About a year ago, I found an old pair of jeans from my early high school years. They were black, faded, and I never reached for them. I decided to google how to distress denim and with a few hours of work and some trail and error, I ended up with a like-new pair of jeans that I wear multiple times a week! It’s this pair! I loved the way they turned out and have been wanting a pair of dark wash skinnies with distressing. I almost bought myself another pair of AG Legging Ankle Jeans but I decided to try to recreate the look myself with an affordable pair of jeans. I set off to Target and picked up these skinnies. I was super impressed with the quality. I took my under $30 jeans and got to work.
Here’s my word of advice and warning… I got lucky on my first try and loved the result. You may not. Don’t pull your favorite pair of jeans out of your closet and start snipping. Grab an old pair, maybe one that you never reach for. Or do what I did and grab a great affordable pair like these. Also, don’t go overboard with this. With normal wear and washing, your distressed jeans will become more distressed. It’s easier to go back and add more distressing later than it is to take it back. With that said,grab your scissors and tweezers and let’s get to work.
Step one: Plan your distressing. If you don’t have a plan, there’s a good chance you won’t be happy with your end result. There are so many different types of distressed denim. Some have massive gaping holes and some have simple slits in the knees. Browse your favorite denim brands (AG has great ripped jeans.) You can even keep a photo for reference.
Step two: Mark the rips. Put on your pair of jeans and mark the places you want your rips to be. I used a light colored eye shadow because it wouldn’t stain like a sharpie. Make sure you’re being detailed. If you’re doing knee slits, make sure the placement is actually on your knee. If you are doing a bigger hole, draw marks at many points around it. Then look in a mirror and make sure that you are happy with the placement. I knew I wanted the holes over my knees for this pair, but I wanted them to be different shapes. One side was going to be a shorter and thinner slit and the other would be longer and not a perfect rectangle. The top part would be wider than the bottom part.
Step three: Make the horizontal cuts. You will never make vertical cuts in this DIY, just remember that. If you do, you will lose the ability to have the white fibers filling the holes, which in my opinion is what makes distressed jeans look nice. You will take your scissors and cut the horizontal slits as wide and far apart as you’d like. For one knee, you’ll see that they are about the same length and the other knee, they aren’t.
Step four: Loosen the fibers. To achieve the white horizontal fibers that fill in the hole, you have to pull out each vertical fiber between your two slits. Not above or below your slits, that’s important. You are going to take the denim where you cut it and rub it between your fingers until you see the vertical fibers start to stick out. I typically will lessen them until plenty of them are showing.
Step five: Remove the fibers. Okay y’all, this is the tedious part. Every time i’ve done it, I’ve put on a show on Netlix and posted up in bed with a bowl to put the fibers in. You are going to take your tweezers and pull out every single vertical fiber between the slits. Yes, it’s going to take as long as you may think. However, it’s totally worth it. This is the part that takes your denim from homemade to store-bought looking. You want to do this somewhat gently. If you are too rough, you could accidentally break the horizontal fibers.
Step six: Add detail as desired. On one of my pairs of jeans, I decided to do a raw hem (which was super easy.) I literally just cut off the bottom to the length I liked and loosened the fibers on the edges with my fingers. On every pair i’ve done, I’ve added a mini pocket distressing to keep the look going throughout. You literally just repeat the above process but on a small scale on the pocket. It looks great in the upper outside corner of your back pocket or on the innermost part of your front pocket. I typically like to go back to the main holes and slightly fray the edge to disguise any uneven scissor marks.
I hope this tutorial made the idea of cutting up your jeans a little less daunting. I would love to see your results if you try it.