Here are things you should know first.
  1. It really is worth it.
    Yes they're expensive (3-4x your fashion jeans, but they'll last 6-7x longer and look better), but never will you love a piece of clothing like a pair of jeans that are so worn and fit to you that they feel like an expression of your body. You'll start remembering where you got tears and you'll slowly watch the jeans become an expression of who you are. Retiring a pair is seriously bummer material. Some people frame them after. Look up "wabi sabi"... this is raw denim.
  2. Selvedge ≠ Raw
    Selvedge is a kind of denim fabric that is finished on a loom that builds a "self edge", which usually looks like a white tape on the edge of the fabric. Most jeans companies will align the tape to the outside seam of the jeans so when cuffed the tape shows on the outside of the ankle. Selvedge denim looms are rarer and more costly to run, usually only used by companies that care deeply about their product. Selvedge typically means the fabric itself is of good quality.
  3. Raw ≠ Selvedge
    Raw denim is denim that has not been washed, shrunk, or broken in whatsoever before being sold. It is not always selvedge, though most selvedge will be raw. If you want to break in your own jeans so they fit you like a glove and fade and wear becomes an extension of your basic humanity, you need raw denim. Denim that has been finished in anyway will never give the same character. Raw also means it will be stiff as a board, it will stretch a ton and also shrink a ton the first couple soaks.
  4. It's okay to wash your denim!
    In fact, some places recommend it because it keeps the fabric soft and pliable and prevents tearing and early wear. Just only wash rarely, always hang dry, and expect them to shrink. Don't worry, they'll stretch back out after a wear.
  5. Unsanforized/Sanforized
    Important to know what you're getting into here. Unsanforized denim will stretch and shrink more with your first wearing period and your first soak. Most people have different soak protocols for each category. Expect unsanforized to have up to 10% stretch potential and sanforized to have 5%.
  6. SOAK!
    Soaking is how you start to adjust and set the fit to your body and needs. Techniques, temperatures, timing, etc all vary, so you should reach out to the people who sold you your raws for advice, or Google it. There are people on the Internet with information and you can use it. It's important to follow a plan here or else your jeans might not break in or fit as well as you'd like.
    First: Don't buy raws according to your normal off the rack pant size. Any good online retailer will have a size chart with actual physical measurements for a specific model/manufacturer that you can use to find your size. They should also tell you how much stretch to expect. When you get them, try them on and take pictures and make sure you like the basic fit before you go making them unreturnable. If you've never done this before, buy and ask questions in person at a shop that knows it.
  8. Seriously, don't buy your off the rack pant size.
    I mean it. It's just not that simple. You're going to lose inches in length and gain inches in waist. Don't fuck with this shit, ask an expert your first time.
  9. There are brands that make women's cuts!
    They're just rarer. 3sixteen, Naked and Famous, Railcar are a few.
  10. Go to a store that can help you out big time.
    If you're going to buy $300-400 jeans, make sure you get the right thing. Try Self Edge in NY, LA, SF (the original and where I go), PDX. Blue Owl Workshop. Tate and Yoko. Levi's. Many other shops. Or, ask people online at reddit: /r/rawdenim. Tons of help and feedback.
  11. Want to dip your toe in the pool?
    Levi's Shrink to Fits...$30-50. Don't follow Levi's shrink instructions, Google it like crazy. Lots of people have it figured out better than Levi's. There are also Gap, Unbranded, Gustin, and other ~$100 brands to try.
  12. It's a relationship. Get it right.
    I got 600+ days of wear from my first pair. They feel softer than a pair of cashmere pajamas and you can see exactly where my cell phone lived. The crotch blew out but they've been repaired and are wearable. You should repair too, you can extend the life even longer.
  13. Wear the ever living shit out of them.
    Those fades are your story.