Cutoff Jeans: How to cut jeans into shorts – Step by Step

How to cut jeans into shorts - faverie

Your closet and drawers are probably filled with different styles of shorts for those glorious, warm summer months. However, you can extend your wardrobe without having to spend a penny by grabbing a pair of old jeans and turning them into shorts. 

The cutoff jean short is a classic clothing item that can be dressed up and down. They can be paired with all kinds of different shirts, shoes, and accessories. While you can purchase a pair of denim cutoff shorts, you should try making a pair of your own.

In the coming chapters, we’re going to take a look at the specifics of cutoff shorts and how you go about cutting a pair yourself. By the end of your reading and learning how to cut jeans into shorts, you’ll want to grab a pair of scissors and start repurposing your old pairs of jeans for the arrival of summer.

Let’s get started!

Introduction to cutoff shorts

When summer arrives, you can throw on a more casual outfit than you might wear in the winter. No longer do you have to focus on layers upon layers to get the look that you want while being able to stay warm and protect your body from the elements.

This article is going to focus on a very classic piece of summer clothing: cutoff shorts. We’ll describe what this clothing item is, when you should wear it and how it can be styled.

When shorts are cut off at the bottom they’re typically made of denim. This is because the denim will unravel just slightly, leaving behind a very soft and tattered edge. These shorts actually look better and better as time goes on, and they become more distressed. 

Coming in many different colors and styles, cutoff shorts are a wardrobe must-have regardless of your age, your body type, or personal style preference. Let’s not delay getting started as we have a lot to cover.

What are cutoff shorts?

Cutoff shorts are a garment that you wear over the lower half of your body. They are designed to cover the legs, but just the top portion of your thighs and pelvis. They’re not a type of pants, so they’re not long enough to reach down your entire legs.

Woman posing holds jacket sunglasses

Depending on the style of shorts that you’re wearing, you may find that they extend down towards the knee a bit. Different than a traditional pair of shorts, cutoff shorts have actually been physically cut from a longer pair of pants, so they become shorter. 

Some cutoff shorts are simply designed to look shorter in length with a distressed bottom, though they were never actually cut from a longer pair of pants.

Cutoff shorts can have varying lengths. Some people like to wear them very short, especially the younger crowd. They can be cut even all the way around the bottom, but some cutoff shorts will be a little longer in the back and shorter in the front. The Bermuda look features denim that goes down almost to the knee, but they can also be cutoff shorts.

Some cutoff shorts will be made from classic blue denim, though other shades and different materials are also perfectly acceptable. Black denim and white denim cutoff shorts have been popular for many years. This style became popular in the 70s and 80s, and we’re still wearing them today. 

Some people make their own out of an old pair of jeans, while they can also be purchased with the cutoff design already formed. Paired with anything from a tank top to a blouse, the cutoff short is versatile and fun for many occasions.

Reasons to cut jeans into shorts

There are a number of reasons why somebody might want to cut their jeans into a pair of shorts. Maybe you’re looking to repurpose something old and turn it into something new. 

You may also be looking to get creative and create a customized fashion piece that reflects your style and personality. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you might want to cut jeans into shorts.

To Make a Fashion Statement

Cutoff shorts almost come with their own personality and attitude. When someone sees you in a casual pair of cutoffs during the summertime, they get the vibe that you’re laid back and ready to have some summer fun. 

This isn’t a formal clothing item, so cutoff shorts are usually preferred for things like beach parties, hanging out on your patio, going to get drinks at a local outdoor bar, etc.

To Repurpose Old Jeans

Do you have a pair of old jeans that don’t fit the way you want them to anymore? Maybe the waist fits fine, but the rest of the leg is too tight or too short. There may even be a stain or hole in the lower leg that affects your ability to wear them as they are. 

You can repurpose those jeans by cutting them off at the mid-thigh and then wearing them as shorts. You’ve essentially created your own garment using what you already had at home, and the process is super easy.

