The tattered jean look dominated the rock music scene in the 1980’s. Rock music fans often ripped their own jeans at home, and paired tattered jeans with cut-off t-shirts, boots and leather jackets. The tattered jean look continues to make its way into the fashion world from time to time, but is no longer just for rock music fans. Make your own tattered jeans at home with a utility knife and bleach, to pair with your favorite top. Wear your jeans out while running errands, or at a concert with a band t-shirt to make a fashion statement.

Things You'll Need

Lay the jeans on a clean hard surface, such as a counter or desk. Make 4 to 6-inch horizontal lines across the front and back of the jeans with a fabric crayon, where cuts will be made. Select functional spots that allow your body to move freely, such as the knees or under the front and back pockets.

Insert the 5-by-7 inch sheet of cardboard through each pant leg with one hand, and position the cardboard sheet where the cuts are to be made. The cardboard sheet prevents the utility knife’s blade from cutting through the opposite side of the jeans when making cuts in the front.

Set one hand 1 1/2 inch below each line, and position the tip of the utility knife’s blade on the starting point of each horizontal line on the pants with the other hand. Firmly press down on the utility knife with your hand, and slowly run the utility knife straight across the line to the end. Run the blade over the denim fabric two times to ensure the blade cuts properly through the fabric. Continue to slit each line with the utility knife until all cuts on the jeans are made.

Place the gloves on each hand to protect your hands from the bleach. Pour the bleach and 1 cup of water into the spray bottle, and screw the nozzle back on the bottle. Lightly shake the spray bottle twice to mix the bleach and water together. Lay the towel on the ground, outside of the house, and place the jeans over the towel with the front side up.

Position the spray bottle 3 inches over the surface of the jeans, with the nozzle pointed toward the pants. Spray the bleach mixture three times onto the front of the jeans in a sweeping motion, from top to bottom, on each pant leg. Turn the jeans over and spray the bleach mixture on the back surface of the jeans as well. The bleach mixture lightens the fabric, adding a distressed, stone washed look to the surface of the jeans.

Allow the bleach mixture to set into the denim fabric outside for five minutes. Then wash the pants with cold water and detergent in the washing machine. Dry the jeans on medium heat after washing. Washing and drying the jeans allows the denim fabric to fray on the ends where the cuts have been made, giving the pants a tattered appearance.


  • Wear clothes you are comfortable with damaging, in case the bleach mixture stains your clothes.

  • Wear clear safety goggles to prevent irritating your eyes with the bleach mixture.

  • Cut the bottom of the jeans with scissors, if the pants are long, to add to the tattered look.