Tips on How to Update Your Old Jeans


A dreamy young girl born in Granada, Nicaragua 1993. Studied Fashion Design in Véritas, Costa Rica with a M.A in Fashion Styling for Publicity & Audiovisuals in LCI – Barcelona. Now owner of low-fashion local brand COTÓN AZUL, and passionated about drawing, teaching and creating audiovisuals.

Yesterday,  I decided to give a small trip to the closest shopping center in my town to discover what was trendy among a “Common Shopper”; check their preferences and favorite styles. For that reason, I explored stores such as Zara, Bershka, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius, Levi’s; among other local stores. Meanwhile, I watched the shoppers pick and match their outfits, I noticed a common factor among all of them … the base was the persistent Denim. But did you know we don’t always have to purchase more and more jeans? We can update our old jeans by recycling, transforming and re-styling. I will give you hints to become Retro Guru!

What is the evolution of Jeans?

We all know the story behind this timeless garment; originally designed by Levi Strauss in the XIX century for hard work wearables; where he placed copper rivets to give resistance to the bags and using thick thread to maintain the pieces attached to the main structure. Along the XX century, the jeans culturally evolved from being a working suit to be a rebellious and juvenile icon, until becoming a “must” piece in the closet. So they aren’t only a timeless fashion icon; they’re also resistant and matches with anything, in shorten words, always there for you. So let’s start on how to keep your jeans updated!

How to keep the Indigo on?

Most of the time what gives its classic style is the indigo color; the typical dye used on jeans. As the dye comes from natural sources (other times; the color source is synthetic); yet even if it’s synthetic, due to the strength of the color; it tends to come out with multiple washes with soap or detergent. What is recommended to maintain its original color is to hand-wash your jeans, using one tablespoon of salt per jeans; then giving soft hand massages to the areas where odors are kept, for example, the gap. Another recommendation is to wash it every two or three put-on’s; to avoid constant washing.

Re-style the wasted hem

Have you noticed that the hem is the first part to get wasted? This is because if the hem is long, it has constant friction with the floor or without noticing we step on them.  There are two options to give a new life to your hem, without a needle and thread.

Option 1. Free your hem

Fray your hems. It is so easy and it gives a  retro look to your jeans; the first thing to do is to measure the length you want to fray; I personally recommend from 3 – 5 centimeters, measure this length from bottom to top (in a vertical direction).  Once done, make vertical lines that have a distance of 0.5 centimeters horizontally between each line; then cut each line-up, until you reach the 3 or 5 centimeters above. Finally, remove the horizontal threads and the vertical threads will be exposed, giving you frayed jeans. You can find multiple online tutorials!

Option 2. Fold them and fixed them

One easy way to re-style is to fold them until you reach 20 centimeters up from your ankle. Give a thickness of 5 centimeters to each fold; once done, you can add small details, such as a safety pins on each side of your folded hem. This gives a total grunge-punk look; to add more safety to your pin, add liquid silicone glue on the lock of the safety pin, so it does not open involuntarily.

Grunge-out your knees!

This is almost like a historical detail; back in the ’60s, during the hippie movement; the cut-off knees in the jeans were not decorative as it is today. It was due to constant waste caused by friction in areas that tend to fold whenever people sat or stand, also remember that jeans were 100% cotton, so the threads were rigid and did not expand with movement  (today’s jeans have elastane threads which help to prevent friction by rigidness). So, as the retro jeans had rigid threads, there was a breakpoint on them; and a hole opened in areas such as knees and under the glutes. However, nowadays, it is an optional look. So to perfectly accomplish this look, follow these steps: 1 – Measure the height of your lengths and mark the center of your front knee width. Once marked; measure 6 centimeters from each side of the center.

2 – With a cutter, cut horizontally the 12 centimeters width. Remember to be careful during this step.

3 – Remove the desired horizontal threads by hand, and if you require the help of a scissor, then acquire one to cut off the threads. As a tip, left some threads hanging, so your jeans look authentically rustic.

4 – As this trend is very grunge, add some safety pins on the sides of the opening. Or get a small piece of Scotian fabric (the one with the squares, from the Scotian skirts); make sure it measures 10 x 5 centimeters (or more), frayed it a little bit, and with a little of hot silicone glue, attached from inside the opening. Try to make it look as if the fabric is coming from inside the hole.

You can apply this procedure in any part of your jeans. Just not exceed.

From pants to shorts

In this process, you can apply many from the steps above. First, take your old pants; put them on, and measure the desired length of your shorts. When measuring the length, add 3 – 5 centimeters on the leg – openings; so when doing the frayed effect; you don’t get shorter shorts. With a pair of scissors, cut the excess of fabric in the pants. Now it is your turn to fray the hems.  Add any of the tips shown above or embroider any detail that you find to match your personality and style! Remember to be creative, project your style. Now you are ready to renew your jeans and recycle your old clothing! You save some money and practice clothing recycling, helping to establish a Slow-Fashion cycle. Wish you luck in your re-styling process and hope to come with more ideas to give new life to your wardrobe.