What materials & tools do you need?

You don’t need any kind of fancy tools to make cutoff shorts. This is actually a very simple process that can take just minutes to complete. Let’s talk about what you should equip yourself with.

Fabric scissors

The most important tool that you’ll need to make cutoff shorts is a good pair of fabric scissors. Fabric scissors are a little different than a similar pair that you may have sitting in your kitchen drawer. 

They are usually quite sharp, so they can quickly and easily cut through a thick piece of fabric. In this case, you’re working with denim which can be pretty tough to slice through if you don’t have the right tools.

A marker or chalk

You really don’t want to start cutting a pair of denim pants or shorts without measuring and drawing a line around the leg first. If you do, you run the risk of having uneven lengths on each leg. 

Grab a marker that will wash off when you’re done cutting if there’s any left behind. You can also use a special craft pencil that’s designed for drawing on fabric. It easily comes off with a little bit of water, but it does a great job at marking your spot.

A pair of old jeans

Experiment on a pair of old jeans that you no longer wear but that will still look great after being transformed into a newer pair of denim shorts. If you have a pair that is compromised on the lower leg, this is the perfect pair to use.

Woman poses smiling fur jacket jeans

Look for a pair of jeans that are too short, too long, or damaged at the bottoms. It’s hard to mess up during the creation of cutoff shorts, but you don’t want to start with a brand new pair of designer jeans. You would be wasting fabric anyway.


You’ll want to use a ruler to measure up from the bottom of each pant leg. This will ensure that each leg of the cutoff shorts is going to be even in length. It’s a good idea to start a little longer than you anticipated. If you end up with one leg that’s shorter than the other, you’ll have some additional fabric to work with so you can even things out.


A mirror will allow you to try the shorts on and see how they look from the front and the back. You can make changes as needed.


Sandpaper is something people often are surprised to hear they need for this process. Once you’ve cut the length of the shorts, you’ll want to distress the edges of the legs as well as other parts of the shorts. Instead of cutting holes all over the place with scissors, rub sandpaper on the shorts to break down the denim a little bit.

Thread and needle

You can use a needle and thread to add a little personal touch to your denim shorts. Maybe you know how to embroider and want to put your name on your cutoffs. Maybe you cut part of the shorts the wrong way but are able to fix it with a quick sew. A thread and needle is always a good backup plan to have.


Tweezers can be used to help a thread be fed through a needle or pulled through a thick piece of denim. You can also use your tweezers to pull at the strands that are at the bottom of the denim shorts, so they start to unravel faster.

Is it difficult to cut jeans into shorts?

Don’t be overwhelmed with the process of cutting jeans into shorts. This is actually very simple and doesn’t require a lot of time or effort.

The overall look of denim shorts is very casual, so this isn’t a look that people are going to be critiquing when it comes to precision and neatness. Your shorts will look good no matter how you cut them or styled them. 

Some looks are very simple, straight across the thigh. Others feature pockets hanging from underneath the shorts so you can see them sitting on the upper leg. Get creative with your cutoff jeans to see if you can create a very customized and fun look that will be perfect for all of your summer outfits.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what cutoff shorts are and how they are made feel free to grab a pair of jeans and try this process out for yourself. If you’re not confident, see if you can find a pair of cutoff shorts already made at the store. 

You can also continue reading to learn more about tips and advice to create cutoff shorts as well as different outfit ideas.

How to turn jeans into shorts

Are you thinking about taking an old pair of jeans and turning them into a pair of cutoff shorts? Not sure where to begin so you don’t mess up the entire process and ruin a pair of jeans? This chapter focuses on how you turn jeans into shorts so they look professionally designed, and you get to rock this ultra-casual and fun look.

Denim cutoff shorts are a classic fashion item that has been worn by men and women for decades. It’s the article of clothing that you grab when you want to be comfortable but still stylish. 

