I’m an unabashed fan of distressed jeans, and have been ever since spying frayed hems on Garance Dore about a trillion years ago.
However, I get a lot of inquiries from clients about how much distressing is too much. Excellent question.
As you may have noticed, distressed denim runs the gamut from some minor fraying to heavy duty holes. It can be highly confusing trying to figure out what amount of distressing is correct, age-appropriate, cool but not too trendy, and so forth.
Here are some suggestions.
image: garance dore
For just a little edge…
Opt for frayed or raw-edge hems. They provide a chic amount of distressing without punching you in the face with it. Plus, it’s great for women who need their jeans shorter and don’t feel like going to a tailor. It’s one of the few DIYs I stand firmly behind, as you can’t really screw it up. Technically speaking, there are three types of hems that fall under this category. A true frayed hem is, well, frayed, with a multitude of loose threads. A cut or raw hem looks like you just took scissors to the bottom of the jean, without any excessive fraying. And last but not least, an unfinished hem looks like you undid the original hemming of the jean, often showing horizontal dye lines where the denim used to be folded.
However, like the ever-confusing jegging issue, you will often hear these descriptions interchanged. Just keep in mind that all three look great, so you can’t go wrong.
For a slightly more dramatic look…
Go for some trusty knee-slits. You can show either one or both knees, depending on your symmetry preferences. I personally love the slits in these William Rast jeans. They’re placed slightly above the knee, which serves to both elongate the leg, and keep the holes from getting bigger with each deep bend.
For even more distressing…
Look to jeans that have larger knee holes, and more stringy threads. But I would strongly recommend staying away from upper thigh holes. This is where it can start to look like you’re trying too hard. A little distressing is ok in this area, but try not to show major skin. Here’s an example of when too much is too much. Keep in mind it’s a fine line between laid-back cool and downright silly. When in doubt, opt for restraint.