Distressing denim is definitely my favorite DIY project. Because I have distressed almost all of my shorts and jeans myself, I have had quite a few requests to show how you can shred your jeans too!

My latest project were these shark-bite style shorts:

I started with this thrifted pair of super baggy jeans.

(not gonna lie, they were a vibe on their own, but they were swallowing me)

Normally, I choose a pair of jeans that have a tighter fit because they will loosen up after you shred them. Even though these are big on me, I copped them because I really like the grayish-deep blue color that I don’t see very often for jeans. This is also why I decided to turn them into shorts instead of just shredding them down the front.

SO, now to dive into the process:

First, I tried them on and marked where I want the main cut (or longest part) to be by pinning the center front of one leg with a safety pin.

Then, I measured straight down to the hem and noted what the measurement was.

Mine was just below 28 inches, so next I laid my measuring tape at that same measurement on the outer edge of the hem and measured straight up the side seam and marked it with a pin. Make sure to only pin through the front panel of the jeans so you can try them on while they are still marked!

I then did the same thing along the inner leg seam.

This made a guide to cut the straight new hemline.

But first, I like to try them on one more time to make sure I still like the placement.

I was happy with this, so I marked the other leg using the same measurements and cut along the lower edge of my pins while making sure to press both top and bottom layers flat to ensure the cuts are as clean as possible.


You can stop here to have a chill pair of cut-offs, obviously I did not do that this time, but that’s why I think this process is so fun– you can customize it exactly as you want!

The next thing I did was mark where I wanted my distressed patches/rips to be:

I like to use safety pins so my marks stay in place and also so I don’t have to draw directly on the shorts. I pin one horizontally where I want a slit or two pins stacked horizontally if I want a distressed patch (height), and I pin vertically where I want the slit to end (width). You can use whatever method that you know and understand, but marking this way is clear and easy for me to interpret!

Left: pre cut // Right: post cut

I fold the shorts so the safety pin is at the tip the fold, and cut as close to a 90º angle as possible– this prevents too many unwanted loose threads from fraying later on.

Once I unfolded these, I can see that I cut at a slight angle, so I cleaned up the slit by cutting the loose threads that are forming a point so that I am left with a clean edge.

Be sure to cut as close to the horizontal threads as you can! These threads need to be left in tact so we can pull them out and form floating threads across the slit or patch as shown below. The best tools for this are either tweezers or a seam ripper.

I have been working from the inside of the shorts so far because it is easier to see the weave of the denim. DIY distressing works best on traditional denim that doesn’t have spandex because the horizontal threads are commonly white, and the vertical threads are blue.

I pulled out as many threads as I could while keeping them in tact, but it gets harder to pull them out of the weave the further you go.

Similar to when I cut the vertical blue threads to clean up the first cut, I repeated this again and trimmed them off while staying very close to the still-woven horizontal threads.

This part can be tedious depending on how big of a patch you want to create!

When I finished that slit, I moved to the other leg. However, I made the mistake of cutting two slits too close together and my upper one ripped! Not what I intended, but I was going for a shredded look anyway, so we’re rolling with it.

I cleaned up that slit in the same way I did the other side, and moved on to the smaller patches on the front and back left pocket.

These are created using the same method, but I just make smaller folds and pull the vertical threads through and trim the excess continuously until I reach the height I want.

I like to try them on as I go to see if I like where they’re at or if I want to add/make changes.

BUT, again, going with the flow because my second slit ripped on when I put these on! Still unbothered because I am ripping them on purpose, soo what’s a few accidental rips?

I simply cleaned up the rip by trimming the edges to have a “shark-bite” look.

I didn’t document this, but I also took my seam ripper and ripped up the top of the front and back pockets, and the waistband, just to add to the overall distressed look.

And we’re done!

I have not washed the shorts since distressing them, but as you wash them they will continue to fray and look more “naturally ripped.”

This is the basic technique I have used to shred up all of my old or thrifted jeans:

…or you can use the same method to cut a new raw hemline if you’re a shorty like me!

Time to get busy shredding! ❤

Thank you Clarissa for helping me take the before pics!!

With love always,


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