How to Distress Denim Yourself In 6 Easy Steps

Hanah Snavely
Photo: R13 / La Garconne

Photo: R13 / La Garconne

Denim trends may come and go, but when it comes down to it, jeans are an infallible wardrobe staple, no matter how often hems, colors, and shapes change with the times.

The latest look to break through the denim market? Seriously distressed jeans—to the point of gaping rips and tears—which have become downright ubiquitous, seen on everyone from celebrities to street style stars. Retailers and designers have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, and you’ll find majorly beat-up styles everywhere from Barneys to H&M.

Unlike most trends though, this one is a cinch to DIY if you have a little time on your hands. Read on to learn how to make these bad boys at home!

Distress Your Denim in 6 Steps

What You’ll Need: A pair of denim jeans or shorts, sharp scissors, a needle, chalk, and tweezers

Step 1: Put the jeans on and mark where you want the holes to be with chalk. Aim for spots between low knee and upper thigh, avoiding anything too crotch-y.

Step 2: Take the jeans off and cut parallel horizontal slits on the chalk marks with scissors. The wider the slits, the bigger the holes.

Step 3: Begin to pull on the white horizontal threads, using a needle to loosen them up if necessary.

Step 4: To create larger gaps, remove some of the white horizontal threads altogether.

Step 5: Use the tweezers to pull out all of the blue vertical threads.

Step 6: Throw the jeans in the wash, send them through the dryer, and when they emerge, the rips and tears will look like they’ve been naturally establishing themselves for years, and will just keep getting better (read: more authentic-looking) with each wash and wear.

Do’s and Don’ts

Distressing works for both denim shorts and long jeans. If you’re going the shorts route, work with a high-waist pair to avoid showing too much skin. For distressed jeans, we suggest optinf or a lighter blue wash, which tends to look better than darker blue washes (think ’70s beach babe). Slimmer cuts flatter the figure, streamline the style, and keep the look modern. If you want to tap into the ’90s grunge revival, rip up a pair of faded black skinnies.

Time & Money

Depending on how meticulous you are about scoping out the perfect spots for your new rips and tears, each hole should take you about 15 minutes to create.

If you’re not interested in putting in the time to DIY, then you can always snap up fresh takes on the trend from R13, Rag & Bone, and Current/Elliott.