep reading to find out how!

Why Breaking In Jeans Jackets Necessary

breaking a denim jacket

If you look up advice on how to wear a denim jacket, learning how to break in a jean jacket is usually the first step. Why is that such a priority? Let’s see.


The first reason for this comes down to the structure and texture of denim as a fabric. To put it simply, most clothes made from denim are stiff and uncooperative when they’re new.

This inherent stiffness can make them uncomfortable to wear even for a short period of time. The jacket might also restrict your movement and feel tighter, even if its size is as perfect as it gets.

Learning how to break in denim jacket eliminates this issue and makes it softer for day-to-day use.


Even if you don’t feel any discomfort from your brand new jeans jacket, you should still consider learning how to break in a denim jacket. This is because — to put it bluntly — stiff denim jackets just look awkward, no matter the outfit around them.

On the other hand, breaking in denim makes it look significantly better in almost every way.

Consider this. What looks better in oversized jean jacket outfits? A brand new stiff jacket with straight edges and awkward fluffiness, or a jacket that’s broken in and conforms to your body shape?

Most people prefer the slightly worn-down denim jacket with a lot more character and a natural fade that is proof of its long history in your wardrobe.


Breaking in denim jackets makes them easier to style, and this remains true, no matter what style you’re talking about.

This is because stiff denim does not blend into an outfit. You can wear it with colors that match perfectly and it’ll still stick out like a sore thumb.

On the other hand, a broken in faded raw denim jacket would just work with almost anything and everything in your closet.  

Do you want to wear denim on denim? Your denim jacket will fit almost any pair of jeans you wear under it after you break into it.

Same goes for wearing it over regular t-shirt and jeans outfits or pairing it with button-ups, chinos, shorts, and dresses.


The final, and arguably the most important, reason to learn how to break in a custom denim jacket is personalization.

A jacket that conforms to your body shape feels a lot more like it’s your clothing that you have and will wear for a long time.

This is also something that denim jackets have in common with leather jackets.

While you can find a hundred differences in a leather vs denim debate, they both get more personal and custom as you wear them. Leather jackets get their gorgeous patina while denim jackets break and show wear from your use.

Simplest Way of Breaking in a Denim Jacket – Wearing It

wearing a denim jacket

How to soften a denim jacket? How to stretch a denim jacket? And how to break in a denim jacket? The simplest answer to all of these questions is to just wear them often, for a long period of time.

First step

Before you include your denim jacket in your day-to-day wardrobe, start wearing it around the house.

Begin by wearing it during low movement activities like watching TV. This will get the jacket familiar with the shape of your body and allow it to start stretching correctly.

Once the fit starts becoming more comfortable, take the jacket outside during low intensity activities like walking your dog or grocery shopping.

Continue this until the jacket starts fitting comfortably around your shoulders, elbows, and chest.

Integrating It with Your Wardrobe

Once the jacket stops being uncomfortable, it’s time to integrate it into your day-to-day wardrobe.

You can start wearing it over almost every outfit in your arsenal. While this will certainly speed up the process of breaking in the jacket, it is not the best option when it comes to fashion.

Instead, look up a few guides on what to wear with a denim jacket. Take inspiration from the outfits mentioned in these guides and try to replicate their style with the clothes you already have.

Luckily, denim jackets are one of the most versatile and compatible outerwear options out there. So, you should find plenty of fantastic outfits with what you already own.

Wear It Often

Hopefully, you found a bunch of different outfits ranging from casual everyday ensembles to ones you reserve for special occasions like dates and outings with friends.

The next step is to just start wearing the jacket as often as you possibly can and be patient with the progress.

If you just want the jacket to fit comfortably, 30-50 wears should be more than enough. After this period, the jacket should conform to your body and keep this shape even if you wash it.

But if you want the jacket to have some personal flair with realistic distressing, you might have to wear it more than 350 times to see those effects.

Break in a Denim Jacket by Washing It

man in a denim jacket

The texture and overall fit & finish of denim jackets are more sensitive to washing than you might think. This is especially true for the first wash which can determine how the jacket looks and feels for the rest of its lifespan.

So, how will washing denim jacket help you break into it?

Type of Denim

The first factor to consider before using this method is the type of denim fabric used in your jacket.

If you have a washed denim jacket, you can use this method immediately after purchase and it’ll work.

But, if you want to break in raw denim or a selvedge denim jacket, do not wash it for at least 6 months.

This is because anything made from raw denim is not washed after the stitching process is finished. Washing it immediately can affect its dye and ruin the iconic denim fade after a year or two of use.

