DIY Distressed Denim Jeans

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Distressed jeans are both fashionable and comfortable.
Distressed jeans are both fashionable and comfortable. (Image: Jeans image by Francis Bourgouin from Fotolia.com)

Denim jeans have been a fashion fixture since their invention in 1873. Originally patented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss, denim jeans were originally produced as sturdy work pants that lasted much longer than the thin cotton pants most men wore. Jeans made a shift to the fashion world in the 1970s, as celebrity trends became part of popular culture. Distressed denim jeans, complete with rips, tears and fringe, are still popular today, although they can be costly. Making your own will save you money.

Things You'll Need

  • Washable marker
  • Wooden block
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Bowl
  • Bleach
  • Sponge

Put on your jeans and decide where you want to distress them. Most commercially available distressed jeans are faded and have holes or frayed patches near the knees and hemlines, so use your marker to indicate the spots you want to distress.

Remove your jeans, and lay them on a flat surface, such as a work bench or table. Slide a wooden block inside the leg of the jean, and center it under the first area you are going to work on. The block prevents the backside off the leg from damage as you distress the material.

Rub the medium-grit sandpaper over each spot you have marked, rubbing it back and forth over the jeans to wear away the top layer of denim. The sandpaper slowly unravels the threads and frays the denim, making it appear naturally worn.

Use the fine-grit sandpaper to wear small areas of your jeans, such as the hems and pockets. Work slowly to keep from rubbing through the denim and causing unwanted holes in the pockets.

Fill a small bowl with warm water and add ¼ cup bleach, dipping your sponge in the solution and ringing it out to prevent drips. Blot the sponge over the surface of the jeans, dampening the denim with the bleach. The bleach solution will lighten the jeans and make them appear aged and well-worn.

Wash your jeans repeatedly to soften the denim. The cotton fibers in new jeans are tight and stiff, making them more difficult to distress. The more times you wash your jeans, the softer and more faded they will become.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can distress as many spots on your jeans as you want. However, avoid making too many holes, as the more holes your material has, the shorter the lifespan of your jeans.
  • Don't cut the denim with scissors or a knife. Cutting the denim severs the fibers instead of fraying them and will not produce the worn look you want.

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