What Is “PNF” Stretching?

In this article:

  • PNF stretching explained.
  • Stretches to get you started.
  • Guidelines for stretching.

We all know we should stretch but, truthfully, how many of us take the time? It’s a fast-paced world and every minute counts. A SharpMan doesn’t have time to waste on stretching if there is no immediate and practical benefit. Should you give up stretching and hope you don’t pull a hamstring on your next run? Don’t throw in the towel yet.

Let’s take a different approach. As Chef Emeril says, “we’re gonna kick it up a notch,” with PNF stretching. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, is like stretching on steroids. Check out the SharpHealth skinny:

A Little History

Originally developed by Herman Kabat MD, Ph.D. in the 1940s and early 1950s as a treatment modality for paralysis patients, PNF stretching has found its way into mainstream health and fitness circles. And for good reason: it works. Study after study supports the efficacy of PNF stretching and also shows other benefits as well. Such as:

  • Want to improve your flexibility in the shortest time possible? PNF.
  • Want to gain strength while you’re stretching? PNF.
  • Want to recover more quickly from workouts? PNF.

What PNF Is Not

A couple basic types of stretches are used today. You have probably done one of the following two versions of stretching in the past:

Ballistic stretching. Sometimes called dynamic stretching, this style of stretching forcefully stretches a muscle by way of a bouncing movement. An example of a ballistic stretch is standing with your feet together, legs straight and rapidly bouncing down to the toe-touching position. Ballistic stretching risks muscle injury and is no longer advised as a healthy means of stretching.

Static stretching. This is the most common form of flexibility training. In static stretching, the target muscle is stretched to the point where a “pull” is felt in the muscle. An example of a static stretch is sitting on the floor with your legs extended and reaching forward to grab your toes. Static stretches are typically held for a count of 15-30 seconds.

What PNF Stretching Is

PNF stretching is a specific flexibility protocol that uses a combination of isometric contractions and partner-assisted stretching techniques. Several styles of PNF are used, the most practical being the CRAC (contract-relax, antagonist-contract) technique.

PNF stretching is best done with a partner after a light warm-up. A warm-up may consist of walking briskly, cycling for 5-10 minutes or engaging in any activity until you first break a sweat. Whenever you do a warm-up you are literally raising the temperature within the muscle. Warmer muscles make for more pliable, and therefore more injury-resistant, muscles.

Sample PNF Stretches

Interested? Try the following PNF stretches the next time you hit the gym:

Hamstring Stretch. Lie on the ground facing up with one leg fully extended and the other leg bent at a 45-degree angle with your foot flat on the ground.

Raise your straight leg as high as possible — but stop before you feel any pain or discomfort. If you have a partner, he or she can assist by holding the raised leg in position. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.

Forcefully contract your hamstring for six seconds (as if you are trying to force your heel to the ground). Your partner will apply resistance by pushing your leg and holding it steady. If you are working without a partner, a towel wrapped around your foot will work do the same.

Now, pull your raised leg forward towards your body again. This will stretch your hamstring. As you reposition your leg by pulling it farther back, your partner will again stabilize your raised leg to provide resistance against your motion. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.

Repeat two to three times. After the initial contraction and relaxation, you will notice an ability to comfortably stretch farther.

Pectoralis (Chest) Stretch. Begin by standing in a doorway with one arm raised above your head at a 90-degree angle (i.e., a WWII German-style salute). Place your forearm and open palm against a doorway and turn your body away from the arm until you feel a comfortable stretch through your chest and into your shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds.

Contract the pectoralis, or chest, muscles, pushing against the doorway for six seconds (i.e., imagine pulling your arms together in the prayer position).

Relax and repeat the stretch, holding for 15 seconds. Repeat two to three times per side.

Shin (Tibialis Anterior) Stretch. Begin this stretch by lying flat on the ground and “pointing” with your toes. This will stretch your shins to their full range of motion. If you are stretching with a partner, he or she will hold the foot in the stretched position. For an effective self-stretch, anchor your foot under a solid object such as a couch or dresser. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.

Contract your shin muscle, pulling your toes toward your body for six seconds. Relax and point with the toes, once again stretching the shin muscle. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat two to three times.

This can be an especially important stretch for anyone who suffers from shin splints, as PNF stretching will serve to both strengthen and stretch the affected muscles.

SharpTips to Remember

Warm up before stretching.

