Since the 80s, one of the top denim trends has been the iconic ripped jeans look. Everyone from celebrities to teenagers to cool moms can rock this casual, free-spirited style! But since buying ripped jeans can get pricey, you may want to learn how to rip jeans at home before embracing the casual denim vibe.
The best way to rip jeans at home is to outline the area with chalk and then use scissors, a razor, or a knife to create a small incision in the blue thread before ripping out the unwanted strands. Other tools such as sandpaper, pumice stones, or a nail file can also help create a distressed and ripped look. Ripped jeans can have simple frayed cuffs, white-thread patches at any point in the legs, or even 80s-style gaping knees.
In this article, you will learn all about ripped jeans styles. You will find eight easy ways to rip jeans at home. Finally, you will find tips for how to wear your ripped jeans!
- What are Ripped Jeans?
- Can You Rip Jeans Yourself?
- How to Rip Jeans At Home: 8 DIY Methods
- How to Make Ripped Jeans Without Ruining Them
- How to Rip Jeans and Leave the White Threads
- How to Rip Jeans 80s Style
- How to Make Rips in Black Jeans
- How to Cut Holes in Jeans Knees
- How to Make Ripped Jeans at the Bottom
- What to Wear with Ripped Jeans
- What Age Should You Stop Wearing Ripped Jeans?
- What is the Best Way to Rip Jeans?
What are Ripped Jeans?
Ripped jeans sport obvious holes or gaps where only the white threads remain. You can find many different styles of ripped jeans, including jeans with ragged cuffs, jeans with torn-out knees, or jeans with artfully distressed patches. You may also see this type of jeans called distressed jeans.
The concept of ripped jeans started in the punk subculture of the 1970s. The heavy metal era of the 1980s also adopted ripped jeans as part of its extremely rough apparel featuring lots of black leather and metal made popular by that subculture. The 1990s and early 2000s saw ripped jeans adopted by the grunge movement and the punk rock movement.
Big stars like Madonna also did a lot to popularize ripped jeans. At first, wearing ripped, sliced, or distressed jeans served as something of a political statement – a way of defying the established trend and protesting the status quo.
Though the big stars and musical performers who wore ripped jeans originally did so as an angry protest. So many fans followed suit that jeans brands quickly began to sell pre-ripped jeans! This made ripped jeans mainstream and much less provocative.
By now, wearing ripped jeans has more of a laid-back connotation than a hard-core vibe in most cases.
Can You Rip Jeans Yourself?
You can easily rip jeans yourself with nothing but your hands and a pair of scissors or with a pair of tweezers and careful attention to detail. It all depends on what kind of ripped-jean style you want to create!
That said, following a few basic steps can help you achieve the look you want without accidentally damaging the denim of your jeans. Denim has a pretty tough structure for a type of fabric and can withstand ripping and fraying. It wears super well and can last a long time because of this.
Understanding a little bit about how denim is made will help you deconstruct it for your ripped jeans.
First, most denim contains almost 100% pure cotton fibers in its threads. This makes it breathable and absorbent and pretty easy to fray or rip. Modern stretch denim may contain 1% to as much as 5% of elastic fibers in the threads.
Stretch jeans do not rip and fray as well as 100% cotton jeans. The tiny elastic fibers tend to snap and then curl up.
The second thing to note about denim before you start ripping is the way its threads weave together. Denim uses something called a twill weave. This means that the individual threads in the weave look diagonal because each weft thread passes over two warp threads on the surface of the material.
On top of its unique, sturdy twill weave, traditional denim also uses two different colors of threads: indigo and white. The indigo threads give jeans that classic blue-grey color. When you start ripping, you often carefully snip or tear out these blue threads and leave just the white threads, creating an authentically worn look.
Finally, you can find a huge range of different styles for ripped jeans. Before you dive in, you may want to select a few pictures of the type of rips you like best. That way, you won’t tear out the knees of your jeans and then realize you wanted a series of parallel rips up the thighs instead!
How to Rip Jeans At Home: 8 DIY Methods
You can rip jeans at home using a few simple tools you probably already have on hand, like chalk, scissors, a knife, a razor, or even a cheesegrater.
