Denim pieces are a wardrobe staple. But if you find the ones you have a little too…vanilla, you can opt for distressed pieces instead. With rips, scuffs, frays and holes, distressed denim numbers exude an air of casual nonchalance and stylish confidence at the same time.
But distressed denim can be pricey. Psst, you don’t actually have to go out and buy one. Here are seven ways you can easily undertake at home without much fuss to inject new personality to your denim. We’ve taken the liberty of sourcing for Youtube tutorials too, so you can visualise the steps. All you need, is a few tools and a little patience.
So show off your creative, get your hands dirty and be ready to walk out in style with your own distressed denim pieces.
1. Using scissors and tweezers to create distressed holes
One of the signature looks of a distressed denim jean is strategically placed holes, usually around the knee or pocket areas. The holes are not gaping, however, but sport white threads spanning them. To achieve that look, first mark the places where you want the hole to be and cut two horizontal slits with a penknife or scissors to mark the perimeters of the hole. Remember to leave about an inch gap to the side hems.
Next, use your fingers to fray the threads along the slits of the area where the blue thread needs to be removed. Taking a pair of tweezers or using your fingernails, carefully remove the blue threads that have come loose and you should be left with the look you’re going for. Repeat with as many slits as you need to create a bigger distressed area.
Word of caution: do not cut the fabric vertically as you’d be left with a literal hole rather than a distressed one. Also, you don’t want to cut too big an area, as these portions will stretch when you wear them. So start small first.
2. Using repeated motion to create frayed holes
Besides the aforementioned method of creating cuts and removing the thread, there are also three other ways to distress your denim. Remember to place a magazine or cardboard between the legs before you start, to ensure that you don’t cut through the leg. The first involves sandpaper where you repeatedly rub the desired spot over and over until the hole appears. The second uses a razor and the same repeated motion on a spot to create the effect. The last, albeit the sharpest and possibly the most dangerous, uses a serrated steak knife to saw at the spot and cut through the fabric repeatedly. With these methods, do exercise extra caution to prevent injury.
3. A simple cut and sew to create frayed hems
If you love the casual ruggedness of a frayed hem, here’s how to create it. Lay the jeans flat and decide how short you want it to become (this allows you to upcycle jeans that are too long for you) and do a cut across each leg with a pair of scissors. With the new hem now exposed, use your fingers to loosen the threads to create the frayed effect. Finally, sew on a new seam with a sewing machine, or with a needle and thread, slightly above the new hem to ensure that the fraying doesn’t creep up too high and damage the denim.
4. Make them shorts
If you have a pair of jeans that are too long or you are looking to give your thrift shop jeans new life, turning them into a pair of shorts is a great way to extend its use, especially since denim shorts are perfect for a casual weekend. Put the pair on and decide how short you want to trim the jeans to by making a mark carefully with a pair of scissors or a pen/marker/fabric crayon. Then, take the jeans off and make the cut with a sharp pair of scissors.
It is better to cut the the legs at a longer length first, and then slowly trimming them down to the length you want, rather than go irreversibly short. Keep trying on the shorts and trimming them until you get your desired length. Finally, add a little frayed hem by grating the edges with a cheese grater and voilà — instant lived-in look.
5. Using tools to make whiskers and honeycombs
One of the tell-tale signs of a well-worn pair of jeans is its whiskers and honeycombs — thin fading lines formed from creases due to wear and friction — and this is an effect that people pay money to get. These can be simply achieved with a piece of stone or sandpaper. Lay the jeans flat and imagine where whiskers and honeycombs are commonly found — whiskers are usually around the crotch and the top block of the jeans, while honeycombs are usually at the back of the knees.
Next, use the stone or sandpaper to scratch the surface of the denim to create the pattern. The more force you apply during scraping will affect how heavy the fading will be, so you should start soft and slowly build to the intensity you want.
6. Using bleach for an acid-washed effect
If you love the rugged look of acid-washed denim, you can simply recreate this with bleach at home. This method also allows you to create unique splatter designs or bleached fades so your pair can be truly customised. In a well-ventilated environment, lay the ground with newspapers and tarp to catch any drippings — you don’t want the bleach to burn into your carpet or parquet. Arm yourself with rubber gloves (those that people don before washing dishes) and mix one part water with one part bleach.
Next, decide what kind of design you want to make. A splatter can be recreated with a spray bottle or just dipping your gloved hands into the bleach solution and sprinkling casually on the intended area. Else, you could use an unwanted paint brush, a sponge, toothbrush or play with rubber bands (for a tie dye effect) to create varied effects.
You could also lighten the jeans by dipping the part you want bleached into the bleach solution and letting it sit until the colour develops. Remember though, wet clothes look darker so don’t leave the bleach on for too long. Once the desired lightness has been reached, rinse and wash the denim in the washing machine in cold water without soap.
7. Creating vertical snips to make a fringed hem
A fringed hem is a cute and easy way to add texture and style to the humble pair of jeans. Similar to the frayed hem method, you’d first start by cutting away the hemline of the jeans. Then, mark how long you want the fringe to be and where it will end. Next, cut the allocated fabric into vertical strips and fray them out to create the fringed look. You can adjust how much thread to be frayed to adjust the look of your fringed hem. Finally, we recommend sealing the fringe line with a seam to prevent the fraying from extending upwards.