Time to Cut the Denim Strings

This summer brought with it the unsettling realization that I needed to replace a style staple in my casual catalogue.  My Chip and Pepper cut off shorts had become my go-to move.  I cannot overstate how much I love these shorts.  The year was 2005 and visions of Jessica Simpson in her Daisy Duke promotional photo danced in my head (as if you don’t know exactly the one I’m talking about) as I put a great deal of effort into planning my 3-day wardrobe for the Lollapalooza music festival all in an attempt to make it appear as though I had invested very little effort in the planning of said wardrobe.  This “effortless” style is a delicate balance and my Chip and Pepper cut-offs were the crowning achievement.

The distressed boyfriend jeans had been my first premium denim purchase a few years prior and had seen better days by this point (in large part due to my neglect to invest in alterations, resulting in a hem that was tattered way beyond original intent).  Either my haste or my naiveté led me to the scissors with no premeditated plan for the final product.  Somehow, despite that strategy, or lack thereof, I emerged with what I considered a victory in denim re-design.  Those shorts would go on to share many future musical festival memories with me; they saw me through the Kentucky Derby Infield; I managed to make them a transitional item for fall by pairing them with boots, blazer or sweater;  I didn’t even fear a cut off shorts-themed party of 2010.

However, lately when I donned them, I felt as though I was sporting the nappy dishevelment look of the chronically depressed.  With holes forming in regions best left covered, I was pushing the boundaries of basic hygiene and decency.  It was time to retire my beloved shorts; but how could I possibly replace them?

I know very few people who are willing to buy a brand new pair of premium jeans only to cut them off, so I perused my denim collection in search of a pair that hadn’t seen a lot of action in the past year.  My search ended with two options that, while loved at one time, were a bit dated and didn’t fit with my current style direction.  It was definitely time to cut the denim strings on these William Rast and AG jeans.

I approached this denim alteration with much more anxiety and trepidation than I had during my pilot effort.  Like the day you go for a haircut and suddenly have the most amazing hair day of your life forcing you to reconsider, I tried on my selected jeans and started to talk myself out of making the cut.  What if this extreme flair leg comes back in style?  I don’t know if I gave these AGs fair exposure in their pant-life.  I enlisted my always effortlessly chic friend, Alison, for direction and moral support.  She reminded me of some vital ingredients to creating the perfect cut-offs:

  • Cut at a downward angle toward the inner thigh to prevent the appearance of the forefoot of a certain desert animal ;)
  • Measure where you would like the shorts to hit on your leg and then add an inch when cutting (also like a haircut, you can always cut shorter but you can’t add it back).
  • Cut while the jeans are resting at their natural hip slant rather than trying to align the front and back waist line.  That always results in the fatal flaw of cut-offs being shorter in the back than in the front.
  • Don’t try to roll denim shorts more than once; the attempt to do so may contribute to the diaper-bottom phenomenon.
  • Use your school supplies! – a ruler and a piece of chalk that can easily be wiped away from the fabric are essential.

My summer wardrobe now has two distinct styles of cut-offs in rotation.  The AG denim was cut just above the knee for a sportier look and the William Rast jeans were cut only slightly longer than my old Daisy Duke style.  I ultimately decided not to fold the bottom due to the back pocket detail but instead chose to get a clean hemline so as to avoid the fast-track fraying that my old shorts had seen.


Fads come and go and The Dukes of Hazzard has hopefully seen its final re-make of my lifetime, but I declare that I am a forever-fan of cut-off denim shorts (though I would like to personally ban the use of the term “jorts”).  They are a flirty and casual compliment to every tee, tank or sweatshirt I can possibly rotate into my attire.  Plus, when properly revived, they are a way to maximize your return on those denim investments.  Don’t let those jeans hang in your closet unworn, get “snippy” and reinvent them!

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