Similarly, washing a selvedge denim jacket soon after buying it can mess with its texture and strength. (You can learn more about selvedge denim from our blog “what is selvedge denim.”)

Choose a Washing Method

You might see online advice about washing your denim jacket by hand for the first time, but that is not as important. The reasoning for this being that a washing machine can ruin the due or texture.

While there might be some truth behind this, it won’t be an issue as long as you follow the correct preparation method and use the correct detergent, water temperature, and drying method.

In short, you can use a washer to break in your denim jacket. These are the steps to follow.


First, remove any unnecessary tags from the inside of your jacket with scissors and only leave the ones with specific washing and drying instructions. Make sure to snip close to threads for clean removal.

Once you’re done with that, turn your jacket inside out. This will allow you to break in by softening the fabric while keeping the look intact. This will also keep artificial distress details safe from any damage.

White Vinegar Bath

Before you even think about putting the jacket in the washer, give it a bath with white vinegar. It is one of the most recommended fabric softening agents by experts.

To prepare the bath, mix one cup of white vinegar with eight cups of hot tap water. Make sure this ratio is correct for the best results.

Now soak the jacket into this solution completely and let it sit like this overnight.

Lastly, rinse the jacket with cold water to remove the vinegar and put it in a dryer. Use the lowest heat settings to reduce the risk of shrinkage.

Stretching the Fabric

Once the jacket is dry, roll the jacket like a sleeping bag and tie this roll with a bathrobe belt or any piece of fabric. Make sure that the roll is as tight and condensed as it can be.

Leave the tied roll in a cool and dry place for at least an hour. Doing this properly will help the denim fabric loosen — allowing you to break in the jacket much more quickly.

Wash with Warm Water

The final of how to soften stiff denim jacket is to wash it with warm water.

Place it in the washer with low water settings and warm or medium temperature. You should also avoid any detergent or fabric conditioner in the washer since it isn’t necessary.

After one wash cycle, dry the jacket with a dryer at low heat settings and you’re done.

Wear the Jacket

Yes, you still have to wear the jacket to break into it, even after this entire process. Washing only softens the fabric, wearing it regularly is what allows it to conform to your body and break in.

That said, washing accelerates the break in process drastically and you should be able to notice positive results after as little as 10-15 wears.

Mistakes to Avoid

man in a denim jacket

Here are a few common mistakes you should avoid when attempting to break in denim jackets.

  • Do not dry the jacket with the dryer at the “hot” setting. This will likely shrink the jacket and undo weeks or even months of progress.
  • Do not over-wash your denim jacket. But, don’t let it get overly dirt either. The optimal durations appear to be a wash cycle after every 10-15 wears.
  • Do not store them in an enclosed space immediately after use. Since you won’t be washing them very regularly, let them air out in an open and dry place before hanging them in your closet.


How Do You Loosen a Tight Jean Jacket?

The simplest way of loosening a tight jean jacket is to just wear it often. You can also learn how to soften stiff denim jackets with the washing method we discussed above to stretch their fabric and make them looser.

Why Are Denim Jackets So Stiff?

The denim fabric is inherently stiff when it is new. Plus, some denim jackets are not put through any washing or aging process to soften them before being sold.

Should Denim Jackets Be Hung or Folded?

Do not fold your denim jackets. Hanging is the only correct way of storing denim jackets. In fact, this goes for almost any type of jacket whether it’s a leather bomber jacket or a fancy blazer.

How Much Do Raw Denim Jackets Stretch?

The exact amount depends on a number of factors like the quality of denim and your wearing habits. That said, most raw denim jackets stretch about one inch around the waist as you break them in.

Do Denim Jackets Stretch?

Yes, they do. Denim jackets can both stretch over time from regular use and washing. 

Do Denim Jackets Shrink?

Yes, denim jackets can shrink when not worn for a long time, or in dryers set to high heat. 

Can You Put a Jean Jacket in the Dryer?

Yes, you can put a jean jacket in the dryer. Just make sure the dryer is set to low heat to avoid shrinking.

Final Words

Its versatility and sheer iconic presence make denim everyone’s best friend in fashion. Though you might feel a bit disappointed when you buy a new denim jacket and it feels stiff and awkward.

Luckily, you can learn how to break in a denim jacket to get a better fit and achieve the iconic worn down look.

The simplest method of this is to just wear it often and with tons of outfits. Or, you can try to wash it with water and a white vinegar bath to accelerate the breaking in process.

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