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How to Fray Jean Shorts

Every summer, when the temperatures rise, you feel like packing your jeans away because who wants to wear denim in hot weather? But if you want to keep the style of your favorite jeans without getting heatstroke, you can also turn old jeans into stylish jeans shorts. Just check out this guide on how to fray jean shorts!

Some of the most popular ways to fray jeans shorts include using a razor or craft knife to score the fabric or slicing the denim with scissors or pinking shears. Other common techniques include using a cheese grater or sandpaper to wear away the fabric and fray the shorts. Tweezers or a seam ripper can perform detailed fraying designs as well.

In this article, you will find out what makes frayed jean shorts so stylish. You will discover nine ways to fray your denim shorts. Finally, you will learn tips for how to fray jean shorts quickly!

What are Frayed Jean Shorts?

What are Frayed Jean Shorts

Frayed jean shorts have holes, distressed patches, or ragged hemlines created by abrading or cutting some of the threads inside the denim fabric. The frayed-jean look has remained popular for decades, first as a rule-breaking stance against the establishment and later as part of the broader fashion industry.

One of the reasons jeans fray so well is that denim fabric uses two different colors of cotton threads. The white and blue threads contrast nicely when you fray the jeans, making the distressed patch or hem really pop.

You can find jean shorts so frayed that they seem like swiss cheese or jean shorts that remain whole but have a gently frayed hem of soft, fuzzy white threads.

Check out these quick tips for getting the best results out of your frayed shorts:

  • Try to work on non-stretch denim shorts or jeans. Jeans with a lot of elastic fibers do not fray either.
  • Think about how see-through you will make certain areas of the shorts before you start fraying. For example, you can safely put a frayed patch on top of a pocket because the pocket liner behind the frayed patch will keep your shorts from becoming too risque.
  • Remember that once you start the fraying process, the jean shorts will continue to fray more over time. Holes will get larger and frayed hems may grow deeper as more threads wear away.

How to Fray Jean Shorts: 9 DIY Methods

How to Fray Jean Shorts

You can fray jean shorts using many common household tools like scissors, sandpaper, or a box cutter.

1. Razor

Using a razor is one of the most popular methods for fraying jeans shorts because this tool allows you to work quickly and precisely. You can use several tools with a razor blade, such as a craft knife, a box cutter, or a rotary cutter. You just want a tool that can cut a straight line with ease.

  1. If you want to turn a whole pair of jeans into shorts, begin by marking the desired length of the hem and drawing a chalk line across that point on both legs.
  2. Use sharp scissors to slice away the lower jean leg.
  3. Now that you have jean shorts, decide where you would like to see fraying. This method works especially well for frayed slashes within the body of the shorts, though you can also use it on hems.
  4. Insert a thick piece of cardboard or a thin plastic cutting board inside the leg of your jeans, so you do not slice through to the other side of the shorts.
  5. Place a ruler where you would like to cut the first slash.
  6. Hold the razor cutter firmly in your hand and draw it along the length of the ruler, slicing through the denim.
  7. Place the ruler a half-inch below that point, and slice another line.
  8. Repeat this for two more slashes.
  9. Set aside the cutter and use your fingers to rub along the top and bottom of the sliced edges.
  10. Finally, place the cut shorts into the washer and run them through a full wash and dry cycle. This will loosen the threads along all the cut edges and create a fluffy, frayed look in that whole area of the shorts!

2. Scissors

If you do not have many crafting tools at home, you can also create frayed jeans shorts using nothing but a pair of sharp scissors. Scissors do not give you as much precision as a small razor cutter, but you may find them easier to use because they have the power to cut through tough denim.

  1. Try on your jeans and decide how short you want to cut them. Mark this point with chalk. Take the jeans off and use a ruler to draw a straight line across both legs at this point.
  2. Using your sharp scissors, cut along this line, removing both lower legs.
  3. Next, decide where you want to fray the jeans. You can use scissors to snip straight-line slashes, rub the cut edges, and create a frayed patch on the body of the garment. But you can use jeans more easily to create a frayed hem around the bottom of your jean shorts.
  4. Open up your scissors and hold them carefully so that your fingers do not touch the blades. Have you ever sliced open an Amazon package using open scissors? You want to hold the scissors in the same way now.
  5. Hold a portion of the hem stretched up from the table with your hand, creating a straight line along the cut edge.
  6. Use the flat, open edge of one of the scissor blades to scrape down the length of the cut hem on the shorts. Repeat this motion five to ten times on that section of the hem.
  7. As you gain confidence, you will find this scraping motion quite easy and work more quickly.
  8. You will see a lot of small ragged threads popping up along the edge as you do this.
  9. Finally, to get the true fluffy, ragged look of a frayed edge, put the shorts in your washer. Run them through a normal cycle and then put them in the dryer.

3. Pinking Shears

Pinking shears give you a gentle, naturally frayed style at the hem of your jean shorts. This special type of scissors has triangular teeth along each blade. Cutting fabric with pinking shears slows down fraying compared to slicing it with regular scissors because the serrated blades cut the fabric on the bias.

