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How To Rock Ripped Denim With Class

There comes a time in every stylishly adventurous man’s life when the siren song of ripped clothing becomes too powerful to resist.

After years of dark denim dominance, the trendy look is once again about fraying, tearing, shredding, washing and otherwise trashing your jeans. It’s a dangerous game to play. Do it right and you’ll look like you just stepped off a Saint Laurent catwalk. Do it wrong and you’ll look like Sid Vicious after a particularly bad bender with Nancy.

If you’re ready to dip your toe into these distressed waters, follow these guidelines to make a statement without destroying your sartorial credibility.

Go High Street, Not High End


Some things are worth dropping dollars on. Distressed jeans are not one of those things. You may try the look and decide immediately that it’s not for you. And even if you do like it, remember that fashion is fickle. Trends come and go before you have time to snap the perfect #OOTD pic for your Instagram. Distressed styles are in now, but they’ll be out again soon enough. Don’t invest too much of your hard-earned.

Fit First


Some style rules are so sacred that they apply to anything, from your most expensive suit to the 4-pack of socks you ordered on Amazon. Chief amongst them is this: fit comes first. You want a slim, skinny or straight cut if you’re experimenting with distressed denim. Anything baggy or bootcut doesn’t say “star of street style blogs,” it says “washed up skateboarder.”

Exercise Restraint


“Restraint” and “distressed” are not words you often see together, but don’t for a second think your rockstar threads mean you can throw all caution to the wind.

Avoid overly complex denim like you’d avoid a trophy wife going through Botox withdrawals. Not only does it look ridiculous, it’s also impractical. Large tears, or too many of them, make your denim wear out more quickly.

Go Faux Naturel


Authenticity is key to keeping your look classy and modern. Distressing should look like it could have occurred naturally, even if it comes straight from a factory assembly line.

Fading and tearing should be located in high-friction zones (think front and back of the knees). A fade should blend, rather than have a stark contrast between colours. Tiny tears are more believable than a gaping rupture that exposes an entire thigh.

Create Balance With Contrasts


Pair distressed denim with more polished pieces. Pulling off the trend means being clear that your look is intentional, not the result of apathy. Match shredded jeans with a simple tee and Converse on an off-duty day. When you want to smarten up, go for a button-down and a blazer. Accessories should be minimal and carefully curated.

Don’t Be Afraid To DIY


There’s no need to trust a big brand to get it right. You can create the lived-in look yourself with a little bit of DIY. To get a fade going, leave your jeans in a cold bath overnight. You can also run your denim through a washing machine, provided you do it carefully (delicate cycle, 20 degrees Celsius). For tears, use a scalpel or razor blade to slash thin lines in appropriate areas. Let them fray.

Distress Beyond Denim


Denim is the classic distressed piece, but controlled destruction isn’t limited to your jeans. Worn-in leather has a pleasantly rugged, vintage feel. A tough pair of workboots could benefit from a few judicious scuffs. Even shirts and t-shirts are getting in on the trend. Experiment with different styles, just avoid wearing them all at once unless you want to look like you robbed the lost and found of the local crack den.


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