Published on november 30, 2023

10 Types of Denim Washes and How to Wear Them

written by Team thredUP

Let’s be honest, denim solves all of our problems (well most of them). Whether you’re going out for drinks, running errands, or even tapping away at work, the perfect pair of jeans can get you through anything. Denim styles are easy to dress up and down, highly durable, and–most importantly–the choices are endless! Ready to become a denim pro? By the end, you’ll know the difference between a light wash and a medium wash. (fingers crossed!) Read on for the inside scoop on our favorite types of denim washes, finishes, and how to wear them all. 

Raw & Dark Wash Denim


Denim gets its signature faded look through a special washing process (hence the term dark/light/medium wash!). Jeans that are left unwashed are called raw or dry denim, which offers a deep, dark shade. The beauty of raw denim is that it conforms to your figure and becomes uniquely yours over time! One tip to keep your denim as dark as possible is to only wash it once before you wear it and then sparingly after that.

Style tip:

Dark wash denim is versatile and can be part of both daytime and nighttime outfits. Pair with heels and a high-neck top for a night out. Throw on a T-shirt and some loafers during the day.

— Make a T-shirt and jeans combo pop by wearing colorful shoes or accessories.

— Darker colors are better for more elevated formulas. For a night out or a casual work outfit, pair your dark wash jacket or jeans with light or neutral-colored blouse.

— Pair your darker denim with a floral top. Because your jeans are so dark, it will make bright colors and florals stand out.

Medium Wash Denim

There are many different washes of jeans, but this is usually a shade lighter than dark wash denim, which means it’s been washed and dried more times. Medium wash denim is more casual, so you’re able to pair it with a wider variety of colors and textures.

Style tip:
— On cooler days, pair some medium wash jeans with a knit sweater for added texture.

— Tuck any top into wide-leg jeans and pair with booties for a cute and casual daytime outfit.

Light Wash Denim

Compared to most types of jean washes, light washes are two to three shades lighter. They can even tow the line of being considered bleached denim! Nothing beats a good pair of light wash denim because it’s perfect for a summery look. It’s also great for dressing down any outfit.

Style tip:
— We love a good denim on denim combo. Mix different washed jeans with jackets or tops for the perfect Canadian tuxedo look.

— Because light wash jeans are so… light, pair them with a darker top for some contrast.

Acid Wash Denim

Denim jackets that are acid wash are SO in right now. Acid wash denim is made by mixing chlorine and water together during the washing process. One of the biggest perks of having acid wash denim is that you don’t need to intentionally damage your jeans!

Style tip:
— Couple your acid wash denim jacket with a pair of black jeans or a solid tee for an edgier, yet not too busy look.

Black & Grey Denim

Black and gray denim are great for a monochrome look. Because these pants are typically solid and dark, you’re able to pair them well with lighter tops or tops with patterns. Who doesn’t love an excuse to wear something bold?

Style tip:
— Pair with a light-colored button-down for a casual take on a business look.

— If you’re looking for something more serious, add in a tee with a matching black blazer.

— You can even throw in a cheetah or any fun animal print top to balance out this denim.

White Denim

White denim is great because it’s super light and comes in a variety of styles, such as boot cut or with tears. For a more laid-back look, get white ripped jeans. Remember not to wash them often because the white color may become dull. If you do happen to get stains on white denim, no worries! For common stains like coffee, ink, and grass, mix dish soap and water. Use a clean cloth, and dab this solution onto the stain. Turn the denim inside out and rinse the stain out with cool water, your denim is saved!

Style tip:

— Colored wedges or a bright top go perfectly with white denim pants or a white denim skirt.

Colorful Denim

Show off your personality with colorful denim pants. There’s denim out there for almost every color of the rainbow! It’s important to be smart about what you pair with colored denim, so your outfit is not too overwhelming.

Style tip:

— A neutral-colored top, like white or black, is a great option for colored denim so you don’t have too much going on.

— Continuing on the neutral train, choose a pair of neutral-colored shoes to go with this pop of color.

Denim Finishes


For an edgy look, opt for distressed denim. Distressed denim has fraying and rips which is great if you are looking for something more casual.

Style tip:

— Couple distressed denim jeans with a graphic tee and sneakers, or dress it up for a night out with a pair of block heel sandals.

— You can also find distressed jean jackets to add a casual aspect to any look.


Shibori is basically tie-dyed denim. It can be done on any shade of denim and is common in both pants as well as jackets. This could be a fun DIY project, or you could find plenty of Shibori-inspired denim styles out there as well!

Style tip:

—This look is perfect for wearing to a music festival or just showing a fun side of your wardrobe.

— Pair with a plain top to balance the busy pattern of your denim.


Don’t think too hard on this one because whiskering is exactly what it sounds like. The technique of whiskering makes lines or “whiskers” on parts of the denim, such as the thighs. It gives a more worn-out lightly-washed look. Whiskering is done by drawing lines with sandpaper and then stone washing them, super intricate!

Style tip:

— You can pair these jeans with almost anything! Wear whiskered jeans with your more casual outfits for a great and effortlessly stylish summer look.

Denim comes in all types and styles, which makes it so great to have on hand. Get your hands on all different kinds of denim, so that you can either dress up or dress down any outfit. From jackets to jeans, you can find denim in all kinds of washes at thredUP. Stock up and go get your denim on.

What’s your favorite way to style denim? Comment below with your denim go-to’s!