They pair with t-shirts, tank tops, crop tops, and even blouses. You can complete your outfit with just about any shoe. The cutoff short is something that you’ll put on time and time again. It never goes out of style.

You can go to the store or shop online to shop for cutoff shorts, but you have the option of making your own pair as well. That’s originally how this fashion item began. People were taking an old pair of pants and cutting them to the length they wanted. 

It’s a customizable clothing option that you can make using one of your favorite old pairs of jeans that just don’t get the job done as pants anymore. You can still make your own cutoff shorts today. Let’s take a look at the steps!

Choose a pair of jeans

Before you grab your tools or get started with making a pair of cutoff shorts, you’ll need to choose a pair of jeans to use. The majority of people making their own cutoff shorts will experiment with an older pair of pants that they don’t wear much anymore. 

You can salvage a pair of pants that have a stain on them or maybe don’t fit in length anymore. Instead of throwing them away or donating them, you can grab a pair of scissors and make them into a brand-new clothing item.

The jeans that you choose should fit you well in the waist. The rest of the legs don’t really matter since they will be cut much shorter. Make sure that the zipper and button still work, and you’re good to go.

Pre-shrink the jeans you’ve selected

If you’re working with a newer pair of jeans, make sure that you’re preshrunk them. There are a couple of different reasons for this. If you make cutoff shorts out of a pair of pants, and then they shrink, they can be rendered useless because they don’t fit you. 

If you know the pants aren’t going to shrink anymore and they fit you perfectly, you’ll have a great pair of cutoff shorts in no time.

Also, cutting the legs off of a pair of jeans, making sure the length fits, and then washing them in a way that they shrink can cause the legs to become shorter than you would like. 

Shrinking your pants can sometimes affect the look of the denim since a lot of brands are working a stretchy material into the design to help them fit better. That elastic can end up looking bunched up or rippled if you’re not careful with the process of washing and making your cutoff jean shorts.

Determine what length you want the shorts to be

One of the best things about making your own cutoff shorts is being able to choose the length. It’s frustrating to go to the clothing store looking for a pair of jeans only to find shorts that are either too short or too long. 

You likely have a sweet spot for the length you’re looking for, and you can determine that length right from home so your new cutoff shorts fall right where they should.

Cutoff shorts are usually cut shorter for women and to about the knee for men. Some women even cut them short enough that they leave the pockets and let them poke out from beneath the legs of the shorts. 

You can play around with the length a bit by folding the pants to the desired length and then trying them on. Once you’ve determined where they should be cut, you can proceed.

Put the jeans on and mark where you want to cut them

Try on the jeans that you’re going to turn into cutoff shorts, and mark the length that you want to use. You’ll need to take the shorts off to cut them properly and evenly, so you don’t want to lose the length you’ve determined. You can mark the perfect spot with a fabric pencil or marker that washes off easily.

Lay them on a surface and use a ruler to trace the cutting path

You’ll want to continue to mark the jeans before cutting them. Take them off and lay them on a completely flat surface where you can work. The bottom of the shorts should be even all the way around and even with both legs.

Detail hands jeans scissors

Use a ruler to accomplish this. Draw a straight line across, and then flip the shorts over so you can follow the line on the other side as well.

Carefully cut the jeans

It’s now time to cut your denim pants into cutoff shorts. Proceed carefully with this step. Once you make the cuts, the only thing you’ll be able to do is to make them shorter. If you cut off too much fabric with the first cut, you could end up ruining the look altogether. 

Take your time to carefully follow the line you’ve drawn all the way around the shorts. If you’re more comfortable, draw the line a little longer than you think you want to shorts to be.

 You can always go back and remove more fabric if you’re looking for a shorter style. You can’t add fabric back on. You may also need to go back and straighten out part of the legs if they weren’t cut perfectly straight.

Afterward, try them on

Once the legs have been cut off on the jeans, try them on to see how everything looks. You can always try the pants on when you’ve only cut one leg. This will help you determine if you’re proceeding properly. 