Continue to breathe throughout the stretching process. Holding your breath — which many SharpMen do when they concentrate on a movement — can cause a rapid rise in blood pressure.

Stretching should always be comfortable and pain-free. If you stretch to the point where it hurts, you greatly increase your risk of muscle or tendon injury.

Work with an attentive partner and explain to him or her exactly what assistance you require.

Regardless of the type of stretching, you are incorporating into your workout, the one factor that will best increase your flexibility is consistency. Just as adding bulk requires consistent weight workouts, maximizing your flexibility allows your body the time it needs to adapt to new requirements.

Adding An Inch To Your Arms

In this article:

  • Tricks of the trade.
  • The best exercises to add an inch.
  • Finding your niche: beginner, intermediate and advanced programs.

Have you ever noticed how most people equate how big your “muscles” are with the size and shape of your arms? Strange, isn’t it? Especially considering how much smaller these muscles areas are compared to your larger muscle groups: your chest, back and legs. Why is this? Probably because arms are the muscle group most often exposed by T-shirts and tank tops. 

Check out these SharpHealth tips. You’ll learn how to get a little more exposure and a lot more looks by adding an inch to the width of your arm size.

Tricks of the Trade

Eat well. If you’re going to add size to your body and get bigger arms, you’ll have to gain some lean muscle. How much? It’ll take about seven to 10 pounds of lean muscle to add an inch to both your arms. And if you haven’t heard it before, listen up: protein is responsible for building muscle, so your diet should consist of about 30 percent protein. To make it even easier, take in about .75 to one gram of protein for each pound of your body weight. Trust us, you’ll grow like a weed. 

Additionally, about 50 percent of your daily diet should consist of carbohydrates. You’ll need these “carbs” for the energy to get through the arm-blasting workouts and to help you recuperate afterward. Don’t worry about the body fat; the final 20 percent of your daily diet is usually made up of some fat from your protein and carbohydrate sources.

Work the long head of your triceps. Your triceps muscles are made up of three muscles, or different “heads”. These are the medial, lateral and long. The long head of your triceps is located on the back of your upper arms and goes from your elbow to your armpit. This head is the largest of the triceps muscles and since your triceps make up two-thirds of your upper arm muscles, it has a lot to do with the way your arms look. Got that? That’s right: if you target the biggest muscle in your arms, the bigger your arms will appear. The good news? The long head of your triceps is affected by any triceps exercise where your elbows are extended over your head. More on this later.

Supersets. A key to adding size to arms is to push them to grow. And if “supersets” don’t do that, they come very close. What is a “superset? Simply put, it’s a set in which you work your biceps and triceps back-to-back, with no rest periods in between sets. For example, try doing a set of dumbbell curls for 10 reps and then immediately do triceps press downs for 10 reps. (Now call 911 to help put out the fire burning in your bigger arms.)

Lift heavy, rest a lot. For some of us, the only way to get bigger, stronger arms is to lift heavier. So mix it up a little: do your supersets, but then choose a weight so heavy that you can only do six reps “to failure” with on the barbell curl. In between sets, rest up to five minutes.  Heavy lifting may not get your heart pumping like the supersets will, but sleep on it, and I promise you’ll feel a little “good” pain the next day. Lifting heavier is crucial for training arms.

The quad drop set. Pick any exercise for your arms and then pick a weight with which you can only do about eight reps. As soon as you complete all eight reps, do another eight reps immediately, but lower the weight by five to ten pounds. Do this again and again, allowing rest for blood flow in your arms, until you’ve completed four drops or “quad” drops for a total of 32 reps in one set. Give it a try — you’ll love it.

21s. Nope, not a blackjack game, but a great way to fry your biceps. Pick up a barbell with a weight that you can perform about 10 reps within good form. Now curl the barbell from the bottom position to the midway point seven times. Then curl it from the top position to the midway position another seven times.  Then let it all the way down and finish off the set with seven more reps — but this time do seven full curls. See why these are called 21s?

The Exercises

Since this isn’t “Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding,” we’ll just give you a quick overview of the best exercises to make your arms why these exercises work. Make sure to give all of these arm workouts a try.


Barbell Curl: The Macdaddy of biceps exercises, this is known as a mass builder because you can use more weight on these biceps curls than any other exercise. The more weight used, the more muscle fibers stressed, and the more muscle growth you get after you recuperate. This is one of the workout ideas you can’t miss if you want bigger arms.

