Denim manufacturers rip jeans in one of two ways: by laser or by hand. The former tends to be used by cheaper brands which produce garments in bulk, while premium designers prefer the latter.
The machine most often used is called a 2500W Laser Sharp DenimHD Abrasion System.
Jeans are secured vertically against a metal backdrop and the laser is targeted at the denim, where it works by burning holes according to a pattern that’s programmed into the software.
It’s so accurate that not only can it distress the fabric by burning into it just a little, but it can also cut intricate patterns into it. Each pair takes just a minute to finish.
Hand ripping is far more intricate, requiring individual workers to design, rip, and finish each pair, which can take several hours:
First, the design is sketched on the denim, using chalk or a fabric marker. The cuts are made using large, blunt dressmaking shears (the bluntness makes the holes look “natural”), or, for more dramatic effect, a Dremel tool, which is like a drill fitted with a piece of circular sandpaper, which rotates and gradually grinds a hole in the denim.
Finally, the threads are pulled apart using a fabric picker, which frays the material and gives an authentic finish.
Ripping is only part of the process. For that truly fashionable feel, the denim needs to be frayed around the rip. Manufacturers use various tools, from heavy-duty sandpaper to pumice stones, and until recently a process known as sandblasting, which involves fine sand being channeled into an air gun and then sprayed at high pressure on to the denim.
They may look random, but those rips in your jeans are anything but.
Firstly, there are different types of rip: a hole (which cuts right through the fabric), a shred (where threads remain, covering up the hole), and a scrape (a small abrasion on the surface). While the latter two tend to be small, holes can be much larger.
Fashion experts say that holes should always be horizontal (vertical ones go against the grain of the denim and can mean the jeans fall apart), never wider than the leg of the jeans (for the same reason) and never more than an inch high when you’re standing up (as they’ll expose even more flesh when you sit).
According to fashion bible GQ, there’s even an optimum number of rips: two and a half.
Any more than that and you risk exposing too much — like reality star Kim Kardashian, who’s been known to flaunt her entire thigh in hers.
And now – ready to buy just one more (or two, or three….etc) pair of ripped bad boys? Check out some cool ones at ASOS (they are pretty reasonably priced), Urban Outfitters for a good mid-range price, Net-A-Porter – high end, and so is Barney’s. And of course there is the “icon brand for ripped and distressed jeans, PRPS at Shopbop for her, and at Neiman Marcus for him. And last, but no way least, let’s not forget about One Teaspoon – they were in fact one of the first brands to bring us back the ripped/destroyed/destructed!