Keep in mind that the bottom of the shorts won’t have any fringe or cuffing on them yet, so you’ll just be checking the length and how even the shorts are.

Decide what to do with the hemline 

At the bottom of the cutoff shorts, you’ll have to add some sort of detail to complete the look. Most people like to add fringe to soften the edge. You can do this with a piece of sandpaper. 

Gently go along the edge of the cut, rubbing the sandpaper onto the fabric. This will break down some of the fibers, so when you wash the shorts, they will start to fray and unravel just slightly. 

After that first wash, you may find that you need to trim some strings off if they got too long. However, don’t cut them off completely. They add to the overall look of the shorts.

If you don’t want to worry about the fringe look, you have the option of cuffing the bottom of your shorts. In order to do this, you’ll need to leave the length of the shorts a bit longer so take this into account when you’re first marking the length of your shorts. 

You can cuff them either once or twice. If you’re unsure where to make the cut, you can cut a longer length and experiment a bit with where the cuff lays. Then make more cuts to get the shorts to the perfect length once they’re cuffed.

Consider adding some decorations to make them look as good as new

There are a few different decorations and accessories that you can add to your cutoff shorts to really personalize their look and make them stand out. If you have a hole somewhere on the shorts and it’s not in a spot that reveals too much skin, you may want to leave the hole alone. 

Detail woman shorts

You can actually buy shorts and jeans now that actually have that distress already incorporated into the design. You can also cover up a hole with some simple stitches or a patch. Sequins and beads can add a fun flare to a pair of cutoff shorts if you’re comfortable applying them.

Now that you’re an expert on cutoff shorts, it’s time to make your own pair. This really is a very easy process that you shouldn’t stress about. Once you’ve done it for the first time, you’ll want to turn all of your old jeans into repurposed summer cutoffs. 

Continue reading to learn more about tips and advice for making your own cutoff shorts, as well as some different outfit ideas that utilize cutoffs.

Tips & advice to cut jeans into shorts

If you’ve tried to cut your jeans into shorts but failed, there may be some steps that you overlooked. It might seem as simple as grabbing a pair of scissors and chopping off each leg, but you can make a number of mistakes if you’re not careful.

For example, the legs could be uneven, or the front of the shorts could be a different length from the back. This chapter will look at some helpful tips and advice that you can use to cut jeans into shorts.

Upcycling your clothing can save you money while adding some fun items to your wardrobe. If you haven’t gotten around to shopping for shorts yet this season, or you have a number of pairs of jeans that are no longer wearable, it might be time to experiment with turning them into cutoff shorts. 

You might not have grown out of your jeans, but they may be washed out or damaged in some way that can be saved by cutting off the lower legs. Here’s how to cut your jeans into shorts with success.

Select a pair of jeans that fit you comfortably

The process of making cutoff shorts isn’t going to be successful if you try to use a pair of jeans that no longer fits in the waist or butt. They can be a bit short or tight in the lower leg because that part will be removed. 

Otherwise, make sure they’re still fitting. If you can, stay away from chopping up your favorite pair of jeans if they still fit. Keep this process handy for jeans that are ready to make their way out the door, but you want to breathe new life into them for a little bit longer.

Pre-shrink the jeans

Make sure that your jeans have gone through the process of being pre-shrunk. If you wait to wash them for the first time after you’ve cut them, this can end up ruining the jeans/shorts. You’ll need to be careful about the length you’re cutting the shorts to. 

If they shrink up more, they can be too short and un-wearable. All it takes is a quick wash according to the care label on your pants. We recommend hanging your denim up to dry rather than running it through the drier in order to protect its integrity, but feel free to do what you’re used to.

Try them on before deciding where to cut

You always want to put the jeans on before you decide where they’re going to be cut. Move around, sit down, bend and see where the legs hit each time that you do this. It’s a good idea to mark the pants while they’re on your body. You don’t have to mark them all the way around the leg, but place a small line where you would like to measure and cut evenly.