You can order pinking shears online or find them at any sewing store. Better yet, ask your grandma if she has a pair stashed away in a sewing kit!

  1. If you want to fray jean shorts that already have short legs, find the original hem on the legs of your jean shorts. Draw a chalk line just above this hem at the point where you want the new frayed hem to go.
  2. Or mark where you want to shorten the legs if you want to turn full-length jeans into shorts.
  3. Use a ruler to draw a straight line across both legs at this point.
  4. Hold the pinking shears firmly and snip straight down the chalk line. This will cut away either the hem of the shorts or the lower legs of the jeans. You will see small triangular shapes along the side of the cut denim.
  5. The pinking-shear edge will not fray as quickly as an edge cut with a straight blade. This means that your frayed hem will have a more natural look after you place it in the washer as if you had allowed the jeans to gradually fray over time just from wear!
  6. As the final step, put the shorts in the washer and dryer for a normal cycle. After this, when you take them out of the dryer, you will find that the serrated cut does not show up anymore. Instead, you will see a hem of fluffy white frayed threads!

4. Tweezers

If you want carefully curated frayed designs in your jean shorts, you may want to slow down the process and use tweezers to create a precise shape or pattern in your design.

You will need scissors to get you started on this method, though, so it’s really a tweezers/scissors technique!

Also, this technique works best inside the body of the garment, so you may want to prep the jeans or shorts by cutting off the legs or hem before you begin.

  1. Decide where you want the frayed patches to go. If you want a particular shape, you may want to draw an outline with chalk.
  2. Within that section, draw three or four lines parallel to the hem of the shorts. In other words, the lines should cross the path horizontally. Make each line half an inch above the previous line.
  3. Use sharp scissors to snip across each chalk line.
  4. Loop a finger under one of the slits, lifting the half-inch section of denim so you can easily see the cut edges.
  5. As you look closely at this small section of denim, you will see blue threads and white threads.
  6. Use your tweezers to gently tug out one or two of the blue threads. The first time you do this, it will take some work, but as you pull out more blue threads, it gets easier and quicker.
  7. Keep drawing out the blue threads until you have nothing but the horizontal white threads left in that section.
  8. Lift another loop of denim between your scissor slits and repeat this process until you have removed the blue threads and have a frayed white patch in your shorts!

5. Sandpaper

One of the simplest ways to distress jean shorts and create a frayed edge on the hem is to use coarse sandpaper. Denim has a sturdy weave composed of durable cotton fibers, so you can safely wear away a portion of the top threads without destroying the fabric.

You can easily take this method too far, so try a little and then pause to assess your results.

  1. Start with a folded piece of 60 grit sandpaper. This coarse paper could rub a hole straight through the denim, so start slowly!
  2. Insert a thick piece of cardboard inside the shorts, so you have a protective backing behind the part of the denim you want to fray.
  3. If you want a frayed patch on the body of the garment, such as over a pocket, swipe the sandpaper vertically down the length of that section of denim. Repeat this ten to fifteen times; you will quickly start to see fraying or even a hole in the denim!
  4. If you want to create a frayed hem, slice away the sewed hem from the bottom of the short. Then, with your piece of cardboard behind the denim, simply rub the sandpaper along the cut edge. You’ll instantly see frayed white threads as you work.

6. Cheesegrater

One of the quickest ways to fray jean shorts is to use a cheesegrater. This method offers fast results but is also one of the more risky techniques you can try, both because you have to make sure you do not accidentally grate your fingers and because the many sharp edges on the grater could quickly put holes in the denim.

  1. Fold up a piece of cardboard to go inside each leg of the jean shorts.
  2. Hold the greater angled parallel to the shorts.
  3. Scrape it down vertically toward the hem of the shorts in quick, sharp motions.
  4. If you want to fray the hem of the shorts, scrape the greater sideways along the hem instead.
  5. Rub the denim with your fingers periodically to make sure you have not frayed it too much!
  6. When you like the worn-out look of your shorts, go ahead and put them in the washer and dryer to let the friction of the laundry process finish fluffing all the threads you wore away with the grater.

If you find the cheesegrater too powerful, you can also use the kind of stiff wire brush used to clean grills or refinish furniture.

7. Seam Ripper

You can make quick slashes, tears, and frayed edges in your jean shorts using a seam ripper. This handy tool comes in most sewing kits and features a small hooked blade mounted on the paint-brush-shaped handle. You can get large or small seam rippers–the size does not matter so long as you can comfortably grip the handle.

  1. To use a seam ripper to fray the hem of jean shorts, start by carefully cutting away the original sewn hem on the bottom of the shorts. The best tool for this is a pair of sharp scissors. Cut as close to the stitching line as you can to keep a straight, even new hem.
  2. Next, put a piece of wood or cardboard inside each leg of the shorts.
  3. Hold the seam ripper firmly and use the sharp inner edge of its curved blade from the inside of the hem to create short, quick cuts along the hem. You want these cuts about half an inch long and spaced apart by about half an inch.
  4. Once you have a row of short vertical tears around the hem, use your fingers to gently unweave the blue threads from the white threads, pulling out some blue threads to leave a frayed white hem.
  5. Wash the shorts and run them through the dryer to finish the look.

