Distressed jeans have been a staple in men’s fashion for decades. With their cool, laidback vibe and versatility from the streets to the office, it’s no wonder why distressed denim has maintained its popularity over the years. Once associated with rock stars and rebels, you’ll now see distressed jeans on guys of all styles.
When it comes to fashion, distressed jeans are truly a modern classic. Whether you’re a distressed denim veteran or looking to cop your first pair, this guide will give you an expert rundown. We’ll discuss the top 5 most popular distressed jeans for men and provide tips on how to choose the right pair for your body type and personal style. You’ll also find answers to some frequently asked questions about buying, wearing, and caring for men’s distressed denim.
So grab your favorite tee and sneakers, and let’s get into the world of distressed jeans!
The Top 5 Most Popular Distressed Jeans for Men
Every guy should have at least one go-to pair of distressed jeans in his closet. They can be paired with everything from casual tees and jackets for weekend wear to button-downs or blazers for a dressed up vibe. When it comes to distressed denim, men have tons of brands and styles to choose from. Here are the top 5 most popular options:
1. Levi’s 501 Original Fit Jeans
As the OG denim brand, it’s no surprise Levi’s 501s top the list. The 501 features their signature straight leg, regular rise, and button fly. With just the right amount of whiskering and fading, these are a true distressed denim icon. You’ll get an authentic broken-in look right off the shelf. Levi’s 501s come in a range of washes and several distressed variations. Expect to pay $50-$70 for the quality and name brand.
2. AEO Extreme Flex Slim Jeans
For guys who prefer a modern slim fit, American Eagle’s Extreme Flex jeans are hugely popular. The super stretchy cotton-polyester fabric and flex waistband allow for comfortable movement. Their slim tapered legs and medium rise create a flattering silhouette. Choose light or heavy fading and distressing from holes to threadbare accents. AEO often runs sales bringing the price down to $25-$50 per pair.
3. Lucky Brand 221 Slim Fit Jeans
Lucky Brand is known for their vintage Americana styles, and the 221 slim fit distressed jean delivers. It has moderate distressed accents with some slight shredding and fading on dark rinses. The mid-rise is versatile for tucking shirts in or out. Made from high-quality, rigid denim that softens over time. Typical pricing is $99-$129 per pair.
4. Wrangler Outdoor Zone Comfort Flex Waist Jeans
Guys who appreciate a roomier fit should check out Wrangler’s Outdoor Zone jeans. They have a relaxed straight leg and an action gusseted crotch for extra mobility. The signature Flex Waist band prevents gaping in back as you move. Subtle whiskering and hand sanding provides a worn-in look. Priced very affordable around $25-$35.
5. Abercrombie & Fitch Ultra Low Rise Ripped Jeans
For a more adventurous distressed style, Abercrombie’s Ultra Low Rise jeans deliver serious rips and repairs. Shredding and abrasions run down the legs, with the knees blown out for an grungy look. Made from Abercrombie’s Ultra Stretch denim for a slim silhouette. Wear them with graphic tees and sneakers. Typically $88-$128 per pair.
Now that you’re familiar with some top choices, it’s time to find your personal perfect pair. Keep reading for tips on choosing the right distressed jeans for your body, style and budget.
How to Choose the Right Pair of Distressed Jeans
Finding your match amongst the dozens of distressing styles and denim washes can seem daunting. But have no fear – you can zero in on your ideal distressed jeans with a few insider tips:
Consider Your Body Type
One of the most important factors in choosing jeans is finding a proper fit for your build. Guys with a slim or athletic shape tend to look best in distressed jeans with a slim or skinny leg. Try styles like Levi’s 511 Skinny or AEO Extreme Flex. If you have more of a stocky or muscular build, go for a classic straight leg or regular fit, like the 501 or Wrangler’s Outdoor Zone. For bigger guys, look for roomier relaxed fits and avoid super tight skinny jeans. The key is balancing the slimness of the leg with the proportions of your thighs and calves. Don’t be afraid to always try on a few different fits.
Pay Attention to Rise
Along with the cut of the leg, you want to evaluate the rise when trying on distressed jeans. Low rise jeans sit below the natural waist, while mid rise rests at the waist and high rises goes above. Low rise pairs well with shorter torsos, creating a lengthening effect. Mid rise is versatile for most body types. High rise can be flattering for guys with longer torsos or who prefer more coverage. Be wary of high rise pants creeping up too far and causing uncomfortable bunching. Look for a front rise that reaches about 1-2 inches below your belly button.