Cut across 2-3 inches below the mark

You have to leave a little bit of space for the jeans to unravel and form that frayed edge that’s common on cutoffs. Always cut about two to three inches below the mark that you’ve made. You can always come back and cut more off if the shorts ended up being too long, but there’s not a lot that you can do if the shorts aren’t as long as you expected that they would be.

Use a Good Pair of Scissors

You need a good-quality pair of scissors to cut through thick denim properly. If you try to use a dull pair of scissors that aren’t designed for fabric, this will not only dull the scissors but will result in uneven and jagged cuts. Fabric scissors are an affordable investment, and they’ll do a fantastic job of cutting cutoff shorts.

Use a Ruler for Marking the Shorts

You can purchase denim cutoff shorts that have a slightly longer back than the front, but it’s probably a good idea to stick to the basics when cutting your own shorts. Use a ruler to draw a line all the way around each leg at the point that you marked. 

Don’t forget, you don’t want to cut at that line. You’re going to cut about two to three inches just below that line to allow for unraveling. The purpose of the ruler is to make sure the cuts don’t angle down on either side in an uneven fashion.

Mark the Line With a Washable Product

Be careful about what you’re using to mark your denim. Pen and pencil sometimes don’t wash out very easily. Even if you cut your shorts perfectly, you could end up ruining the look with markings that stick around. You can purchase an affordable fabric pencil that comes out with a quick run through the washing machine.

Wash Your Shorts Before Wearing Them Again

You’ll notice that your shorts don’t have that great frayed edge when they’ve just been cut. Washing them once or twice after cutting them will allow some of that edge to unravel.

Use Sandpaper

Sandpaper can be used to rough up the edges of your newly cut shorts. Take a small piece of large grit sandpaper and rub away at the edges in a horizontal motion. The fabric will start to soften and unravel the more you do this. You can also use sandpaper to wear some small, distressing spots around the pockets or on the legs.

Sandpaper colors

These tips and tricks should make your life a lot easier if you’re looking to experiment with cutting your jeans into shorts. You’ll soon be ready to rock that relaxed summer vibe with your new cutoff shorts. Stick around for chapter four if you want some ideas for how to style your cutoffs.

Outfit ideas

Now that you have created the perfect pair of cutoff shorts, you’re probably trying to figure out what to wear them with to make the most stylish look possible.

In this chapter, we’re going to take a look at some fantastic outfit ideas that use cutoff shorts made of denim as the central focal point. 

When you’re done reading, you’ll be able to look through your own wardrobe to figure out all of the outfit combinations that you can make using your shorts.

Don’t be afraid to make a few different pairs using different shades and styles of denim, so you have more versatility to work with. Denim comes in so many different shades. From light blue to dark blue and even black and white varieties. 

You can accrue some pretty fashionable cutoff shorts in your closet. You can even experiment a bit with length and the angle of the cut to achieve different looks.

Cutoff shorts + blouse + heels

Cutoff shorts don’t just have to be used for a very casual look. You can dress up a great pair of cutoffs as well. Try wearing a modest pair of cutoff shorts with a flowing blouse. The blouse should be short or tucked into your shorts, so you’re not covering them up. 

A classic pair of heels will tie in the fancier look of the blouse, and you can choose a variety of accessories to complete the look.

Cutoff shorts + oversized tee

If casual is the look that you’re going for, pair a simple pair of blue denim cutoff shorts with an oversized t-shirt. Your t-shirt can be solid in color, or choose a graphic shirt for a modern-day look. 

This is another instance when you don’t want the shirt you’re wearing to be too long. Otherwise, it will look like you’re not wearing shorts at all. However, a wider t-shirt would be perfect for this laid-back style.

Cutoff shorts + denim jacket

Cutoff shorts look great when you pair them with a denim jacket. You have the option to wear the same shade of denim on the top and bottom of your look for a matching style. Otherwise, choose two different shades that complement each other. 

