How to Distress Your Denim

Zucker_DIYjeansAs you begin to exchange your summer cutoff shorts with a pair of fresh fall jeans, you will be faced with difficult denim decisions: skinny jeans or flared bottoms? What about light-washed versus dark-washed?

But most importantly: to destroy or not to destroy? That is the question.

I have always been a fan of ripped jeans. Distressed denim can add a free-spirited vibe to any outfit. The little rips make the jeans look well-worn and soft, which I prefer to the new, stiff look.

It can be an effortlessly chic look with an edge to it—when worn right. Unfortunately, my mom never quite understood the concept. She couldn’t justify buying $60 pants with that were ripped with premade holes. 

Because she would only buy me hole-less jeans, I was forced to learn how to recreate the little rips at home on my own. I now will pass that knowledge on to you.

Tools you will need:

Sharp pair of scissors
Sandpaper block
Piece of cardboard
A pair of jeans (obviously)

When creating destroyed jeans, you only want to focus on making natural abrasions—meaning the areas you distress are the ones that experience regular friction throughout the day. These spots are on the knees, the bottom hem of the jeans, the edges of the front pockets and the back pockets.

NOTE: You do not want to put a big hole in the middle of your upper thigh area. This spot on your jeans does not experience much friction. It will be overkill and make your jeans look unnatural.

What to do:

  1. Slip your jeans on. Mark lightly with a pen wear your knee caps on both sides begin and end on the jeans.
  2. Take off jeans and lay them out in front of you. Slip the piece of cardboard in one of the legs of the jeans, so you do not accidentally cut through to the back knee cap.
  3. The pen marks at the knee cap is where you’ll destroy first. Grab your scissors and start at the first pen mark. Here, you should cut a slit across—not too long. Keep cutting slits all the way down the knee cap area, making them each ¼ inch spaced apart. The slits in the middle of the knee cap area should be the longest across. Then begin to make them shorter again as you reach the end line you drew with a pen. Do this on both knees.
  4. After cutting slits in the knees, move your attention to the front pockets. If there is a smaller coin pocket within one of the big pockets, focus your attention there first. Take your scissors and cut two small slits near the very top of the coin pocket, spaced ¼ inch apart. Then grab your sandpaper, and rub it along these cuts. Continue rubbing until you see white threads.
  5. Repeat process of step 4 on the edges of both front pockets.
  6. The back pockets experience friction throughout the day when you sit down. You want to create distress near the top edge of the pockets and also small patches in other areas of the pocket. (just be careful not to cut through the pockets and into your jeans here. Unless you want all of campus to see your underwear…)
  7. Repeat the process used on the front pockets for the edges of the back pockets. Do a smaller scale version of the process you used on the knee to create small patches of distress on the pocket. Cut smaller slits with your scissors, space them apart, then lightly sandpaper them.
  8. The bottom hem of your jeans should have abrasions as well from rubbing on the ground all day. Create these abrasions yourself by cutting two slits along one of the bottom hems and sandpapering it. Rub until white threads are very visible. Do this on both sides if you so desire.

Finally, throw your pair of jeans in the washer and dryer. Repeat this process twice. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. The washing machine exposes an abundance of fresh white thread between all of the slits you made. This effect can only be achieved in the laundry.

To get a visual with this process, check out this video made by Free People. They use a Razorblade instead of Scissors, but razorblades are harder to come by and both create the exact same effect.

Happy destroying!

Photo by Ashley Zucker 


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