How to Fray Jeans for Easy DIY Chic Denim Style

Are you ready to take your jeans from drab to fab? Well, you’re in the right place because today, I’m diving into how to fray jeans the easy way! 

Frayed jeans have that effortlessly cool, lived-in look that screams “I’m too cool to care, but I actually do.” So, grab your favorite pair of jeans, and let’s get fraying!

The frayed hem of denim jeans.

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As a tall person who is constantly looking for jeans that are long enough, the thought of cutting off inches from the bottom of jeans can seem incredulous! And to actually cut a perfectly good pair of jeans can seem counter-intuitive.

But I love the frayed look and now have no qualms about taking some scissors to the bottom hem of my jeans!

I was a little terrified the first time I tried this. But let’s be honest, this is a distressed denim look so imperfections are okay!

The History of Frayed Jeans

Frayed jeans have quite an interesting history that goes back to the groovy vibes of the 1960s and the rebellious spirit of the 70s. 

Back then, they weren’t really a fashion statement but more of a practical thing – jeans naturally frayed at the edges with constant wear and tear. However, as the younger generation started challenging traditional fashion norms, frayed jeans became a way to express themselves and break free from the status quo. 

A patchwork of various types of denim.

Remember James Dean’s iconic look? He was one of the pioneers. Later on, punk rock bands embraced the distressed denim style, and it became synonymous with rebellion. 

I lived through the 1980’s in all of its acid-washed gloriousness! We thought we were such rebels!

Fast forward to today, and frayed jeans are a fashion staple loved by people of all ages. They’ve come a long way, from a symbol of rebellion to a casual and comfy style choice that anyone can rock! 

There are different ways to distress denim but this is how I easily fray jeans for a cool, casual look.

The Tools of the Trade

The supplies need fo knowing how to fray jeans include scissors, chalk, and sandpaper.

 Here’s what you’ll need to fray your jeans:

  1. A Pair of Jeans:  Go for an old pair that’s begging for a makeover or snag a new one if you’re feeling adventurous.
  2. A Pair of Scissors: Sharp ones, please! Fabric scissors are best.
  3. Tweezers: These really come in handy!
  4. Sandpaper: This is optional but useful for distressing your denim for that rugged look.

Step 1: Choose Your Jeans

The first step is to choose the jeans you want to transform. Whether they’re old, new, skinny jeans, or boyfriend jeans, fraying works with most types. However, it’s easier to work with old jeans that have some wear and tear.

I decided to fray a pair of crop jeans that I think would look great with a frayed hem.

A pair of jeans to be frayed.

Step 2: Mark Your Fray Zone

Decide where you want the fraying to happen. For best results, try on your jeans and determine the desired length of where you want the frayed edges to be. Remember that the frayed edge will actually be slightly shorter than your original cut. So, try on the jeans and use chalk or a safety pin to mark the desired length so you know where to cut.

For the rest of the markings, I found that the easiest way is to lay them on a flat surface. You will want to carefully line up the front and back of each pant leg. Use a measuring tape to measure the distance from the bottom hem of your jeans to the mark that you made for cutting. Make any additional chalk marks that will help you to make an even cut.

Step 3: One Quick Cut

Take your sharp scissors and cut across your jeans using your markings as a guide. 

Step 4: Get to Fraying

Once you’ve cut off the bottom hem of the jeans, it is time to start fraying. 

To begin, take some sharp scissors and run the blade across the bottom of the jeans. Go back and forth and let the scissors pull against the threads of the cut hem and “shred” them. 

When I first tried this, I started out gently. However, in order to get the threads to loosen, I became quite aggressive with it. It is actually great fun!

how to fray jeans: Using scissors blades to run across the hem fabric.
how to fray jeans: scraping scissors against the hem.
how to fray jeans: Running scissors across the hem of denim.