Stand with your legs slightly bent to take pressure off your lower back. Hold a barbell loaded with the desired weight using a grip that is about shoulder width. Curl the weight up, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Don’t let your elbows come forward during the movement or you’ll be incorporating your shoulder muscles too much. And finally, do not lean back or swing the weight to get it up. That could cause major damage to your lower back, and you won’t be working your bicep muscle much either.

Preacher curl: Again, you can use good (heavy) weight on this for building bigger arms, but the difference is that since your arms are in a fixed position:

  1. you can’t cheat; it’s all about your biceps, and
  2. you’re hitting the lower part of your biceps very hard. 

Great for adding size. Sit on a preacher bench with the pad fitted comfortably under your armpits. Use an E-Z curl bar. You can vary your grip on this if you like. A narrow grip will hit your outer biceps, while a wide grip will target your inner biceps. A middle grip will hit them all around. Allow the weight to come all of the ways down at the bottom of the curl position. When you curl up at the top, keep constant tension on your biceps and flex or contract the muscles.

Seated dumbbell curl: When you’re seated, again, you’re less likely to cheat and if you supinate (or twist) the dumbbells on the way up, it’ll help increase your biceps’ peaks.

Sit on a flat bench. Keep your elbows tucked close to your sides and don’t bring them forward. You’ll start the movement with a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing your sides or turned into your body. As you curl the weight, on the way up, supinate the dumbbells so that your palms will actually be facing your chest/shoulders at the top of the movement. Again, squeeze at the top.

Incline dumbbell curls: You’re seated and lying back on an incline bench. This position means that your biceps get even less help from other muscle groups — a really efficient biceps workout. Dig in and start building. The same movement as the seated dumbbell curl, but this is harder. Your biceps are isolated when you’re lying on a 45-degree incline bench, so go a little lighter. Control the weight throughout the movement and don’t swing it up. Anyone can use momentum to lift heavier weights, but you’re building your muscles, so make them do the work.


Overhead dumbbell extension: Remember what we said about the long head of the triceps? Here’s your chance to make it happen. Grab a dumbbell with both hands and hold it from one end over your head. Begin with your arms straight in the air above your head, and slowly lower the weight back behind your head. The movement is similar to a “throw in” used in soccer, but your arms should fully extend directly above your head. Keep your elbows in tight and lower the dumbbell as far as you can behind your head. It’s a great site builder.

Close grip bench press: If you want size, this exercise gives it to you. The close grip bench press works your triceps hard because the movement allows you to pack on a heavy weight. Lying on a flat bench, load a barbell with the desired weight. Keep both feet planted on the ground at all times and do not lift your butt off the bench during the movement no matter what, or you could cause back damage. Grip the barbell just inside shoulder width, or go as close as having your hands six inches apart. This will force your triceps to do the work rather than your chest. Bring the weight down to your chest using the close grip and press it back up to the start position.

Triceps pressdowns: The focus is more on the lateral (outside) head, depending on your grip. But it’s still great for size and adding some definition to that cool horseshoe muscle on the outside of your one arm. Using a high pulley cable attachment, pick a straight bar and hook it on the high pulley cable. Grip the bar at shoulder width, keeping your elbows very tight against your sides. Begin with your arms at a 90-degree angle against your sides. Press the weight down or straighten your arms. Be sure to squeeze at the bottom. When you bring the weight back up, do not let your arms bend any further than the 90-degree starting point.

Vertical dips: Hold a dumbbell in between your ankles and the size will come almost instantly. It’s a tough exercise, to begin with, so take it easy at first and just use your body weight. On a parallel bar dip machine, grip each side and support yourself in the air. Keeping your legs bent at the knees slightly, lower your body (or if you’re more advanced, have a partner place a dumbbell in between your ankles). Lower yourself until your arms are bent at or just below a 90-degree angle and then press back to the start position.

Take Care of Simple Heartburn Before It Becomes Complicated

In this article:

  • The definition of chronic heartburn.
  • The medical complications of chronic heartburn.
  • When to seek medical advice.

Almost everyone experiences heartburn occasionally. For most SharpMen, heartburn is nothing more than an infrequent inconvenience brought on by overeating.

Unfortunately, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, approximately 15 million Americans suffer from heartburn on a daily basis.

The problem?

