DIY // how to make perfect distressed high-waisted shorts

HAH. I actually can't believe I procrastinated this post for a full year. A full. Year. You guys. I legit started drafting this out A YEAR AGO. Talk about distressed. Want to? I'm distressed that it took that long.

ANYYways, I've made many-a-pair of shorts in my day, and I've also ruined many-a-pair of jeans in the process. I think I've got it pretty much down by now, so I figured I'd make a semi DIY/ craft post of my most recent (except now it was a year ago) distressed denim project. I wanted to do this because I see a lot of tutorials that are just like "CUT THE DENIM THEN USE SANDPAPER!!" Nah man. That don't work. FOLLOW ME, my childreN! A world of old people asking if you got your shorts for half off awaits!

Idk if this will make sense. I hope it does. Because it took a goddamn year to do this. Either way, lets get going. Not gettin' any younger here.

  • Jeans
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers (the sharp, pointed nose ones. not the flat head)
  • A pencil or pen

Now, this first part isn't v complicated but either way, here you go - 

1. Get a pair of jeans you want to cut. If you're thrifting, look for jeans that have zippers 3-4" long and with a low percentage of spandex in the denim.
2. Wash and dry jeans before cutting
3. Put your jeans on, mark where you want to cut them with a felt or fabric pencil. Draw your line at a bit of a diagonal from the outer leg seam down to the inner leg seam and leave the back a bit longer than the front.
4. Take them off, start cutting - one leg at a time (I recommend cutting about a half an inch LONGER than you marked - believe me. you can always cut more.)
5. Fold them over the front, cut the other leg to match
6. Put them back on, see if you need to make any adjustments
7. Repeat steps 3 to 5 as needed
8. Wash and dry. Again.

Now, this is where the real technique comes in. This is the step that distinguishes the little kid who cut up their pants with scissors when mom wasn't looking (just me? okay) from the cool gal who just happened to find super cool, distressed, vintage-esque shorts at the cool-shorts store.
  1. Cut a couple slits in your shorts about a half inch apart where you want them to be distressed
  2. Once you've cut them, turn them inside out and begin distressing from here
  3. You should see two types of threads in the denim - horizontal white threads and vertical blue threads (check the pic above). You want to separate these from each other, leaving the white and removing the blue.
  4. In order to separate the threads, place a pair of closed tweezers between the two white threads closest to the edge of the cut you're working with. Using the tweezers, gently guide the white thread outwards until it's no longer woven between the blue. (Try not to break it, you want to leave as much as this white as possible - this is what creates that signature distressed look)
  5. Once you think your shorts are distressed enough, wash and dry them again. This will loosen up more of the threads and fluff up the white and if you want you can continue distressing from here. 
  6. Repeat until shorts are bomb af.

And there you have it!

 Bonus: here are some other shorts I've made in the past couple years.

 + the final product of this DIY..

Hope that helped, let me know if you have any Q's about anything! Happy craftin'!


  1. Do you have to wash the jeans before cutting?

    1. If you're thrifting them you might want to just because they're used ;) but it's probably not super necessary as far as the fabric goes. If they're new it might be a good idea to as well, just to see how the fabric behaves post-wash. I don't think it should make too much of a difference either way though!

    2. Thank you!! :)