Look for Comfortable Fabrics
Stretch and mobility are crucial when wearing tight distressed denim. Seek out jeans made of cotton with spandex or polyester woven in. The slight stretch allows jeans to contour your body while retaining structure. Look for at least 2% elastane. For maximum flexibility, aim for 4% or more spandex. Other features like flex waistbands also improve comfort in distressed jeans. Make sure any rips or shredding don’t restrict movement in the thighs. The ideal pair should feel broken-in, not stiff.
Find the Right Amount of Distressing
Consider how much fading, whiskering, rips or other signs of wear you want on your jeans. Lightly distressed jeans have minimal accents and work for dressier occasions. Heavily distressed pairs with major shredding create an edgy, grungy vibe perfect for weekends or going out. If you can only afford one new pair, go for a medium level of distressing that strikes a balance for casual and smart casual wear. Stay away from excessive blowouts or fraying if you plan to wear your jeans to the office.
Look for distressed jeans in classic indigo or black washes that pair well with anything. While that stonewash or acid splatter distressed look may be cool, it’s harder to dress up and match with tops. Save the more novelty washes for a secondary pair you’ll wear less frequently. The beauty of distressed denim is in its rugged simplicity. A good dark pair with whiskering and minor rips can carry you from running errands to restaurants and dates.
Check Quality of Distressing
Authentic distressed jeans should have a natural, slightly imperfect look from hand sanding and grinding. Quality distressing will blend seamlessly into the seams and pockets. Beware of jeans with obvious straight cuts or uniform fading made by lasers and chemicals. They photograph poorly and the distressing may not hold up over time. Subtler grinding and abrasions last longer. Check that any repairs blend with the denim versus standing out. Hold jeans inside out to inspect inner construction as well.
Know Your Length
Since distressed jeans come pre-ripped and faded, you want to land the right inseam length out of the gate. Try jeans on with the shoes you plan to wear them with. Standing barefoot can throw off the proportions. Make sure there’s only a slight break or stacking at the hem. Excess length can be trimmed professionally or cuffed. But jeans that are too short can’t be lengthened without losing the distressed bottom edges. Consider the rise as well – low rise jeans may need a longer inseam. Know your ideal inseam length and if in doubt, size up.
Prices for men’s distressed jeans span the gamut from discount retailers like Old Navy for $25-$45 to designer brands like Saint Laurent for over $500. Premium jeans with hand done distressing do justify some of the higher pricing. But you can score quality distressed jeans at lower price points if you know what to look for. Shoot for at least 2% spandex in the fabric, triple stitching on seams, rivets at stress points, and bar tacking at the fly. Be willing to invest in a pair you’ll wear often. But you can likely find multiple options under $100.
Now that you know how to assess the fit, rise, fabric, distressing and length, you’re ready to start trying on some jeans. Heading to the store? Bring this checklist along as you shop and compare different distressed jeans.
FAQs and Answers About Men’s Distressed Jeans
Still have some burning questions about buying the perfect pair of distressed jeans? Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about men’s distressed denim.
Q: Why are distressed jeans so popular?
A: There’s just something cool about the worn, weathered look of distressed denim that people love. It gives off a relaxed vibe and can make anyone look laidback. Jeans with rips, fading, and repairs pair equally well with tee shirts or blazers in both casual and dressy settings. Distressed details also lend depth and visual interest to an otherwise plain pair of blue jeans. And ever since rock stars and rebels started wearing ripped denim back in the 80s, they’ve kept that rebellious cachet. Distressed jeans will likely maintain their staple status because of their versatility and ability to add a touch of ruggedness to any guy’s wardrobe.
Q: How do I wash and care for distressed jeans?
A: To maintain that perfectly faded and ripped look, distressed jeans require gentle care and infrequent washing. Wash them inside-out in cold water on a delicate cycle. Avoid frequent washing, and only launder them when truly dirty. Hang dry or tumble dry on the lowest heat setting. Wash dark denim separately as the dye can bleed. This keeps the contrasting fades crisp. To prevent rips and holes from growing larger, iron the inside seam allowances together after washing. Use fabric glue to reinforce shredded areas if needed. Spot clean light stains with a damp sponge or cloth. Prolong the life of your distressed denim by washing less and washing smart.
Q: Can I wear distressed jeans to work?
