How to Make - The BEST Distressed Cut Off Shorts

Being a jeans and t-shirt wearing gal, I probably have more denim than necessary (key word probably). I have my 2-3 go to pairs that I wear more than the other 10 pairs in my closet. I do wear all of them, but some, I admittedly wear maybe once or twice a year and when I put them on, they just don’t feel right. They probably never have which ultimately means they probably never will. This season, as I was cleaning out my closet for donations, I pulled three pairs of denim that I rarely wear and decided to make them into shorts. I've  attempted to create cut off shorts before and failed. The mistake I made was either cutting the back shorter than the front (this happens if you cut both the front and back sides of the denim together, in one cut) or cutting the shorts too short to start with. This time around I did some research and tested out a few methods until I felt I had a winning one.

If you don’t have any jeans to pull from your own closet, head to your local Goodwill and snag a pair or two for between $3 - $15 dollars depending on the brand. This option is still cheaper than purchasing already made cut offs from a department store for $50.00 or more. Check out the steps below to create your perfect distressed cut offs.

STEP 1: Gather materials; ruler, sharp scissors, cardboard, chalk or washable marker, razor or box cutter and denim jeans (100% cotton or non-stretch will work best if you plan to distress)

STEP  2: Cut jeans just under the knee so it’s easier to work with for making future cuts. Don’t mind the chalk marks in this pic you’ll see where they came from in step 3.

STEP 3: Try your pants on and look in the mirror. With your chalk or washable marker make a line at the desired length you would like your shorts.


STEP 4: If you are not working with skinny jeans, skip to step 5. If you are cutting “skinny jeans” like I am in these pictures, after you make your preferred mark on the length, you’ll need to go back and make cuts up the side below the mark you’ve drawn so you can fold the shorts up your leg.

STEP 5: Fold the jeans up to the mark you’ve made, and trace the folded edge all the way around your leg with your chalk or washable marker.

STEP 6A: Checking your work; Using a ruler, measure the inseam to your marks on both legs using the seam as a guide. Your mark should measure the same length on both sides (mine measured about 5”). If not adjust your mark so they are even. You can use a different colored marker or darken the chalk line to do so. You’ll be surprised though, after making the folds and tracing, your marks will most likely be the same. This is why I’m a big fan of tracing the fold.

STEP 6B: Measure the outer seam from the waist band to your mark on both sides. They too should be about the same (mine measured about 12”).


STEP 7: To see your tracing marks more clearly, turn your pants inside out. Next, cut ONLY the front part of the jeans on both sides following your traced marks. NEXT, cut the back sides. It is again important to cut the front and back separately because the back will naturally will be a little longer.

Now that your shorts are cut, if desired, it’s time to distress them. 

STEP 8: Place the cardboard inside the shorts. Using the razor cutter, make pressured narrow slits that are close together. The holes will get bigger after washing and wear so keeping the slits closer together will let them distress naturally over time. Do this for each side of the shorts both front and back as well as on the pockets (front and back) and waist band (if desired). You can definitely get carried away when distressing. My advice is less is more as you can always go back and repeat this process.


STEP 9: Machine wash your shorts on a heavy cycle and tumble dry them. Once out of the dryer you now have your custom cut off shorts to rock this summer.


Send us pics if you try our method above and comment back with any additional tips!



PS: I think I’ll look through my closet one more time or head to the Goodwill to create a pair of longer cut offs like I’m sporting in Step 3. Looking at the pics now I didn’t realize how comfortable having a longer pair might be plus, longer shorts are “in” for this spring and summer too! 


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