8. Without Washing

You can fray your jean shorts without washing using the razor blade, scissor, or seam ripper methods. Indeed, one of the quickest ways to get that classic worn-out look is to put your jeans in the washer after using any fraying technique, but you do not have to take this step!

If you prefer to wait until you have a full load of laundry to run through, or if you just prefer the more eco-conscious approach of not washing your jean shorts extra times, you can skip the washing and drying process. Your jeans will continue to fray and look more natural over time as you wear them. The washer just speeds up this process.

9. Dryer

The most hands-off way to fray jean shorts is to put them in the dryer with some special props. The downside of this method is that you cannot control exactly where the fraying happens on the shorts. The upside is that it is quick and does not take you any special time or effort!

  • For a gentle distressing, throw your jeans in the dryer with a pair of clean, wet tennis shoes.
  • For a more rugged look, try adding a pumice stone to the dryer with the jean shorts.
  • If you want a fluffy frayed hem on your shorts, slice off the original hem with scissors. Then toss the jeans into the dryer with some wool dryer balls.
  • Are you worried about shrinking your jeans? If you have a cool dry or tumble dry setting, try using that!

How to Fray Denim Shorts Quickly?

How to Fray Denim Shorts Quickly

The quickest way to fray denim shorts is to use a cheese grater or sandpaper to abrade the denim. This works especially well to quickly fray the hem of the shorts if you would like a fuzzy, fluffy white edge.

Most of the methods used to fray denim don’t take too long, though. For example, you can use the razor blade method in just fifteen or twenty minutes.

The only really detailed method that may take a bit longer is the tweezer technique of pulling out the vertical blue threads to leave a clean line of white threads in the “frayed” hole.

How to Distress Levi Jean Shorts

You can distress Levi’s jean shorts using any of the methods in this article, including using scissors, pinking shears, or a razor blade. Levi’s jeans still contain denim, so ultimately, you can treat them in the same way as any other jean shorts.

The only difference is that brand-name jean shorts cost more, so you may want to consider practicing your technique on a pair of cheap denim shorts bought from a big-box store or even at a thrift store. That way, you will feel confident when you start fraying your expensive Levi’s shorts!

How to Make Jeans Into Frayed Shorts

How to Make Jeans Into Frayed Shorts

One of the best ways to recycle old jeans is to turn them into frayed shorts! Maybe you got grass stains on the knees of the jeans, or perhaps you don’t like the cut of the legs. Either way, you can follow these simple steps to quickly turn the jeans into denim shorts.

  1. Try on the jeans and decide what length you want for the shorts. Mark this on the side of the leg using chalk.
  2. Take off the jeans and use a ruler to draw a straight line across both legs at this point. You can even measure from the waistline down to the line on each leg to make sure you have the same length on both sides.
  3. Next, use sharp scissors to cut through both layers of the pant leg at once, slicing off the entire leg at your chalk line.
  4. If you want to fray the new hem of your jean shorts, you can use a method like a razor blade, sandpaper, or cheesegrater technique to make the cut edge soft and fluffy.

How to Stop Frayed Jean Shorts From Fraying

The best way to stop jean shorts from fraying is to hand wash them in cool water and hang them up to air dry. The biggest wear and tear on a pair of jeans or denim shorts come from the regular laundering process.

This is because both the washing machine and dryer use friction as part of the cleaning process. Every time another garment rubs on the jeans in the basin of the washing machine, the denim wears away a little more and frays just a little more.

You can avoid all that friction by handwashing your shorts.

How to Wash Frayed Shorts

The best way to wash frayed shorts is by hand or on a delicate cycle in the washing machine.

  • If you have the time, handwash your frayed shorts by soaking them in a basin of cool water and one teaspoon of laundry detergent. Let them sit for about twenty minutes, then rinse them under cool running water. Roll up the wet garment in a clean towel to press out a lot of the water, and then hang them up to air dry.
  • If you do not have the time for handwashing, consider washing the shorts in a delicate washing machine setting. Avoid placing them in the dryer and hang them up to air dry after this.
  • Finally, if you absolutely have to wash your shorts in a regular laundry setting with other clothing, try putting the shorts in a lingerie bag with a zipper. This will mitigate some of the friction as it spins through the washing machine and dryer.


You can fray jean shorts using sharp tools like scissors, pinking shears, razor blades, and seam rippers. You can also abrade the denim using a cheese grater or sandpaper to create a frayed hem on the shorts. These methods work best if you wash and dry the shorts after using the fraying technique.

The best way to care for frayed shorts is to either hand wash them or wash them in the machine using a delicate setting. This avoids placing lots of friction on the delicate, threadbare frayed sections of the shorts.