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How do I Distress Jeans?

L.R. Ferguson
L.R. Ferguson

Distressed jeans are a style of denim that can add edge to any outfit and can create a standout look even when paired with basic wardrobe pieces. There are many elements to the distressed style, but the theme of the look is denim jeans that have been ripped, torn, faded in color or bleached. Distressed jeans that are sold in stores often cost just as much as pair of jeans that are in perfect condition, but there is a way to avoid paying for this designer look. You can distress your own jeans by bleaching or using materials to fade their color, by tearing and fraying the denim and by adding detail to them.

To distress jeans, begin with a worn pair of denim jeans that you already have. If the jeans are still in good shape, you can wash them several times to soften the material, or for a faster method, you can bleach the material to weaken the denim. To bleach jeans, lay them on top of plastic trash bags or towels that are placed on a solid surface. While wearing gloves, dip a sponge or a towel in a bowl of bleach, wring or squeeze out the excess bleach, and sweep or dab it on areas of the jeans that you want to distress. After the beach has been applied to jeans, you should run them through a cold wash cycle without any other clothes, then let them dry thoroughly before proceeding with other distressing methods.

A model in distressed jeans.
A model in distressed jeans.

If you don’t want to distress jeans with bleach, you can also achieve a worn and distressed look by rubbing abrasive materials against the denim. As with bleaching jeans, fading the denim should be done before any ripping or tearing. The best materials to use are sandpaper or a rough pumice stone. Rub either object against the jeans until you see the dye of the jeans begin to fade. To achieve a natural distressed look, focus on areas that most likely would be worn down over time, such as the knees and thighs of the jeans, and do this until you have distressed the areas of the denim to your liking.

You can use bleach to distress your jeans.
You can use bleach to distress your jeans.

Next, ripping and shredding areas of the denim is another way to further distress jeans. If you want holes in your distressed jeans, avoid cutting them directly into the jeans, because this can look unnatural. Instead, use a razor or the blade of a pair of scissors to rip tears into the jeans. Over time, or with a little gentle tugging, these tears can open up to form holes that look frayed and more realistically distressed. You also can use the razor or scissor blades to fray the front and back pockets of the jeans or the edges of the hem of the pants to add more detail to the distressed look.

In addition, to distress jeans even more, you can add color to your look by splattering paint on the denim. To do this, lay your jeans on a plastic bag or towel outside or in an open area that can be safely used. After choosing the paint colors that you want to use, pour a small amount of the paint into separate containers and dip a paintbrush in them so that the bristles of the brush are heavily coated. Standing above the jeans, splatter the paint onto the denim by flinging the brush in a downward motion over the denim. You can use as much or as little paint as you want, but using less paint will ensure that you don’t cover up the other details of your distressed jeans.

You can further distress jeans by finding other ways to alter the look of the denim. For instance, ripping off a pocket can add to the distressed look, as will creating large rips in the legs of the jeans. Whatever methods you use to distress jeans you already have, you will end up creating a unique look at a cheaper price than buying a pair of jeans in this designer style.

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    • A model in distressed jeans.
      By: lithian
      A model in distressed jeans.
    • You can use bleach to distress your jeans.
      By: design56
      You can use bleach to distress your jeans.