Persistent heartburn can have a serious negative effect on a SharpMan’s long-term digestive health. Check out the following SharpHealth tips about this seemingly simple condition, its potential complications when left untreated, and safe and effective ways to stop it before it causes real trouble:

Chronic Heartburn Defined

When heartburn and indigestion occur frequently, the condition is known as gastroesophageal (pronounced gas tro ee soph a jeel) reflux disease (GERD). GERD is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Because stomach acid has no place in your esophagus, the acid causes you to feel the discomfort associated with heartburn, one of the problems commonly associated with GERD. Other symptoms of GERD include difficulty swallowing and recurring nausea.

So what is the underlying cause of GERD?GERD is generally caused by weakness of the muscle at the top of the stomach, where the stomach meets the esophagus. This muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter, is designed to control the opening and closing of the bottom of the esophagus. When this muscle loses its tone, it fails to close properly and allows acid-soaked stomach contents to back up into the esophagus.

In the past, physicians commonly believed that GERD was caused by a hiatal hernia, a protrusion of a portion of the stomach into the chest. While studies indicate that the presence of a hiatal hernia may affect the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, this condition is not the uniform cause of GERD.

What You Can Do About Heartburn and GERD

Minor changes in lifestyle may help. The following is a list of lifestyle adjustments that may help to control or reduce heartburn and other symptoms of GERD:

  • Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and may irritate the mucous layer that lines the esophagus.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can reduce the muscle tone of the lower esophageal sphincter and increase acid production in the stomach.
  • Avoid heavy meals and eating too quickly.
  • Avoid foods that are spicy, greasy or acidic (such as tomatoes, onions, orange juice, etc.).
  • Don’t wear pants that are too tight around the waist. Anything that puts pressure on the abdominal area may force stomach contents upward into the esophagus.
  • Elevate the head of your bed. GERD is often worse at night. Why? Sleeping horizontally means that you lose the assistance of gravity in keeping stomach acid down where it belongs. By elevating the head of your bed or propping your head up with pillows, you may be able to reduce nighttime heartburn.

Some prescription medications may make it worse. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can exacerbate the symptoms of GERD. Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and some steroids can irritate the stomach, so check with your doctor if you take over-the-counter pain relievers or arthritis medication.

When all else fails. If lifestyle changes and the use of over-the-counter antacids fail to control your heartburn and GERD, or if you use over-the-counter antacids more than twice per week, consider seeking the advice of your physician.

Why You Should Have Heartburn and GERD Checked Out

When left untreated, the chronic presence of stomach acid in the esophagus can lead to the development of ulcers in the esophagus. You know, actual holes in your esophagus. Not great.

More serious is the fact that unmanaged GERD can cause Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, SharpMen who develop Barrett’s esophagus are 30 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than asymptomatic patients, and SharpMen who experience chronic heartburn but do not develop Barrett’s esophagus are eight times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than guys who experience no gastroesophageal symptoms.

As with so many other medical conditions, the earlier Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed and treated, the better, so it’s worth getting your chronic heartburn checked out ASAP.

Treatment for GERD

What can you expect? Before prescribing a treatment plan, your doctor may want to run some tests. The following three examinations are most commonly required for GERD diagnosis:

Simple blood work. Your physician will likely ask to draw blood in order to rule out the presence of an ulcer-causing bacteria in the stomach and to ensure that you are not experiencing bleeding in the digestive tract.

Upper GI (or barium swallow). Your physician will also want to take a number of painless X-rays of your esophagus, stomach and small intestine. In order to better judge the function of these organs, your physician will ask you to drink a beverage that includes barium prior to the test. The barium drink doesn’t taste great, but it does the trick.

Upper endoscopy. In this procedure, your physician will ask you to say “aaah,” and insert a plastic tube fitted with a light and a small camera inserted down your throat. The aim is to visually inspect your esophagus and stomach. The procedure is usually performed in your office or another outpatient facility and requires you to be sedated.

What are the treatment options? If your physician determines that you have GERD, he or she is likely to prescribe an acid-reducing drug such as Prilosec or Prevacid. While these drugs do not boost the functionality of the lower esophageal sphincter, they do reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and will typically provide relief from indigestion. Decreasing the amount of acid also provides a measure of protection to the esophagus.

A daily dose of prescription medication is often all it takes to relieve chronic heartburn and prevent a more serious digestive condition. If medication fails to control the problem, surgery may be recommended. Researchers are developing new and less invasive surgical procedures to correct the laxity of the lower esophageal muscle that causes GERD.

