DIY: How To Distress a Denim Jacket

visuals so you’ll be torn to perfection


know what looks kind of strange, even unsettling? A perfectly pristine denim
jacket on a man. It’s like a shirt with every single button done or a
meticulously gelled combover; something about it gives off American Psycho
vibes. On the other hand, a ratty jacket with gaping holes and whiskery frays
appears to have barely survived a bar fight with a raccoon. That’s why we’re
giving you a manual: How to Distress Denim, flawlessly.

Distressed Jeans

on some level, is meant to be distressed. Invented as workwear for gold miners,
jeans have always possessed a rugged charm. From the hypermasculine Marlboro
Cowboy to modern streetwear aficionados, distressed denim takes the gold for
timeless cool. But in order to nail this look, you should know how to distress
jeans the right way. You want tastefully “off-the-cuff” distressed; not
“on-the-run” distressed, like an asylum escapee. We’ll show you exactly how to
make a ripped denim jacket look good.
You’ll Need for DIY Distressed Denim:

  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Box
  • Sand
  • Small
    Clips (for clothes pins)
  • Lint
  • Chalk
  • Foam
    Core (or cardboard)
1: Plan Out Your Distress Pattern

you ever just splattered paint on a blank canvas? Maybe you were seized by
creative fervor, but chances are, your artwork turned out looking crappy. A
lack of preparation is the easiest way to ruin an expensive jean jacket.
how to distress denim jacket mark with chalk

inspiration online. Search Pinterest and Instagram for examples of denim jackets
that call out to you. How heavy is the distressing? Where are the distressed
patches placed?
a Distress Pattern Blueprint with Chalk

plan properly, wear the jacket for a more accurate feel of where you’d like the
distressed marks and holes. Mark these areas with chalk.

to imagine areas of your jacket that might get distressed naturally over time.
Like the shoulders, the collars, sleeve cuffs, and seam ends.

may want larger distressed patches on the shoulders and on the bottom back.
Protip: if you want a hole around your elbow, mark 1-2 inches above and below
the joint.
2: Ways to Distress a Denim Jacket

few different approaches on roughing up your denim to create the perfectly
ripped jean jacket.
Holes and Patches

how to make holes in your jeans and jean jacket. Remember: your box cutter is
your paintbrush, and just like paint on a canvas, it’s permanent. Be deliberate
and precise with your marks. Cut along the areas you had outlined with chalk.
how to distress denim jacket boxcutter
how to distress denim jacket sandpaper
how to distress denim tweezers
how to distress denim jacket patches
on How to Make Holes in Jeans

  • Before
    you cut, add a layer of cardboard beneath the layer of fabric you’re cutting.
    This way, you won’t tear through both layers.
  • With
    your box cutter, cut horizontal lines about 0.5 inches apart from each other.
    For a natural looking tear, cut in a diamond shape, with shorter slices that
    grow gradually longer midway and return to short at the end.
  • Use
    sandpaper to distress your cuts. Try to use coarse grit sandpaper and rub
    horizontally across the cuts until you see a blue fray appearing. These are the
    blue threads separating from the white threads. The short vertical blue fibers
    are the manufacturer’s synthetic dyed threads.
  • Now
    using your tweezers, carefully remove the blue threads away from the white
  • Tease
    out the white horizontal threads, loosening them but being careful not to break
  • Use
    a lint roller to remove any excess string and fabric particles.
Texture and Roughness

slightly lighter distressing, you can also use the sandpaper to scuff up the
jacket without cutting holes. The erosion will give your denim a faded look.
This is best for areas of the jacket that have two sides sewn together, like
the bottom, the collar, or the sleeve cuffs.

how to distress denim jacket scuff up

on How to Scuff Up Denim

  • Pinch
    up the top layer of fabric to separate it from the second layer. Use clips to
    keep the two layers separated.
  • Take
    your scissors and make small snips along the pinched part.
  • You
    can use your fingernails to distress these cuts a bit.
  • Use
    your sandpaper again to distress more.
Up the Seams

along the seams for a complete rough and worn aesthetic. This includes the
edges of your jacket and the pocket seams.
how to distress denim seams
on How to Distress Along the Seams

  • Use
    scissors to cut small pieces off the very ends of your jacket, horizontal to
    the seam. Be careful not to cut the stitching that holds the end pieces
  • Use
    your sandpaper to distress these cuts.
#3: Cold Wash And Dry

your jacket through a cold wash to get rid of any remaining debris. Make sure
to use cold water, as warm or hot water could destroy the newly-torn fabric.
Then run your jacket through a dry cycle so that each fresh and deliberate cut
will get a naturally worn edge.

#4: Tie the Look Together with Accessories

off your personalized distressed denim look with some expressive details, like
lapel pins.
how to distress denim jacket and accessorize with lapel pins
Lapel Pins

that we’ve demonstrated how to distress denim flawlessly and to your liking, go
ahead and try it out. Feel free to post your results in the comments.


Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.