If you’ve visited any mall, browsed through any department store, or clicked on any fashion website lately, you’ve seen your share of warm sweaters and coats, beautiful blouses and tops, sleek dresses… and a trend that looks awesome but has also at times left me scratching my head and thinking, “Well, okay, whatever floats your boat.” That trend is distressed jeans, also referred to as destroyed jeans, faded jeans, bleached-out jeans, torn jeans, jeans with lots of intentional tears and tatters in them, or even, to those not totally in the fashion sense, “Are you seriously going to go out wearing those things? They have holes in them!”
To be fair, distressed jeans have a history as a trend, at least as far back as the 1990s (though I admit I am racking my brain to remember if I came across them way back then). (*See update at the end of this post.*) They’re made of a fabric, denim, that can hold up remarkably well; in fact, a few pairs of jeans have been in my male mode wardrobe for several years. As well, distressed jeans do have a usefulness in a fashion sense: Pair them with a light sweater or shirt, and you have a simple, casual look; add a leather jacket, and you’ve got fierceness to the nth degree. On the flip side, there are some laymen who look at distressed jeans and think at least one of two things: (1) “Why would one ever want to walk around in public wearing jeans with gaping holes in them?” or (2) “Why would one want to pay so much money to wear dilapidated old stuff like that?”
The concern about cost is something my penny-pinching male mode has on his mind, I must freely admit. I mean, if you’re going to wear jeans that look as if your boyfriend wore them to the farm, construction site, etc. every single day for the past several years, they should not cost the same as a pristine, brand new pair. But, hey, there are those who seek to capitalize on any fashion trend, so give credit to the likes of Forever 21, H&M, and even the oh-so-classy New York & Company for selling jeans with various holes and distresses and charging serious coin for them. (Sixty-five bucks? Cha-ching!) But if you don’t want to plunk down that much dough for something full of holes, you can still make your own pair of distressed jeans. There are how-to videos on at this link, and they show this basic step-by-step method:
- Select a pair of denim jeans you want to put holes in
- Choose where you want the holes to be
- Grab your tool(s) of choice (knife, scissors, razor, sandpaper, etc.)
- Create the distress in the denim
- Use bleach to add fade or extra distress
- Wash in cold water to help the fraying become pronounced
- Reinforce the holes by sewing the fabric or adding a backing patch to prevent further ripping
- Brace yourself when your mom freaks out over what you’ve done to a perfectly good pair of jeans (because, let’s face it, distressed jeans still won’t be everyone’s cup of tea)
Now, I should add another concern folks up here in Wisconsin may also have about distressed jeans: When and where to wear them. Sure, you may want to venture out every day in your holed-out denim, turn heads, and make a statement, which is fine if you’re in, say, Southern California. But as anyone in Wisconsin can tell you, it can get real cold and snowy in the wintertime. Are you sure you want the feel of freezing temperatures and blowing snow up your legs once winter finds even the littlest of openings in your denim? Perhaps it’d be best, if you’re living in colder climates, to save the torn jeans for the spring and summer, or at least wear them at some indoors to-do. If you and your distressed jeans must venture out into the winter weather, take care to bundle up with a long jacket or coat (a perfect jacket to top it off is featured at this link).
As mentioned above, you still need something to top off your distressed jeans with. Though you and your jeans may be making a fashion statement, you don’t want said jeans to be the commanding part of your look. Flattering tops that go well with the jeans tend to be the best route to take. A casual shirt or sweater of a complimenting color keeps attention to the outfit as a whole, as will an a leather jacket (to top off that tough girl look) or an oversized coat or blazer. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re sporting distressed jeans, the rest of your outfit shouldn’t be distressed as well, lest you risk others thinking your entire wardrobe is of poor quality. Great examples on how to top off the distressed jeans look can be found here and here, while a great video on the best distressed jeans style for you and what to pair it with can be found here; please check them out, they’re great and informative.
So, my final verdict on distressed jeans? Well, I can’t deny that they are a trend, and they do look totally awesome. Jeans do look good on even this lil’ ol’ crossdresser, but would distressed jeans look good as well? I’m not sure. I may consider giving distressed jeans a try one day, probably when it’s warmer season (no cold drafts inside up my legs, thank you). If and when I do, I will make a point of creating a look where the jeans and top flatter each other, not a setup where all one notices are the gaping holes. And since I don’t see myself spending big time money on jeans with holes in them (no offense to Forever 21 and the rest), I may go the Goodwill route: Find a pair of hand-me-downs at a thrift store, grab a razor or scissors, and start cutting away. Cheap? Sure, but it won’t be a big monetary commitment for sporting a hot trend. Feel free to share your thoughts on this whole distressed jeans thing. Thanks!
*UPDATE: I was watching Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special the other night, long after this had been posted. Watching the “Wayne’s World” skit (see below) made me realize… of course! Wayne and Garth wore torn jeans way back in the ’90s! [smacks forehead] Thanks, SNL, for the reminder. Oh, and party on!