Things to consider while under treatment. While under treatment for GERD, patients should be regularly monitored by a medical professional to ensure against the development of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

SharpMen interested in more information about chronic heartburn should check out the following links:

American College of Gastroenterology


Hobbies That Drive Women Wild: Rare Book Collecting

In this article:

  • Are all “first editions” valuable?
  • Which books should you buy?
  • Where should you buy them?

Since our first SharpToys on winemaking (Sharp HomeBrew Toys), SharpMen has reported great SharpDating success stories on wooing women with interesting hobbies. Cool. In response, we offer you a new occasional series, Hobbies That Drive Women Wild. Yes, you will sound pretentious, but who cares if she doesn’t? Our first offering: rare book collecting. Talk about sounding well-read! These tips will help you sound well-read, well-shopped, and well-liked. Here are the basics:

What makes a book “collectable?”

Like any other business, it’s all about supply and demand. Not many copies + lots of people who want it = valuable. So, reprints of bestsellers, even if they’re hardcovers in nice condition, are not going to be valuable. Ever. Give these away to make room for the good stuff (buy a paperback next time). However, the first books of many popular authors are often valuable in the first edition, because the publisher was unwilling to take a gamble on an unknown by printing the first run of 50,000 plus copies.

Are all first editions valuable?

Think about it. Supply and demand, again. Tens of thousands of books are published every year, and most don’t make it to a second printing. So are you gonna run out and buy copies of all of those first editions? Of course not. A book is valuable only if someone’s willing to pay lots of money for it.

Are books a good investment?

No. Collect rare books because you like them, or to impress women. It’s not gonna make you rich.

Now, what should you collect?

The book collector’s maxim is to collect what you love. Good news: even if the last book you read was the Catcher in the Rye in ninth grade (a first edition of which would set you back some $4500 now — gulp), you can find some category of interest. Hate to read, only like sports? Then collect first editions of books about golf, football, surfing, or whatever. She’ll see them lined up on your shelf with their gilt-lettered spines or vintage dust jackets and will find you much more alluring than when you’re in front of the tube guzzling beer and watching the playoffs.

History buff? Collect Americana. (Doesn’t that sound impressive?) Or, do you have lots of money but no desire to read? You can really impress the women by collecting “incunabula,” books printed in the year 1500 and before. (Most of these aren’t in English, which is why it’s a good field to collect if you just want them to look impressive on your shelf without having to worry about what’s inside the covers.) Note that incunabula mean serious dough.

If you like fiction, you can collect modern first editions, a.k.a. “modern firsts.”(SharpMan Tip: antiquarian book dealers consider anything published since 1900 “modern.”) Good news: you can start a modern first collection before you get rich. Start collecting first editions of the authors you like now (this means hardcovers).

How do you know it’s a “first edition?”

Publishers vary in their method of identifying first editions, but you can often tell if a book is the first edition by checking the string of numbers on the copyright page. These numbers generally look like “987654321,” with the “1” indicating the first printing. The printer then removes a number for each run. So beware if the copyright page states “First edition, 9876543,” because although the publisher may consider this the first edition of the book (i.e. no new material), it’s the third printing, and therefore not a true first edition from a collecting perspective. This is not a foolproof method, however; Random House, for example, marks its first editions with a “First Edition” tag and a string of numbers ending in 2. If you’re going to drop serious cash on a book, you want to make sure it’s a first. Consult a dealer.

How do you buy rare books?

The best way to get your feet wet is to form a relationship with an “antiquarian book dealer.” If a dealer knows he (or she) is your main source for your collection, the dealer will actively scout for the books you are seeking and will let you know when a certain copy is overpriced or in an inferior condition. Some dealers will even find you a “lesser” copy of a book and agree to let you return it for full price (“trade up”) when they find a better copy. Look for a dealer who belongs to the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. These vendors abide by a code of ethics and have undergone a peer approval process, so you can generally feel you will be treated fairly by a dealer affiliated with this organization. Check out their website at http://abaa.org and search for a member dealer near you by geographic location. Another great feature of this site is its book search function.

Buying Online.

You can also buy rare books online using a site such as Bibliofind. Many ABAA members are also members of this service. Be careful, though–make sure that the dealer you buy from has a return policy in case the book you receive doesn’t look like the description you read.

Other sites include Alibris.com and even ebay . With non-ABAA affiliated sites, be sure you know whom you’re buying from. With sites like ebay, check the seller’s rating, but realize that you’re never guaranteed purchase security, since sophisticated scams include good ebay ratings, as well. Be especially careful about online auctions; you never know what idiot will try to pass off their “really old, 1933” edition of Shakespeare as a “first.” Our advice: buy your most expensive books from offline professionals.

