The only downside to distressed jeans is your grandparents telling the same old joke every time you go around to visit (“You fall over on the way here, lad?”). Never gets old. Other than that, they are a rebellious statement that can add attitude to a plethora of everyday outfits, from sportswear to a smart casual blazer to their natural pairing of rock ‘n’ roll biker jacket and black boots.
Where once they were only worn by bands such as The Ramones and Nirvana, distressed jeans have transcended subcultures and worked themselves into the DNA of modern menswear, with everyone from Zara and Topman to Saint Laurent and Kanye West’s Yeezy getting in on the look, becoming a key component in the rising streetwear movement, as well as remaining an essential piece in indie circles.
Kurt Cobain, 1993
But notice how we’re not using the word ‘trend’ here. Distressed jeans have surpassed being a here-and-gone piece, as they’re perennially on offer from both high street and high-end brands whatever the season or current collection. They have become a menswear staple and are here to stay.
But as much as it saves time going into a store and buying a pair of pre-distressed jeans, you could actually save a lot of money just looking in your drawers and killing an afternoon destroying an old pair yourself. We bet if you search at home you’ll find some forgotten skinny jeans that can be transformed into a contemporary staple by using a few tools you’ll likely already have.
5 DIY Ways To Respin Your Denim
How To Make Ripped Jeans
First of all place a chopping board behind where you plan to rip, which ensures you won’t damage the surface beneath – there’s nothing to suggest that torn bedsheets are trending. But before you go randomly ripping, use a piece of sandpaper on the target location to loosen up the fibres.
For knee rips, aim a little above the knee when you’re going in with scissors, as tearing too low can make the hole bigger when you walk, as you’ll lean into them. Start with a small incision, then make it bigger by tearing slowly with your fingers. Remember to start small. If you rip too much there’s no going back.
For styling, try an Oxford shirt for some high-low contrast or alternatively lean towards The Clash or Sex Pistols. Ripped jeans work best with a classic leather biker jacket, plain white T-shirt and Dr Marten’s 8 eyelet boots.
What It’s Good For: Rock ‘n’ roll inspired looks
What You Need: A chopping board, sandpaper, fabric scissors
Level Of Difficulty: 5/10
How To Put Patches In Jeans
Whether it’s band artwork, Gucci-esque florals or iconic brand emblems, patches are a more unique way to demonstrate your individuality instead of putting on a worn-out logo tee. And even better, patching is one of the simplest ways to distress your jeans.
Preheat the denim with an iron for 30 seconds then place the patch where you want it. Lay out a thin piece of fabric over the jeans (tea towel or T-shirt) so you don’t accidentally burn the patch. Don’t use steam though, instead go for a dry heat with a regular iron on a hard, reliable surface.
Iron evenly around the patch for 90 seconds, turning your jeans inside out and repeating the technique. Cool for a couple of minutes and check all the edges are secure to your jeans, then wear them with other seventies classics like a corduroy jacket or an oversized jumper.
What It’s Good For: Repairing old denim, repping a logo patch
What You Need: An iron, an iron-on patch, scrap fabric
Level Of Difficulty: 2/10
How To Fray The Hems
To begin, iron your jeans to make sure each leg length is equal, then draw with chalk where you want to fray and slowly cut over that line with fabric scissors (your beard scissors will make it too uneven). After this you’ll see horizontal and vertical threading – pull at the horizontal threads with a tweezer until you’ve reached the level of distressing you want. To further aggravate things, try going over the hem with a cheese grater.
Because you’ve now turned them into slightly cropped trousers, your shoe and sock game needs to be on point. Frayed hems lend themselves to a skater look – we’d recommend pairing them with big sneakers and white socks, with a layered sweat or and coach jacket up top.
What It’s Good For: Cropped jeans that show off your kicks
What You Need: An iron, chalk, fabric scissors, a tweezer. Optional: cheese grater
Level Of Difficulty: 4/10
How To Add Paint Splatters To Jeans
Scotch & Soda
For this look, we’d suggest using a pair of light wash jeans as opposed to darker colours as it looks more authentic and offers a better canvas for the paint. Lay your jeans on old newspapers, put on some rubber gloves and get your chosen paint ready in a container that your hand can fit in. Create a fist and flick the paint onto the jeans by rapidly opening your hand in their direction. For bigger splodges, flick close to the denim. For multiple, smaller speckles, flick further away.
Your jeans really do say it all here, so keep the rest of your outfit fairly minimal with a white Oxford shirt or neutral sweatshirt and Converse hi-tops.
What It’s Good For: Adding individuality to an otherwise simple look, or, faux artist vibes
What You Need: Newspapers, rubber gloves, a bucket, paint
Level Of Difficulty: 3/10
How To Bleach Your Jeans
The messiest of all DIY denim. Lay out newspapers where you’ll be bleaching, which would ideally be near your washing machine (so you can throw them in straight after). Jeans will bleach better if they’re damp first, so give them a quick dip in your sink before donning the rubber gloves for protection. Pour a low solution bleach into a bucket. Dip in an old denim patch first to make sure you get the result you want.
To lighten your jeans completely, plunge the denim in the bucket and leave for 20 minutes, moving them around now and again to allow the solution to bleach evenly. If you want a subtle, streaky look, use a paintbrush and dab. Either way, lay your jeans on the newspaper for 5 minutes then rinse them off in the sink, followed by a cycle in the washing machine with no detergent and no other clothes. Air them outside to dry and you’re done.
You could hark back to the ‘60s with this vintage design and go full Midnight Cowboy with a brown suede jacket, revere collar shirt and Chelsea boots. Or play it streetwear with some sneakers and a tee or hoodie.
What It’s Good For: Dramatic, contrasting denim
What You Need: Newspapers, rubber gloves, a bucket, low solution bleach. Optional: a paintbrush
Level Of Difficulty: 7/10