Once there is visible fraying that starts to show, take your tweezers and start pulling out the horizontal white threads. This is where the magic happens – the more loose threads you remove, the more pronounced the fray will be. This can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s worth it for that effortlessly chic look.

how to fray jeans: pulling threads from the hem with fingers.
how to fray jeans: Using tweezers to pull individual threads from the denim hem.

A faster way to achieve the frayed effect is to run a disposable razor across the cut edge. Be very careful when working with a razor blade so you don’t cut yourself! This is faster than using a pair of tweezers but will give your frayed edge a more haphazard look. 

Step 5: Distress with Sandpaper (Optional)

For a more distressed look, use sandpaper or a sandpaper block to rough up the edges of frayed areas on the bottom of your jeans. This adds texture and makes it look like your denim jeans have been on many adventures!

Step 6: Wash and Flaunt

Once you’re satisfied with your fraying masterpiece, toss your jeans in the washing machine. This will help soften the edges and give them that authentic “I’ve been through a lot” vibe. Toss in the dryer and the fraying will become more pronounced but will have a more natural look. 

I wanted my frayed edges to fluff up even more so gave the jeans several sessions in the dryer to emphasize the fray.

After they’re dried, your frayed jeans are ready to steal the spotlight!

how to fray jeans: The hem of jeans that have been frayed and fluffed in the dryer.

A Chic Surprise

I also frayed a pair of new jeans that had no initial distressing on the material. I found that it was a little more difficult to get a rustic frayed effect.

I started out by using the same process: Mark with chalk, cut, and fray with scissors.

Marking the hem of jeans with chalk.
Chalk marks on jeans.
how to fray jeans: Cutting off the hem of aa pair of jeans.
Using scissors to fray the edge of aa jean hem.

After pulling horizontal threads with tweezers, I started to pull the vertical threads downward. By pulling these blue threads, I created a puckered effect on the denim which, when smoothed out, became a chic vertical stripe in the fabric. Kind of subtle and kind of fabulous!

how to fray jeans: Pulling vertical threads using tweezers.

Now these jeans have a rough raw edge but also a little added texture on the jean hems.

A frayed hem on a pair of jeans.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Start Small: If it’s your first time, it is a good idea to practice on an old pair of jeans or an inconspicuous area to get the hang of it.
  • Experiment: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lengths and densities of fraying to achieve your desired look.
  • Embrace Imperfections: Remember, the beauty of frayed jeans is in their imperfections, so don’t stress too much about making them look perfect.
Blue jeans.


Q: Can I fray any type of denim?

You can certainly try! While it’s easier with jeans that have some natural wear and tear, you can experiment with different types of denim to see what works best for you.

Q: How do I prevent the fray from getting too wild?

If you want more controlled fraying, apply a thin line of fabric glue along the edges of your cuts before fraying. This will keep the fray in check.

Q: Can I fray jeans that have stretch in them?  

Absolutely! Stretchy jeans can be frayed, but keep in mind that the fray might not be as pronounced as in non-stretch denim.

Q: Will the dryer fray jeans? 

The dryer will bring out any fraying that has already begun. Machine drying your jeans will also give you a fluffier fray on the hem.

Q: Can I fray denim shorts? 

Of course, you can! Use the same simple technique to fray jean shorts. In fact, you can use this technique on a denim jacket, white denim, or other denim clothing.

Seams, Scissors, and Style

Fraying jeans is not only a fantastic way to breathe new life into your denim collection but also a great way to jump on this fun and casual fashion trend. 

So, go ahead, grab those scissors and tweezers, and let your jeans tell a frayed tale of style and individuality. 

Remember, fashion is all about expressing yourself, and with frayed jeans, you’ll be expressing yourself with a touch of laid-back flair. Get ready to rock those frayed jeans and show the world your unique sense of style!


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How to Fray Jeans.

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  1. I never knew how this was done, Missy, THANK YOU! I loved the frayed hem jeans but they normally come with other rips and fraying which I don’t care for. Now I can do it myself!
    Creatively, Beth

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