In fact, even if you shop online, we recommend starting out with one ABAA-accredited dealer, because of the great variation in the way different dealers describe the condition of their books. After all, the fact remains that you can learn more from a flesh-and-blood dealer than from reading online catalog descriptions.

Other Information Sources.

Investing in a price guide is not a bad idea. SharpMan.com recommends Collecting Books: A Guide to Values by book dealers Allen and Patricia Ahearn.

Newly published by the same authors is a more general book, Book Collecting 2000, A Comprehensive Guide, which also has price information.

Novice collectors can also learn a lot from Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine www.firsts.com/.

Finally, learn more about this Hobby That Drives Women Wild while having a Great Date by attending a book dealers’ trade show. If you’re near New York City, a major one is coming up: the 40th Annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair will take place April 13th-16th at the Park Avenue Armory. If you have a book you think might be valuable (the cornerstone of your new collection, perhaps?), show up with it on Sunday the 16th for a free appraisal. For more information, check out the website http://www.sanfordsmith.com/nyabf/nyabf.html . If you’re in a smaller town, don’t despair; local dealers often get together for a regional fair. Check out Firsts Magazine, the ABAA or your local newspaper for listings.

SharpThreads Q & A

In this article:

  • Fading new blue jeans.
  • Patching jeans with holes — the easy way.
  • Buying the perfect-fitting jeans — and avoiding “shrinkage.”

Got a wardrobe question? The SharpThreads Guy can answer it. WRITE STG This week the SharpThreads Guy answers questions about the SharpMan’s favorite wardrobe item — blue jeans:

“I Just Want to Dye”

I have a pair of jeans that I never wear because they look too “new.” I’ve heard there’s a way to fade them in the washing machine. How do I do this?

Garland, TX

SharpThreads Guy: Yes, you can fade jeans artificially, but realize that the results will be slightly different than if the indigo-blue dye faded naturally over time. To fade jeans, skip the washing machine — too hard to tell what the heck is going on in there, so your chances of bleaching your jeans evenly are slim.

Instead, fill a bathtub with about eight inches of water and, using a pair of waterproof gloves, pour in between a quart to half a gallon of bleach (depending on how much you’d like to fade your jeans). Realize that the more bleach you put in, the more you’ll weaken the denim. Take a long stick (like the kind given out in paint stores) or some other disposable tool and stir the bleach in thoroughly. Be careful not to splash on yourself, or you’ll get bleach spots on whatever you’re wearing.

Add your jeans into the mix by laying them out flat — no folds, twists, or wrinkles. Any of these will cause your jeans to lighten unevenly. With your tool, poke the jeans down so that they are submerged. Turn them every five minutes or so — again, laying then down flat. Check the color after a half-hour of turning. Take the jeans out about two shades before the one you want (fabric looks darker when wet). Rinse the jeans in cold water — three times — and then hang them over the shower to dry. Drip-drying is best to ensure that dye doesn’t accumulate in the folds.

Once dry, you’ll notice they stink — bad. Throw them in the washing machine and then into the dryer. Use good-smelling dryer sheets to help with the smell.

Patch Power

I need to patch up some jeans with big holes in the knees. It seems like every time I wear them they get even worse. Is there a difference between the outside patches and the other way jeans are mended? The patches look kind of stupid.

Lakewood, CO

SharpThreads Guy: Quick, patch up. The more you wear a pair of jeans with a well-placed hole, the faster and more out of control the hole will grow to be. There’s no real difference between visible patches and the kind that are sewn on the inside of the garment. The “inside” style is more discreet, and usually requires a patch two to three times the size of the whole, usually, the same color as the jeans, sewn many times around the whole and then around the perimeter. But why bother doing all that work yourself? For a couple of bucks, any local dry cleaner will patch your jeans — fast.


I recently bought a great-fitting pair of Levi’s only to have them shrink once I washed them. What’s up with that? Is there some special way to dry jeans?

Peoria, AZ

SharpThreads Guy: Sounds like you bought 501s — the most popular cut of Levi’s, but also one of the only styles sold by Levi’s that do not come pre-shrunk (other styles are guaranteed not to shrink more than 3 percent). 501s must be purchased large, about an extra inch at the waist and an extra two inches long in the inseam (leg length). Give the small pair to a shorter SharpMan and better luck next time