DIY Distressed Denim

Like a fresh haircut or a new pair of hiking boots, jeans often look better with time. To immediately create that lived-in style or make a bold statement with lots of cuts and holes, follow this DIY guide to distressing your denim. 

Rough & Tumble:

1. Choose your jeans. 100% cotton is best.

2. Collect your materials:

- Razor blade or sharp packing knife

- Sandpaper or sandpaper block, with coarse grade of 400-600

- Cheese grater

- Thick cardstock and pencil

3. Decide how distressed you want them to look. All cut up or simply well worn-in?

4. Pick the spots you want to distress. The knees? Thighs? Back pockets? Coin pocket?

5. If doing the knees, slip them on and make a pencil mark where your knee hits, then make pencil marks on the boundaries of the hole you want to create.

6. To protect the back of the jeans, place cardstock (folded in half to make it extra thick) into pant leg.

7. Rough up denim with sand paper by rubbing in a horizontal direction.

8. To make a hole, use a razor blade to slice horizontal lines, about a half-inch apart. You can make a more circular-shaped hole by gradually shortening the slits as you move toward the top and bottom perimeter.

9. To distress the seams along the legs, rub with sandpaper until you reach desired look.

10. To distress the back pockets or coin pocket, use the cardstock as a barrier within the pocket, and cut slits with razor. An alternative is to use a cheese grater to roughen it up.

11. When finished, throw them in the washer and dryer, or lay out to air dry. The white fibers will have loosened up, creating a naturally worn-in look.

Bleach & Patch:

For the bold and brave, you can add some contrast and dimension by cutting up old denim, bleaching it, then sewing on the patches.

1. Bundle each piece of denim with rubber bands as if tie-dying

2. Submerge in a 1:1 ratio of bleach and water for 15 minutes.

3. Wearing rubber gloves, remove and ring out the denim patches and lay out to dry. 

Invite some friends over and get creative with your projects, the results are a one-of-a-kind pair of jeans. Wear your new vintage-esque duds with a graphic tee from just keep livin, such as Alrightx3, which has a distressed look to match your laid-back style.

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