Before you attempt any of these methods, wash and dry your jeans. This will make it easier to rip and cut the individual cotton yarns inside the denim.
If possible, spread out your jeans on a flat workspace such as a table or a hard floor. Finally, draw an outline of where you want to rip your jeans using a piece of chalk. The chalk will brush away easily after you finish!
1. Scissors and Ripping
One of the simplest but roughest ways to rip your jeans is to use scissors and your own hands.
- As always, start by marking the rip site with chalk. You may find it difficult to stick exactly inside your outline when ripping by hand and pulling out threads, but this will help you stay roughly in that area.
- Next, make a small cut on your chalk outline using a pair of sharp scissors. If you want a particular shape, such as a square or circular tear, you may want to make a few more snips around the outline.
- Next, work your fingers inside one of the cuts so that you can pull hard on the denim, tearing it further.
- At this point, you can either leave a tear in the denim or tear it in another direction to create a loose flap of fabric hanging down from the rip.
- Alternatively, you can start with that first tear and then use your fingers or tweeze to pluck out the blue threads, leaving a layer of white threads inside the hole.
One of the easiest ways to rip your jeans is to use a razor to distress and weaken the outer threads in the weave of the fabric. This makes it easy to create small rips or tears in the denim. This method works especially well if you want many small tears or distressed patches in your jeans.
Though you can create artful rips wherever you like in your jeans, some people like to focus on areas where jeans wear out naturally, like the knees and cuffs.
- Start by marking out where you want to place the rips in your jeans. You can try on the jeans for this step if you want, but obviously, you will need to take them back off before using a razor on them!
- Spread your jeans onto a flat surface. Be sure you place a piece of thick cardboard inside the leg to avoid accidentally cutting through to the back of the jeans leg as you work.
- Use a cheap disposable razor to scrape over the surface of the fabric where you want to place the rip. This will wear away the blue weft threads in these places.
- Once the threads weaken, you can rip them by hand or snip them with tiny scissors, depending on how rough you want the hole to look.
- Alternatively, you can also weaken the denim enough to simply tear a hole into it if you prefer a rugged look.
Another great way to distress jeans before creating rips or slits in them is to use sandpaper. You can follow all the steps laid out in the razor method, simply replacing a razor with sandpaper used to weaken the blue threads on the surface of the fabric.
Or you can use sandpaper in conjunctions with any of the other methods in this section:
- Use sandpaper on the ragged edge of a ripped or sliced hole in jeans. This will soften the remaining white threads, creating a worn, fuzzy edge around the hole.
- Use sandpaper to wear away some of the blue threads and then use tweezers to rip the rest out, leaving only white threads in the hole.
- Use fine-grit sandpaper to make very light scuffings decoratively around the hole in your ripped jeans or large grit sandpaper to tear the threads of the denim.
4. Pumice Stone
Pumice stones offer another way to distress and rip your jeans. One of the most common methods jeans manufacturers use to finish jeans is stone washing. This process involves placing jeans in a big drum full of water and pumice stones, which pummel and rub on the denim as the drum turns.
You will want to use a pumice stone in a more targeted motion, but it makes a handy and easy-to-hold way to roughen up the surface of your jeans.
This method works especially well on hems or in sections where you want a big hole worn through the denim.
- Mark the place you want to rip your jeans.
- Put a layer of something solid behind that section, like a piece of cardboard.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Hold the pumice stone firmly and scuff it back and forth over the surface of the denim. If you want a hole worked all the way through, focus on plugin the stone toward a center point. If you want to rip the hem of the jeans, use downward dragging motions from about an inch above the hem in quick, repeated motions.
- Once you see the blue threads beginning to wear away, you can keep going to work all the way through and create a hole, or you can stop and leave yourself with a frayed spot in your jeans.
5. Nail File
You can use a nail file to create small, carefully paced rips or distressed patches in your jeans. This smaller tool allows you to fray the fabric with more precision than something like a piece of sandpaper.
- Mark the section you want to distress and place a protective barrier behind it.
- Use the nail file to rub briskly in quick horizontal strokes across that section.
- Once you start to see the white threads beneath the frayed wear of the fabric, stop using the nail file.
