How to Distress Your Jeans in 8 Easy Steps

Make an old pair feel like new again with this easy, step-by-step DIY tutorial.

As much as we love new purchases, it's our well-worn, broken-in pieces that tend to hold a soft spot in our hearts as well as our wardrobes. Jeans that have molded to our bodies over time can feel almost as cozy as sweats, but with everyday wear comes the inevitable: tears and roughed-up patches, which cause us to wonder if it's finally time to part ways...or if it's something a DIY project can quickly fix.

As it turns out, it's easy to figure out how to distress jeans at home. And with a few key tools, like a box cutter, tweezers, and a safety pin, you'll be able to transform your old pants into something celebrity-approved. Today's hottest distressed denim designs — which come from brands like Miu Miu and Balenciaga — could easily cost you upwards of $1,000. But a revamped version of something you bought long ago? Well, that's essentially free.

Person walking outside wearing distressed jeans and a black cropped top

Getty Images

We've got the full tutorial, ahead, which will take you step-by-step and show you how to distress your jeans at home. Now, when people ask where you got your look, you can tell them, "Oh, these? They're actually custom."

01 of 09

What You'll Need

Things you'll need to distress jeans, including tweezers, chalk, box cutter and safety pin
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  • A pair of jeans you want to distress
  • Chalk
  • Tweezers
  • Box cutter
  • Safety pin
02 of 09

Step 1

How to distress jeans - using chalk to make marks on where to cut
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  • First, slip on the jeans you want to distress.
  • Use chalk to roughly mark the area you want to distress. For a rather impressive hole in the knee area, it's best to start cutting two inches above the knee and two inches below.
03 of 09

Step 2

Distressing jeans - placing a rolled up magazine in the leg to protect the bottom layer
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  • Insert a magazine into the leg, which will prevent the box cutter from slicing through both layers of fabric. You can use cardboard or anything you think is thick enough to act as a buffer.
  • Firmly place the item under the cutting area.
04 of 09

Step 3

A box cutter being used to distress the knee of jeans
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  • Use the box cutter to start slicing at the line you marked.
05 of 09

Step 4

Distressing jeans using a box cutter
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  • Continue to slice in horizontal strips. Make each strip about 1/2 inch to an inch apart. The cuts don't need to be equal in length or in width.
  • For a natural-looking rip, start the hole with short slices, gradually create longer ones midway, and end with a short cut (so that it looks like a diamond, versus a perfect rectangle).
06 of 09

Step 5

Using a safety pin to pull threads at the knee to distress jeans
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  • Flip the first strip of material over and individually tease out each white thread (these are long woven strings that run from side to side) with the sharp point of a safety pin.
  • Carefully continue to loosen and extract each white thread without breaking them.
07 of 09

Step 6

Using a tweezer to distress jeans at the knee
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  • Once you've teased out enough of the long white strands, you'll notice that a frayed fringe will have formed. Use your tweezers to pluck out and remove those short vertical threads.
  • When you're done, what's left of the strip will be a cluster of white threads running horizontally — the beginnings of your ripped hole.
08 of 09

Step 7

Jeans that are distressed at the knee
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  • Repeat steps five and six for each strip.
  • For variety, try leaving a small strip of denim material untouched and use sandpaper to fray the edges.
09 of 09

Step 8

A person wearing distressed jeans with holes and rips at the knee and thigh
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The finished look should be distressed pair of jeans. Pull them on and wear them out — and be prepared for lots of compliments.

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