In the 1970s frayed jeans and sneakers were a sign of rebellion. However, in contemporary denim wear, distressed jeans are more mainstream with a high-end price tag to boot, according to the article "A Weak Argument: Why Some Jeans Cost $300." Denim manufacturers put jeans through rigorous treatments, including sandblasts, stone washes, sand paper and razors to produce premium pants that are edgy and riddled with attitude. Fraying the hem is one technique that can help reproduce these designer looks at home. All it takes is a bit of cutting, washing, drying and patience.
Try the jeans on and measure the desired length before cutting off the entire hem. Mark the new hem with a piece of chalk--which could be a series of dashes that will help indicate where the cutoff point will be. Then, take the jeans off, lay the pants flat on a table and line up these dashes with a ruler to create a straight line.
Cut along this hemline and discard any excess fabric. Using a pin, remove the bottom horizontal threads along the new hemline, as this will help to initiate the frayed look. Once three or four threads are removed, the pants are ready to be washed.
Scrape the bottom of the jeans with a sharp utility knife, which is another fraying technique that can produce a more subtle effect. To achieve this look, rub the knife along the edge of the jean's hem, in spots, rather than distressing the entire hem. Once the desired spots have been worn down, wash the jeans to help complete the look.
Program the washing machine on a short, cold water wash. Use a neutral pH detergent, or, if it is not available, a cold water detergent. These chemicals tend to be more delicate than regular detergent and can help to preserve the jean's color, especially when working with darker denims.
Dry the jeans on a medium to low setting, which can help to minimize shrinkage. Once dry, the jeans should have an authentic frayed appearance.