How to Perfectly Distress Any Pair of Jeans Yourself – Denim DIY

I know, I know, I’m late. I didn’t really get into the distressed jeans trend until maybe a month ago, but in my quest to find the perfect distressed jeans, I kept getting frustrated. Jeans with “knee rips” didn’t actually fall on my knees and holes were either too big and looked ridiculous or small and placed in the strangest locations.

Aside from my issue with how my jeans actually looked, I kept noticing that a decent pair of distressed jeans at really any store would be anywhere from $10-$50 more than the “clean” pair. Um $30 extra for jeans that are just going to keep ripping anyway? No, thank you.

In true DIY blogger style, I set out to figure out how to distress a pair of jeans exactly how I wanted them, AND at a price that wouldn’t make me feel guilty when the holes just kept ripping or they ended up getting trashed while I’m running around the streets of New York {because um hello? The subways are not a germaphobe’s friend}.

Here’s what I did:

-Jeans {obviously}
– Scissors sharp enough to cut denim
-Chalk or water soluble fabric marking pen

1. Buy a *cheap* pair of jeans to test whatever distressing pattern you’re trying to do out first. That way if you don’t like where you made the cuts, you’re not destroying your favorite or most expensive pair! I’ve found inexpensive jeans at thrift or consignment stores, but this time I’m using this high-rise pair from Forever 21 {because I live in a city where “thrift” jeans are still $30 and these are cheaper than any jeans I’ve ever found at a thrift store at only $9.90. Plus they come in different colors and washes and I don’t wear distressed jeans enough to justify a $200 pair. If you’re not a fan of these and still looking for an inexpensive pair to cut up, don’t worry, I’ll be linking more down below}!


2. Try the jeans on to figure out where to make your cuts! This is SO important. *DO NOT* try cutting them up before marking or making small incisions on the jeans while they’re on you! Doing this can result in those awkward rips that we’re trying to avoid. If you’re using dark or black jeans like mine, chalk works really well to mark them. Lighter washes or white jeans can be marked with a water soluble fabric marking pen. If you don’t have either of the above, just make a small cut in the center of where you want your rip to be.

3. Make the cuts! I recommend starting with cuts that are 1″-3″ wide to begin with {depending on which part of the jean you’re cutting on} just to test out the width. You can always make the cut wider if it’s too small, but you can’t shrink it once it’s cut!

4. Pull the threads on the cut with a pair of tweezers. This is how you’re going to get that lived in “I actually ripped these myself” type of look. On the edges of the cut, begin pulling down the threads running parallel to the cut to get those strings running across the hole and a larger rip.


5. After you’ve tweezed to your heart’s content, you’re done! Have fun applying this method to denims shorts, skirts, jackets, etc.!


Below I’ve linked some inexpensive jeans that can be distressed guilt-free {they’re all under $20}!



P.S. Want to see how I style these? Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook for more!


  1. September 22, 2017 / 10:44 am

    Who says fashion has to be super expensive? This is one of the reasons why DIYs are a good thing. Very helpful!

  2. September 22, 2017 / 1:27 pm

    Love these tips! I love DIYing jeans for the perfect amount of distressing! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  3. September 22, 2017 / 1:48 pm

    Great tips! This post came right in time. I was just thinking about distressing a pair of my sons jeans.

  4. September 22, 2017 / 5:41 pm

    Awesome tips! Distressed jeans never fit me the right way either! This would make it a lot easier than finding some expensive ones that worked! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Anonymous
    September 22, 2017 / 10:14 pm

    These are awesome tips for distressing my own jeans instead of paying big money to buy them already done…shell

  6. September 25, 2017 / 8:42 pm

    Awesome post. I've had bad luck in buying already stressed jeans, they were really crappy jeans and ripped in other no distressed area to rip. I have to try this.

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