How to Cut Jeans into Shorts for DIY Cutoffs in Minutes

Make your own summer staple.



Who doesn’t love a good pair of cutoff jeans? They style easily and can create multiple looks, and with barbecue season in full swing and travel opening up, they're the perfect addition to your closet. Cutoffs look great with your favorite T-shirts, tanks, and crop tops, and when it comes to shoes, they pair with wedges, high-heeled sandals, or a pair of classic Converse sneakers—the options here are truly endless.

Plus, you don’t have to buy a pair. For an authentic pair of DIY cutoffs, learn how to cut jeans into shorts and you'll have your own in minutes. If you happen to have older denim that's frayed or shrunk over time (or you're just done with those particular jeans), use those to customize cutoffs unique to you, or you can also hunt for the perfect thrifted or vintage pair to transform. “Start with a pair of jeans that fit you well, but be sure they are not too tight on the legs,” says Maddie Orlando. “I love an oversized denim look and think that this style also makes for the [best] shorts."

Ready to start a new creative project? Below, find the rest of Orlando's tips on how to cut jeans into shorts.

Meet the Expert

Maddie Orlando is a Los Angeles and Toronto-based creative who is the founder of Artless Forever, a simple, elevated, and luxe collection for art and design lovers as well as all those who dare to dream.

Tools You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Marker or pen 
  • Full-length mirror 
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Pair of tweezers
  • Needle and thread (optional)
  • Hemming tape (optional)


First, you need to consider the length you want for your cutoff shorts, and if you plan on keeping them frayed or want to cuff them. Typical jean lengths are three-inch, five-inch, seven-inch, nine-inch, and 11-inch—think about whether you're going for a tiny pair of shorts, Bermudas, or something in between.

Next, cut off all of the fabric from the knee down with a sharp pair of scissors. This cut doesn’t need to be perfect because you won’t be using the bottom half, and you'll be making more cuts to reach your desired length.

After cutting the jeans, put them on and stand in front of a mirror. While looking at your reflection, draw a dot on the outer side of your leg at the point where you want the shorts to fall. Do the same thing on the inseam or the inner side of your leg. The inseam should be slightly longer than the outer seam, so draw this dot about 1.5” lower. Use a ruler or measuring tape for accuracy.

Making the Cut

To cut your jeans into shorts, take your newly cropped pair off and cut a diagonal line from the dot on the outer seam to the dot on the inseam. If done correctly, this should create a straight, diagonal line going slightly downwards. When this is done, stand in front of the mirror again, try on your shorts, and make any necessary length adjustments.

For a raw hem look, pull at the hem using a pair of tweezers. Washing the shorts afterward will also help to distress the hem. This looks particularly good with light-washed denim. On the other hand, if you are going to cuff them, the typical size of a cuff is 1.5”. You can use a needle and thread to sew the hem in place or use hemming tape. Try this on dark-rinse jeans.

Additional Personalization

Tools You'll Need

  • Cheese grater
  • Tweezers

If you want further distressing, carefully run the denim over the side of a cheese grater until it begins to pull on the fabric, giving the shorts a more lived-in look. To add a hole, make two horizontal cuts about half an inch apart. Use tweezers to remove all of the strings that run vertically between the cuts (they will be denim-colored). This will reveal the white threads that create an iconic look.

Looking for other fun ideas to customize your new cutoff shorts? Cut a small slit in the leg on the back for a cheeky cutout, or use a needle and thread to add your initials or any other unique designs. If you're using white jeans, try a brightly colored thread for an unexpected pop of color.

Now that you've learned how to cut jeans into shorts, all that's left to do is style them with your favorite pieces and get ready to turn heads with how great you look, whatever the occasion.

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