- Use your fingers to snap a few of the white threads for a super distressed look, or use tweezers to remove any extra remaining blue threads.
It may sound risky, but you can also use a cheese grater to rip your jeans! You should probably buy a cheap grater for this process, rather than using the one you keep in your kitchen to make mac and cheese.
However, using a grater may not offer the level of precision you get from using something like a razor. For that reason, you may want to save this method for styles like fraying the hem at the bottom of the jeans leg that doesn’t require pinpoint accuracy.
- Mark the section you want to rip with chalk. Insert a protective barrier like cardboard or a folded magazine into the jean leg.
- Hold the cheese grater angled for an easy back-and-forth motion. Then rub it across the section you want to rip. Keep moving in that direction, as graters only have sharp edges facing one way.
- Every few strokes, pause to assess your jeans. The grater will quickly shred through the yarns in the denim, so you don’t want to take it too far!
- Once the fabric begins to look rough and worn through, you can stop for a partially ripped hole or keep going until you wear it all the way through the fabric. This will give you a hole with a fuzzy, worn-out-looking edge!
A sharp craft or Exacto knife can help you make precise or directional rips in your jeans. Of course, you can also use this method for larger, more enthusiastic rips!
- Start by taking all the usual precautions, such as drawing the shape of the tear and using protective cardboard behind the denim.
- Next, use a sharp knife to slice through the horizontal line of your tear.
- Make one or two tiny, half-inch slices vertically above the horizontal cut.
- Use your fingers or tweezers to tease out some of the blue threads using the small vertical cuts as your starting point.
- You will quickly have a neat slice in your jeans with only the white threads remaining along the edge!
You can use tweezers to pull out the vertical threads in your jeans leg to create a ragged white-thread hole.
- First, mark the area you want to rip with chalk.
- You will need incisions or holes at the top and bottom of your ripped area for this method.
- Start your holes using any method you like, such as making an incision with a knife, snipping with scissors, or even wearing a small distressed hole with a pumice stone.
- Next, select a single vertical thread at the incision and tug until it comes out. Keep doing this down the length of your original cut.
- The threads may begin to come free quite easily as you go, allowing you to pluck more than one at a time.
- Once the hole looks as worn as you like, stop pulling the threads!
You can also use tweezers to soften the frayed edge or a rip or tear by tugging out excess threads.
How to Make Ripped Jeans Without Ruining Them
You can follow a few tips like drawing the shape of the rip and using protective cardboard to make ripped jeans without ruining them. In one sense, you can’t really “ruin” ripped jeans because you can always just embrace the imperfection and roll with it! But you can also take a few extra precautions to make sure your ripped jeans turn out just the way you want.
Tips for being careful with your jeans:
- Give yourself a practice round on thrift store jeans. You can often find old, dingy jeans for sale at places like Goodwill or Salvation Army for just a few dollars. Ripping denim is not super complicated, but everything gets easier and more precise with practice!
- Before you make the first cut or tear the first thread, draw the outline of your finished rip with a piece of chalk. This helps you stick to the parameters you want instead of suddenly finding half the leg of the jeans gone!
- You may also want to start small. For your first attempt, use an easy method, like a rip at the knees. More complicated methods, like adding a series of vertical tears up the thigh, can wait till you know what you’re doing!
- Any time you use a sharp tool like a razor or a knife, make sure you place a layer of cardboard beneath the denim. Otherwise, you could cut right through the top of the leg to the back of the leg!
How to Rip Jeans and Leave the White Threads
You can rip jeans and leave the white threads using the knife and tweezers method described earlier. Keeping the white threads is to remove only the blue threads with tweezers after cutting your starting slits using a knife or scissors.
You can also create a frayed white-thread hem on jeans quite easily using any rubbing method such as a pumice stone, sandpaper, or a nail file.
Another to note about ripped jeans with white threads remaining is that you will need to wash them carefully. If you toss them in your laundry machine, the remaining white threads will likely fray, tangle, or tear away.
To avoid this, handwash your jeans and hang them up to air dry. This method works for jeans you ripped yourself and for store-bought ripped jeans.