A: Whether or not distressed jeans are office-appropriate depends on your workplace dress code. Jobs in creative fields or tech startups will likely be more casual. In corporate or legal offices, you’ll want to stick with minimal distressing. Stay away from heavy shredding, bleach spots, or abrasions on dressier jeans. A darker wash with slight whiskering and straight leg fit can look smart when paired with a button-down and blazer. Cuffing also lends a polished vibe. Ask your HR department if distressed accents are acceptable. When in doubt, limit distressing or keep an office-ready non-distressed pair handy for work.
Q: Should guys wear loose or skinny distressed jeans?
A: Rather than blindly following trends, choose a fit of distressed jeans based on your individual body type. Men with athletic or slim figures often look best in distressed jeans that taper down to a skinny leg, like Levi’s 511. Straight leg or original fit jeans balance out stockier guys. Bigger, muscular guys can go for relaxed straight leg jeans with room to move. In general, modern cuts tend to be trimmer in the leg versus the baggier 1990s fits. Try on both loose and skinny fits – you may be surprised at what flatters you most. The denim wash and degree of distressing will grab attention, so the jeans themselves just need to fit well.
Q: Are distressed jeans out of style?
A: If you’re wondering whether it’s still fashionable to wear distressed denim, the answer is a definitive yes. Distressed details have remained popular on jeans for men and women since the 1980s. The trend shows no sign of slowing down, as each generation puts their own spin on shredded hems and worn spots. While silhouettes and rises may change, the versatility and attitude of distressed jeans continues to appeal to guys. Today it’s trendy to pair ripped jeans with modern oversized shirts and streetwear sneakers. Distressing also adds interest to jeans made of non-denim fabrics like joggers. So feel free to proudly rock your ripped jeans – now and for years to come.
Q: How can I distress my old jeans at home?
A: Want to morph your old jeans into distressed fashion statements? With some simple tools and techniques, you can totally DIY custom rips and fading. Start by researching distressing methods so you know what you’re doing. Practicing on thrift store jeans first is advisable. Hand sand areas using 60-80 grit sandpaper to mimic high-wear spots like the thighs and knees. For shreds, use a sharp razor blade or utility knife. Working inside-out helps control the effects. Make random tears and slice slits or flaps into seams for a natural look. For safety, always cut away from your body. Remove loose threads. Rub a pumice stone or wire wheel over the jeans to produce texture and abrasions in the fabric. Don’t be afraid to experiment – there are no rules with DIY distressing!
Q: What shoes do I wear with distressed jeans?
A: The easygoing vibe of distressed jeans calls for equally laidback shoe pairings. Sneakers are a no brainer – choose leather high-tops, canvas slip-ons or sporty styles. Distressed denim also looks great with boots like Chelsea, chukka or lace-up styles. Espadrilles and boat shoes bring a casual preppy twist. Loafers and monk strap shoes keep things refined when you want to dress them up. The more formal the shoe, the less intense the distressing should be. Sophisticated oxfords usually pair best with minimal whiskering and fading. Ultimately you can wear distressed jeans with a wide range of footwear. Just keep things relaxed and skip the dress shoes.
Q: Are distressed jeans worth the money?
A: Premium designer jeans with artfully done hand-me-down styling and details do warrant their higher prices, sometimes over $200 per pair. The costly distressing is meant to emulate years of wear, with custom touches that require skilled workmanship. However, today you can find quality pre-ripped jeans at lower prices, around $50-100, from mainstream brands. Look for fading and whiskering that appears authentic, with seam rips and shredding blended into the denim. Check that the material contains stretch for comfort but retains structure. With some savvy shopping, you can find durable, well-made distressed jeans that justify their price. But also expect to pay more for unique details like repairs, patches, embroidery, etc. For basic everyday distressed jeans, affordable options often suffice.
Find Your Perfect Pair of Men’s Distressed Jeans
After reading this guide, you should have the knowledge to go out and confidently shop for the ideal distressed jeans to match your personal tastes. Keep the fit, rise, wash and degree of distressing in mind as you browse different styles. Try on a few pairs until you find “the one” that checks all your boxes for comfort, versatility and that laidback distressed vibe.
Whether you rip and shred your denim yourself or buy pre-distressed, incorporate this timeless classic into your wardrobe. Men’s fashion wouldn’t be the same without our beloved distressed jeans. So embrace your inner rockstar rebel and work those rips! What was once risque and edgy is now a staple that can be dressed up or down. Distressed denim lets you show off your own unique flair.