Try to mix anything too drastic, like black denim with very pale blue denim. Underneath your denim jacket, stick with something simple like a basic V-neck t-shirt or tank top. Flat sandals or sneakers are a great footwear choice for this look.

Cutoff shorts + button-down shirt + hat

Take your cutoff shorts to a stylish level with a button-down shirt that is oversized (kind of like the look of a men’s work shirt), and pair it with a large-brimmed hat that has a very summer vibe.

Woman shorts shirt hat

This look is casual but dressed up as well, so you can wear it to the beach, out to dinner, or even to a bar to get some drinks with friends. The shoes and accessories you choose for this look will determine the overall look. You could even wear a bathing suit under this look if you’re headed to the water for the day.

Denim and Black

If you want your cutoff shorts to really stand out, pair them with a basic black t-shirt and keep all of your other wardrobe options black as well (shoes, handbag, etc.). 

We recommended tucking the front of your t-shirt into the front of your shorts and fluffing it out a little bit. This is the perfect look when you have a great pair of cutoff shorts that have distressing in all the right places.

Cutoff shorts + Tank Top + Cardigan

To create a softer look using your cutoff shorts, pair them with a simple, light-colored tank top that is fitted. Over the top, wear a simple cardigan that has a summery hue. Leave it unbuttoned, so it flows. 

And you can take it off and tie it around your waist if you get too warm. It will be nice to have that extra layer with you if you’re going to be out in the summer and expect the temperatures to drop as the sun goes down.

Cuffed Cutoff Shorts + Boat Neck Shirt + Sandals

Your cutoff shots can be cuffed at the bottom if you have enough length to work with. When you cuff them, this gives a neater look that you can dress up with a boat neck or scoop neck shirt. 

Choose something that has horizontal stripes or a simple pattern on it. Keep your shoes simple with a flat pair of sandals. A handheld clutch or a cross-body bag makes the perfect accessory.

Cutoff Shorts + Crop Top + Sneakers

Woman shorts street
Source: Naitian (Tony) Wang on Unsplash

For a youthful look that lets you show off your midriff, wear cutoff shorts with a simple crop top t-shirt that is slightly oversized. You can elevate this look with a graphic t-shirt and a comfortable pair of sneakers. Keep your accessories to a minimum to keep the focus on your clothing choices, and wear your hair up in a high ponytail.

Long cutoff shorts + Blouse + Wedge Heels

Cutoff shorts are often shorter in length but try cutting a pair just above the knee and then pairing them with a dressy blouse that has ¾-length sleeves. Elongate the entire look with a pair of simple wedge heels. A large pair of sunglasses will add some glamour to this outfit.

Shorts + Bikini Top + Cover Up + Flip Flops

Take your cutoff shorts to the beach with you. They make the perfect cover-up when you’re wearing a bathing suit. On top of a colorful bikini, throw on a pair of shorts with a sheer cover-up shirt on top. Flip flops that match your bikini tie the whole look together.

Now it’s your turn to try and recreate some of these classic cutoff short outfit ideas. You can also come up with your own ensembles using what you already have in your closet. 

The great thing about cutoff shorts is that they work with so many different clothing items. In fact, there’s not much that doesn’t match with cutoff shorts. Let us know what you came up with in the comments below.


We’ve covered all of the details of the cutoff short. We encourage you to look in your closet for a pair of jeans that would make the perfect pair of shorts and try out the tips that we’ve shared with you here. 

This is actually a really easy process, but it’s so neat to go out in a pair of shorts that was created by you. Not to mention, it’s nice to repurpose old clothing into something new without having to donate or throw things away.

Check out some of our other articles to learn more about fashion tips, the history of fashion, and much more. Let us know how you did with making a pair of denim cutoff shorts of your own, and feel free to share this article with your friends and family that might want to try their hand at cutting a pair of cutoff shorts as well-

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top