How to Rip Jeans 80s Style
The best way to rip jeans 80s style is to use scissors and rip many horizontal cuts and tears down the leg from the thigh all the way down past the knee. You don’t necessarily want to leave the white threads behind for this look–it’s more about all the horizontal slashes staggering down the length of the leg.
You can certainly create this look with blue jeans, but black jeans make an even more dramatic 80s look!
This style of extremely distressed, torn jeans comes from the 80s grunge movement. Like so many styles, it started with music–a particular blend of punk rock and heavy metal that came out of Seattle and then quickly became popular across the nation.
How to Make Rips in Black Jeans
You can use any of the methods in this article to create rips in black jeans, with one key difference. Most black jeans use garment dyeing, meaning that finished jeans get dyed. This denim does not have the traditional blue and white threads.
This means you will not get the distinctive remaining white threads if you use fraying methods or tweezers to remove some of the black threads.
You can still create cool slashes and rips with fuzzy edges!
How to Cut Holes in Jeans Knees
While you can use any of the methods in this article to rip a hole at the knee of your jeans, you can also take a few special steps that will help keep the knees looking nice and ragged.
- First, start one inch above the knee. This lets you begin a rip and then allows you natural movement to continue wearing away the jeans at the knee. You may want to try on your jeans and mark this point with chalk to accurately find the point one inch above your kneecap.
- Second, you should decide how big a hole you want to cut. Several popular cut knee styles include a stack of slim horizontal slashes across the knee, leaving white threads in place, or a square with clear sides made by fraying away the blue threads and leaving the white threads behind.
- Finally, if you want a genuine, rugged, ripped jean knee, you can use the scissors and ripping method to straight-up tear a hole open at the knee!
How to Make Ripped Jeans at the Bottom
The best way to make ripped jeans at the bottom, or hem, of the leg is to use the pumice stone or cheesegrater method. This quickly frays through the upper thread on the surface of the fabric and will allow you to make rips or remove some of the threads to create a ragged hem.
On blue jeans, this will give you a fuzzy, ragged white thread hem at the bottom of your jeans. On black jeans, it will just look ragged and black.
You may also want to use a seam ripper at the side seam on the jean leg to open up the seam about an inch. This will make the hem look more ragged all around if you want a super distressed appearance.
What to Wear with Ripped Jeans
One of the awesome things about ripped jeans is that this popular style pairs well with all kinds of outfits!
Try wearing your ripped jeans with:
- Tight, cropped shirts for an urban-chic look. You can pair this with chunky sneakers or even combat boots for a rugged edge to your style.
- Look trendy but workplace-appropriate by pairing your ripped jeans with heels and a puffy button-down tucked in.
- FOr a casual look that emphasizes your ripped jeans, wear a V-necked tee and tuck it into the front waist of your jeans, leaving it in a French tuck to hang loose in the back.
- And of course, you can also go with the ultra-casual look of a baggy hoodie paired with boyfriend ripped jeans!
What Age Should You Stop Wearing Ripped Jeans?
There is no age where you should stop wearing ripped jeans. In fact, ripped jeans became popular way back in the 70s and 80s, meaning that you could well wear those rips more authentically than a younger person!
That said, there is a time and a place for everything. Some workplaces or religious institutions may view ripped jeans as a defiant or inappropriate clothing choice.
So go ahead and wear the ripped jeans, no matter your age–just choose where to wear them with a bit of care.
What is the Best Way to Rip Jeans?
The best way to rip jeans depends on the style you want to create. For a rugged look, use scissors and your hands to create large holes at the knee or upper thigh. For more precise rips in your jeans, use sharp tools like a razor blade or a knife, and pair that technique with tweezers to help plush out some of the threads from the hole. You can also wear a hole into your jeans using various abrasives like sandpaper, a pumice stone, or a nail file.
Ultimately,t eh key to ripping your jeans at home successfully is to take your time and mark the section you want to tear before you begin. Take extra precautions like placing cardboard behind the denim if you want to use a sharp tool. And when you go to wash your ripped jeans, don’t throw them into the washing machine–handwash them to keep those frayed edges looking nice!
Have you ever tried to rip your own jeans? What method did you use, and did it work? Leave a comment below to let us know!