This Is Why You Should Never Buy Jean Cutoffs

This post was originally published on June 10, 2015.

Before we continue — there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a pair of cutoffs. It’s just that making your own is so ridiculously easy. This particular editor is able to cut a pair in less than two minutes, without a ruler, a Magic Marker, or even trying them on first. But, achieving this level of mastery didn't come without its fair share of DIY disasters. From the time I cut straight across a pair of jeans to create the most awkward M-shaped Daisy Dukes, ever, to the time I cut myself because I thought the best technique was to snip around my thighs while my jeans were still on my body, I've got plenty of cutoff regrets from summers past. But, with failures come enlightenment. Even if you’re convinced that you don’t have the DIY gene, we’re here to ensure that whatever kind of cutoffs you covet can be just two snips away. Ahead: the basic techniques, tips that make a difference, and clearly highlighted DON'TS (especially if you don't want to spend your June wrapped in Band-Aids). First, let's talk about the jeans:
The Skinny Jean
You've probably got a pair of skinny jeans in your closet you don't wear as often anymore. More likely, you've got five. The perfect kind for shorts is made of a thicker denim and has just a touch of stretch. The more jegging-like, the worse the cutoff.
The Boyfriend Jean
Worn-in and much-loved, the baggy boyfriend jean gets most of its appeal from being roomie. It's the perfect jean to thrift. Don't worry about how high the rise is or how it fits by your knees — it's all about the crotch and thighs here. Got a pair? Now, let's move onto the cutoffs!
1. The Double-Cuff
Start With:
Skinny jeans
Here's How: Identify where your knees typically hit. You're going to want to cut halfway up the leg from there. Then, cuff the legs in two wide folds. The wider the cuff, the better the pants will stay cuffed.

The Game-Changing Tip:
Don't worry about cutting in a straight line or making both sides the exact same length. You'll be able to even it out when you fold.

Avoid At All Costs:
Cuffing the hem more than twice. Any more, and the shorts will get too tight around your legs. The Styling: A double-cuff short pairs well with an on-trend off-the-shoulder top for a no-brainer summer look.
2. The Basic Daisy Duke
Start With: High-waisted boyfriend jeans

Here's How:
Turn your jeans inside out. Then, identify where all the seams come together at the crotch to form an X. Use that as an anchor to then smooth your jeans out on a flat surface. (The front waistband of the jean should be significantly lower than the back.) Then, cut perpendicularly across the leg so you're snipping at least one inch below the front pockets. You can go longer if you've got a bigger butt or want more length. You should end up with a slight V shape. Throw 'em in the wash to encourage a nice fray.

The Game-Changing Tip:
That crotch move is key for two reasons. First, most women are significantly bigger on the backside than the front, and jeans are made to accommodate that. If you don't cut based on the placement of that center X, you'll end up with cutoffs that are just right in the front and way too short in the back.

Avoid At All Costs:
Cutting straight through the pockets, which is likely to happen if you don't turn your jeans inside out. Also, snipping straight across both legs will give you shorts that are longer on the outside of your thighs than the inside. No good. The Styling: Keep the look classic and laid-back with a cropped tank on top and oversized button-up over your shoulders.
3. The Destroyed Short-Short
Start With: Skinny jeans
Here's How: Using the same technique you learned with the basic Daisy Duke, start with a short length you're happy with. Then, using long and short horizontal cuts, snip away at wherever you want some distressing. We like making long cuts by the new hem and shorter and shorter parallel lines above it. Keep things asymmetrical, and your cuts at least a centimeter apart. Snip off the edges of the pockets, too, for extra fraying.

The Game-Changing Tip:
It's going to look bad right after you finish cutting. You're going to want to be obsessive about making sure the lines are straight, and both legs are even. But the more hacked-up, the better (we even like using duller scissors to create a more jagged line). Know that it'll look great after it spends a cycle in the washer and dryer. The tumble will fray everything up — the rawer the edge, the more fraying and distressing will appear.

Avoid At All Costs:
Accidental nudity. Those distressed areas are basically sheer, so keep your cuts to the outer edges of your legs and on the fronts of your shorts.

The Styling:
Offset a destroyed style with a statement eyelet top and sophisticated loafer-slides.
4. The Slouchy Bermuda
Start With: Boyfriend jeans
Here's How: Cut the jeans perpendicular to the pant leg right above your knee. Then, using tiny snips, create little holes and horizontal lines (never vertical!), focusing on the outside thighs. Throw them in the wash. Cuffing, optional.

Game-Changing Tip:
Find a jean that's one to two sizes too big for you (this is a good thrifting project!). A pair that fits a little baggy around your waist will look more slouchy and breezy as shorts. Avoid At All Costs: A high-waisted knee-length jean is a really hard silhouette to pull off, so if you're doing a Bermuda, make sure that the rise is low-to-mid. The Styling: A longer length pairs well with a menswear-inspired oxford shirt and some lace-up heels to add a little height.

More from Styling Tips

R29 Original Series