Denim or jean shorts are as much a summer staple as ice cream and water slides. They’re also a DIY-lover’s dream, because cutoffs are by definition a repurposed garment. To give your denim the perfect amount of distressing, start out with a light touch and gradually work your way from gently used to perfectly destroyed. The same goes for the length if you’re trimming them yourself — start out longer and gradually cut more as necessary.

Things You'll Need

Trimming Your Shorts

Put on your jeans or denim shorts. Mark the outside of the denim with chalk at each inseam. Indicate anywhere between 2 to 6 inches from the crotch, depending on your desired shorts length. Make your mark slightly lower than the final length you want your shorts to be, since they’ll fray and shorten.

Make a chalk mark at the middle of each leg and at each outer seam. The marks from the inseam to the outer seams should follow a diagonal line, with the outside seam mark 1 to 2 inches higher on your leg than the inseam — this will lengthen the line of your leg without cutting the inseam too short.

Take your denim off and lay it flat. Cut your denim through the back and front of each leg, using your chalk marks as a guide.

Put your shorts back on and check for symmetry. Mark any differences in each leg with your chalk, remove your shorts and trim them if necessary.

Distressing Your Shorts

Put on your shorts. Make a small mark with chalk wherever you want to distress them. Depending on the length of your shorts, you’ll have one to two small holes per leg at the most — too many holes and your shorts may fall apart.

Remove your shorts and cut a horizontal slit on each chalk mark. Keep the slit small, since it will expand with wear and washing.

Rub the sandpaper block lightly along the slits, which will give them a naturally worn look. If you’ve just cut your shorts, rub the bottom hem of your shorts with your sandpaper, too, which will fray the ends slightly.

Wash and dry your shorts to enhance the distressing process. Trim any long, frayed strings at the hems of your shorts.


  • To make your legs look even longer, trim 1/2 to 1 inch of the denim from the front of the shorts. Since the back of your shorts will be slightly longer than the front, you’ll show more leg without sacrificing coverage on your tush.

  • To help you make an even hem, you can use a ruler or another straight, flat guide to draw a diagonal chalk line along your shorts before cutting.