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Ask A DFW Expert: How To Distress Your Jeans

(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Master the designer distressed denim look and forget about paying astronomical amounts for designer duds again. James Martinez, a local fashion designer who was featured on "Project Runway," has some easy steps to follow to distress your jeans and relieve the stress on your pocketbook.

James Martinez
Barron & J
Fort Worth, TX 76106
(682) 465-8238 "Project Runway" contestant James Martinez is a local favorite when it comes to area fashion designers and has proven knowledgeable when it comes to making the best out of your existing wardrobe. A professional, and more importantly an expert in the area of denim, Martinez had no problem dishing out his top five tips for achieving the best distressed jeans look in a do-it-yourself fashion. Martinez designs denim under his fashion label Barron & J, which provides a wide range of unique washes, distresses and fits. If any designer in Dallas could provide an easy-to-follow do-it-yourself guide to distressing denim, James Martinez would be the top pick.
No fancy equipment is required, use a cheese grater. For a simple tattered appearance, the use of a simple household appliance (a cheese grater) will do the trick. The distressing is done gradually to the denim depending on how much pressure is applied. For less fray, gently rub the cheese grater horizontally across the jeans back and forth and increase pressure to make a more visible tear. At all times, avoid moving the grater vertically as this will ultimately damage your jeans. Always think in horizontal movements, which goes for all processes in distressing.
Do a test run on the hem of your jeans before distressing all over. Nothing is worse than doing a distress method and figuring out that you are doing it all wrong. Test out the "cheese grater" technique on the hem of your jeans before trying in other more noticeable areas. Simply grab one bottom leg of the jean and gently sweep the hem with the grater as if you are combing it. Martinez advises that the process should be smooth. So if you are experiencing ruff patches or unsightly bumps, then you may need to adjust by trying out smaller and lighter strokes.
Start with small distressing and then work your way up. It is totally fine that you want to look like a rock star and get down to the nitty gritty by creating rips and tears in your jeans all at once, but patience is key. Distressing denim is truly an art form and the professionals like James Martinez advise that beginning with small baby frays or lighter techniques will fair better than going all in and trying to be like the pros. A tip that Martinez wants you to consider is that distressing on the denim becomes amplified as soon as the jeans are washed and even re-washed. The washer loosens the fibers and then the dryer expands the distressed area by a quarter of an inch. So think small – it will turn up big results.

Related: Best Places For Discount Designer Jeans In DFW

Once you've gotten the hang of the process, begin distressing with sand paper. Ninety-five percent of the time, regular denim is processed through industrial sanding. For a richer distressed look and one that will mirror designer jeans, purchase some sand paper from your neighborhood home improvement store, such as a Home Depot. Martinez specifically notes that sandpaper type #220 is the best sandpaper for the job and one that he uses often. Distressing pros use sandpaper because it's more fine and less harsh than the likes of a cheese grater and because it creates a richer look and feel to the denim. Once you have graduated from cheese grater distressing to sandpaper, you should follow the same horizontal techniques above in creating your distressed denim. A tip from Martinez: a lighter pair of denim distresses easier than a darker pair.
To add a faded look to your jeans, add diluted bleach to your washer. Here is a tip that most people will find extremely useful. People really enjoy the tattered and frayed jeans, but the most common form of distressing is definitely a faded pair of denim. The best way to fade your jeans is by adding diluted bleach to the washer machine. A great example would be 4 ounces of bleach to 10 ounces of water. Martinez hints that when he fades jeans, he makes sure that the washer has already started and then adds the jeans into the mixture 2 minutes later.

Related: Best Tailors In North Texas

Leah Frazier is a freelance writer covering all things Dallas. Her work can be found on


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