Most Common Types of Denim Damage (and How to Avoid Them)

Coincidentally, shortly after Jesse’s post last week on patching jeans, I received my 3sixteens back from Denim Therapy — one of the many shops nowadays that specializes in denim repairs. Like Jesse, I’ve had my jeans for about five years now — and although they’ve already seen a trip to Self Edge’s Darn It (another speciality repair place) — they’ve experienced some more wear-and-tear in the last year and needed fixing. So, I thought I’d do a post on the most common types of denim damage and how they can be repaired, as well as avoided altogether.  

Crotch Blowouts

Crotch blowouts refer to when you get holes in the place where you least want holes. To fix them, you can use any of the methods listed in Jesse’s post, although for this specific issue, I recommend darning. That’s when a specialist “reweaves” new threads into the material, using threads that most closely match your pants. This not only makes the repair nearly invisible (which is nice since this is, um, at your crotch), but it’s also much sturdier than patching. The downside? It’s also more expensive. 

How to avoid: Wash your jeans more often. It doesn’t have to be after every wear, but it’s the combination of dirt accumulating and the fabric rubbing against itself that causes blowouts. Those dirt particles act like tiny little razors, first thinning the material, and then finally breaking it open.

Other Holes 

Areas around the thighs and knees can also wear thin and eventually break. For these repairs, you can again refer to Jesse’s post. I personally like the slightly more ad hoc method of just patching thighs and knees with a piece of cloth. Jesse’s LVC jeans look great here. A local tailor should be able to do that for you for not too much money. And if the holes aren’t too big, you can also just leave them in, like I’ve done above. Personally, I think a hole or two can give a pair of jeans some character. 

How to avoid: Again, wash your jeans more often.

Stretched Buttonholes

Whether because you’ve gained weight or initially sized too far down, the buttonholes on your jeans can stretch with time. If the damage isn’t too bad, a local tailor can reinforce the area with new stitching. If it’s really stretched out, however, then you’ll need to get the area darned. I had the second done, and you can see the results above. 

How to avoid: Raw jeans are often a bit tight at first in the waist, but you don’t have to size so far down that things feel skin tight. Doing so will just put unnecessary stress on the buttonholes. 

Damage at the Cuffs

If you wash your jeans infrequently and leave them cuffed, you’ll find that the dirt that accumulates will eventually wear through at the crease. Unfortunately, the solutions here are less than ideal. You can get the cuffs darned, but the material will be stiff and hard to fold again (you use an iron to help them along). Otherwise, you can ride them out until the cuffs fall off, at which point, a tailor can put in a new hem (which is what I’d recommend).

How to avoid: Uncuff your pants every once in a while and brush out the dirt. You can use your hand (obviously), or a clothes brush. Having a clothes brush is handy if you have tailored clothes (suits, sport coats, the like), as that’s how they should be regularly cleaned

If you’re looking for a darning service, check out Self Edge’s Darn ItDenim Therapy, and Denim Surgeon. For more suggestions, check this SuperFuture thread dedicated to denim repairs.

It’s On Sale: Denim Therapy Credit
Another nice deal on Denim Therapy credit. Gilt is offering $40 or $80 in store credit with the denim repair company for half off. You can use these guys to repair rips, holes, tears, or any other kind of damage in your jeans, and get a bit more life out of your denim. Also good for chainstitched hemming.

It’s On Sale: Denim Therapy Credit

Another nice deal on Denim Therapy credit. Gilt is offering $40 or $80 in store credit with the denim repair company for half off. You can use these guys to repair rips, holes, tears, or any other kind of damage in your jeans, and get a bit more life out of your denim. Also good for chainstitched hemming.

Denim Therapy on Groupon
Groupon has a deal right now for 50% off on Denim Therapy credits. You can buy $40 in store credit for $20, or $80 in store credit for $40. 
I’ve never used Denim Therapy before, but there are a number of good reviews for them on Superdenim (a forum for serious denim enthusiasts). You can use them for the kinds of repairs Pete and I have talked about, such as crotch blowouts, ripped buttonholes, or frayed cuffs. One thing to note - you may want to shop around for prices before you jump on the Groupon deal. Denim Therapy’s prices depend on what kind of damage you need repaired, while Self Edge’s “Darn It” service, on the other hand, charges a $40 flat fee. Depending on what you need done, you may find a better deal elsewhere.

Denim Therapy on Groupon

Groupon has a deal right now for 50% off on Denim Therapy credits. You can buy $40 in store credit for $20, or $80 in store credit for $40. 

I’ve never used Denim Therapy before, but there are a number of good reviews for them on Superdenim (a forum for serious denim enthusiasts). You can use them for the kinds of repairs Pete and I have talked about, such as crotch blowouts, ripped buttonholes, or frayed cuffs. One thing to note - you may want to shop around for prices before you jump on the Groupon deal. Denim Therapy’s prices depend on what kind of damage you need repaired, while Self Edge’s “Darn It” service, on the other hand, charges a $40 flat fee. Depending on what you need done, you may find a better deal elsewhere.

Denim Therapy Discount
Gilt is offering a deal on Denim Therapy credits. Spend $25 for $50 worth of credit, or $50 for $100. I’ve never used Denim Therapy before, but there are a number of good reviews for them on Superdenim (a forum for serious denim enthusiasts). Use them for the kinds of repairs Pete and I have been talking about lately. 

Denim Therapy Discount

Gilt is offering a deal on Denim Therapy credits. Spend $25 for $50 worth of credit, or $50 for $100. I’ve never used Denim Therapy before, but there are a number of good reviews for them on Superdenim (a forum for serious denim enthusiasts). Use them for the kinds of repairs Pete and I have been talking about lately. 

Repairing Jeans

As many readers know, the point of buying jeans made from high-quality denim is to get something that will age well and look better with time. In the process of wearing your jeans hard, however, you’ll find that certain stress points can “blow out,” particularly around the pockets, hem, crotch, knees, and buttonholes. A tailor or denim repair specialist can fix these for you, usually by using a technique called “darning.”

Darning is a process where you essentially “reweave” new yarns into an area that has been worn thin or completely blown out. A friend of mine recently darned my 3sixteens, and I just got them back this weekend. The first photo above shows my jeans before they were repaired, and the second shows them after. The jeans were getting a bit thin after about eight months of effective wear, but after some darning, the weak areas have been reinforced and they’re as study as they day they came. 

Generally speaking, you want to repair your jeans at the first sign of danger. Like all fabrics, denim is woven with yarns running lengthwise (called the warp), and transverse threads running the width (called the weft). On denim, the blue warp yarns are typically the first to give out, so you know what areas are in danger of “blowing out” when you only see the white weft yarns holding an area together. If not taken care of soon, the area can suddenly just rip. The worse the damage, the more noticeable the repair will be. (Though, even with a badly ripped area, a good tailor can perform a pretty good repair. Here’s a particularly impressive job over at Superdenim, posted in a thread about just this topic.)

Many tailors can darn your jeans for a reasonably small fee, but if you’re not sure who to go to, or if your jeans are particularly dear to you, you may want to go to a specialty shop. Operations such Self Edge, Blue in Green, Denim Doctors, Denim Therapy, Schaeffer’s Garment Hotel, and Denim Surgeon are commonly recommended in the denim community. Some of these places might charge a little more than your local tailor, but you can be sure they’ll also do an excellent job. 

If you’re feeling up for the challenge, you can also learn how to darn your own jeans. These two ladies have a tutorial on YouTube, and The Bandanna Almanac has a post on how to darn by hand. I imagine the second technique won’t give you something sturdy enough for jeans, but it looks like a neat thing to learn.