Vintage jeans are extremely trendy right now, but owning a pair of vintage jeans often means spending a fortune. If you would rather make your own vintage jeans than spend several hundred dollars on a pair at a retail outlet, there are a few tricks that can give you the look you want. Vintage jeans are meant to look worn and old, which will require a bit of effort to accomplish. However, once you get the hang of the process, it is a simple and affordable way to spice up your wardrobe and recycle those jeans that you no longer wear.

Things You'll Need

After you have selected the jeans you will be working on, find a safe place to work and gather your supplies. Wash and dry your jeans to make certain that any shrinking, bleeding, or fading is complete before you get to work.

If you interested in obtaining a really distressed and aged look, you will likely want to add holes and frayed edges to your jeans. Fraying can be accomplished by using a razor to make small cuts along the top edges of your jeans. Tiny cuts in the fabric along the waistband, leg cuffs, and pockets will fray after washing. If you want to create larger holes that are more dramatic, you will need to measure and rip the fabric. With your jeans on, make a small horizontal pencil mark across the front of your knees. This should be done while sitting down with your knees fully bent. Remove the jeans, and cut a hole just large enough to allow two fingers to squeeze through. With your fingers inside the hole, carefully rip the jeans to create a hole.

Another simple way to give your jeans a faded, vintage look is to bleach them. Wearing rubber gloves, add a few capfuls of bleach to your washing machine after it has finished filling with water. Place your jeans inside and allow them to soak for a short period. If this gentle fading is not enough, you can apply bleach directly to your jeans using a wet sponge. With your hands and workspace protected, soak a sponge in a solution of equal parts bleach and water. Being careful not to drip directly onto the jeans, stroke gently with the sponge, concentrating on the areas where you desire a more faded look. Work from top to bottom, and finish as quickly as possible. Allowing the bleach to remain on your jeans for too long will damage the fabric.

If you would like a darker look to your vintage jeans, skip the bleach and reach for the coffee instead. Soaking your jeans in coffee will provide them with a naturally stained look. Dyeing your jeans a darker color is another option, and fabric dyes are typically easy to use and very inexpensive.

To ensure your vintage jeans have that well-worn look, go over the hemlines and seams with sandpaper or a cheese grater. Focus on areas that normally wear faster, such as the butt, knees, sides, and pockets. Using an electric sander speeds up this process, but does not allow you the fine control of using sandpaper by hand. A cheese grater produces wear effects similar to that of sandpaper, but can create unique fraying and wearing. Concentrating on one small area will result in fabric damage and a hole.


  • Buying jeans in a lighter color will save you work later on.

  • Placing objects, such as keys, inside the pockets before sanding will result in a more genuine look.