Bias on a Budget: One-of-a-Kind K-pop ‘Distressed’ Jeans

DIY GeekMom

Last week I began celebrating my oldest daughter’s upcoming 21st birthday with my first K-pop fashion-inspired DYI for the month: an easy and cheap mini version of J-Hope’s cool fortune cookie purse.

This week’s idea is something you can make more personalized while upcycling a piece of clothing most everyone has: old jeans.

The “distressed” jeans is something that is not just part of K-pop fashion, but everyone from hip-hop to pop punk performers has their on take on them.

These pants are kind up an update on the old punk idea of just trashing a pair of jeans (often baggy), and spending some time and effort to look like you just crawled across paint-covered pavement on your stomach.

The K-pop culture, however, has really run with them, often combining the old tattered jeans with bright patches or swatches of cloth, jewels, bead or dangling chains.

You can purchase “distressed” jeans from some places for $25 to $30 on some discount fashion sites, with some designer brands being much more costly. However, they aren’t going to be uniquely yours.

What you’ll need to start is an old pair of jeans, either yours or from someone in your family who wears a bigger size (like an older sibling or parent). Use a belt, or bring the waistline in to make sure they fit better.

old jeans
A pair of big old jeans..ready to turn in to new K-pop-worthy fashion.

Before we get started, I need to stress a few of parental directives I give my own kids:

  • Keep them decent. Keep the rips and tears on the legs, not the butt, please.
  • These aren’t meant for wearing to school, because I am pretty sure there are dress codes out there against extreme ripped jeans. These are just for fun time like concerts or hanging out. 
  • Don’t wear them so baggy or so long they are falling off you or have you tripping over your pant legs. You gotta be able to dance, after all.

Okay! Let’s go! Got your jeans?

Tatter Them Up

Instead of just cutting holes in the legs, you want to keep some of the stringiness.

Cut two horizontal parallel lines along the jeans to create two slits. The area in between the slits is where we are going to work. Take a big yarn needle and/or some tweezers. Starting at the top, slowly pull the horizontal strings apart to loose up some of the vertical thread. Then, little by little, begin pulling the vertical threads out until only the horizontal strings are left. This will be tough to do at first, but once you get a few tufts out, it will loosen up things up, and you can pull them by hand.

Cut to parallel slits where you want the tattered hole. Then, start little by little pulling on the horizontal threads to loosen them up. This will help you pull out the vertical threads to leave a “stringy” look. Be patient, this can be a lengthy process at first.

Sometimes this takes a little bit of time, so watch some K-Pop videos while you’re doing it. I recommend the entire AgustD song list in order. Or, maybe something from New Jeans!

You can use this same method to cut the legs off the pants to get them to fit your height. They will look cool frayed at the bottom.

For cuffs, pull the horizontal strings our, leaving some frayed edges.

Add Some Patchwork

Find some swatches of other leftover jeans, cool old socks, scarves, washcloths or any other thick cloth. Cut them in shapes and sew then on with some simple stitches. This is another great way to upcycle cool old scraps into new looks. You can also find old patches to use.

Add some layers by using simple stitches to sew on extra pieces of denim or other scraps (the patterned scraps I used is from a pair of old socks).

Go With Graffiti

Once you have enough “ripped” areas, it is time to ad some original art or prose. Use a black felt tip marker to do some doodling or favorite band logos, phrases or song lyrics. Anything you want.

If you want a couple of cool graffiti spots, use colored felt tips or bright cloth paint to give it some color. Often this looks good on the front of the thigh, or up one side of the lower leg.

Adding images and letters in felt tip marker or cloth paint will personalize your jeans with some “street art” like designs.

Another method I learned when I was going full Gen X “punk” in high school: dip a cotton swab in laundry bleach and write on a section of jeans. Or “splatter” a few drops on it. Then spray it with a hose and let it dry in the sun. The result is really cool (the girls in the “old jeans” image above are wearing pants with the’ bleached painting’ look), but don’t let kids try this without supervision. I was 16 when I did this and almost screwed it up. Wear goggles or a bandana if you are doing it for any extended period of time. Because it is bleach! 

Now these are getting unique, but let’s add one final layer:

Make ‘Em Sparkle

Get some embellishments on these with rhinestones, metal studs or small charms. Add them around the edges of the scraps or tears or make small designs.

Old thick necklace chains or chain purse straps can be attached to the belt loop and pocket, for a kind of glam “wallet chain” look. Don’t sew the chains on, but use a chain hook or keychain hoop to attach them. This way, you can take if off if you need to wash them.

Finish if off with a couple of jewels or chain, if you want.

Now, you have some fancy pants ready to wear. Of course, you don’t have to do all these things to any one pair. I added all the extras for demonstration purposes. Sometimes just a cool pair of painted jeans, or some with a few patches or jewels can look less extreme.

Finished Jeans
Need inspiration? Try theming your design after a favorite artist or album! Images: Lisa Tate

The result, no matter what you decide, will be one-of-a-kind.

It’s time to hit the dance floor, because you are decked out and ready!

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekMom and GeekDad on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!