How to Shorten Leather Jeans

How to Shorten Leather Jeans2017-12-23T12:56:45+00:00

Project Description

One thing about us leathermen – we like our gear to fit well. There is nothing like seeing a leathermen who not only looks comfortable in his gear, but also seeing the gear fit his body well. However, unless you have bought your jeans bespoke and made to measure, it is more than likely that they are too long. You can always tell when jeans are too long, either they’re dragging on the floor, or the break (the material that pools on top of the foot on the jean front) is too big. If the opposite is true and they are too short, then tuck them into a pair of tall boots and no one will know!

So if you have a pair of leather jeans that are too long then the good news is that it is easy to shorten them yourself using only a few basic tools and materials.  For this article, we’re going to show you how we altered this beautiful pair of Mister B Padded Jeans.  Here’s our photo guide to making any pair of over long leather jeans look sharp.

Before you begin, make sure you have the following:

  • Tape measure and ruler
  • Chalk or felt tip pen
  • Large pair of sharp scissors
  • Leather glue (we used Aleen’s Leather & Suede)
  • Glue spreader
  • Spring clamps
  • Patience – you don’t want to rush this
  • An extra pair of hands is useful
All tips are for information only and are used at your own risk. Please follow manufactures guidelines and test treatments on a small inconspicuous area before application. LeatherWest and guess writers and individual contributors hereby disclaim any liability and damages from the use and/or misuse of any product, formula or method of application presented on this website. Mention of any brand is does not mean that LeatherWest or the individual contributor endorses a product.

Step 1

You need to measure and mark the jeans so you know where to shorten them.  It’s easier to do this part if you have someone to help.  Try on your jeans and wear the boots you would most likely wear with them.  If you wear a couple of different pairs of boots, put on the lowest ones. If you are wearing the jeans inside a boot, you can measure them just wearing socks, but it’s best to do it with some footwear on.

Turn the excess leather over on the outside of the jeans, until they’re are the length you’d like. As a guide, you want the middle line of the front of the jeans to ‘break’ once just above the foot. Repeat with the other leg. Most people have one leg shorter than the other, so in order to ensure both legs of the jeans hang correctly, treat each of the jean legs separately. Line up the vertical seam lines on the jeans when folding over to ensure you fold the jeans up level on both sides.

Step 2

Now measure the length of the turn up on both legs. When doing this, make sure you stand up straight. This is where it is easier if you can have someone help you. Double check that the turn up hangs correctly (level) all the way around the leg (front and back). Take the appropriate measurements and, if you can, mark the fold in several places. If you are on your own, a steel tape measure will make taking the measurements easier. However, make sure you line up the tape with the vertical seam as a guide to get an accurate measurement (unlike our picture!). 

Step 3

Take the jeans off and turn them inside out. Most jeans already have a hem of about an inch (2.5cm) and we will recreate this when we turn our jeans up.

With the tape measure resting up against one of the vertical seams of one leg, measure from the bottom of the jeans up to the measurement you took in Step 3 minus the amount of hem you want. In our example, the jeans needed to be shortened by about 4 ⅛ inches (10.5 cm) and so we are measuring up to 3 ½ inches (9 cm). Measure in several places and then join your marks up with a chalk line, drawn with a ruler. Repeat on the other side so you have a continuous line to follow right around the leg. Now do the same on the other leg, making sure you use the measurements for that leg if they were different.

Step 4

Now comes the scary part – cutting! Before you do, double check your measurements. Put the jeans back on and repeat the steps above to be absolutely sure. If you have any doubts, cut less off of the jeans – you can trim them if necessary before the glueing stage.  Remember, you are cutting less off the jeans than you measured in Step 3 because you need to allow for the amount of leather you are going to turn over to finish the jeans off with a neat hem. When you’re totally happy, cut along your mark carefully. Depending on the thickness of the leather, you may need to cut up a seam first before you can then cut along your mark. Do not try to cut through both sides of the legs at once.

Step 5

Put the jeans back on and turn under the hem allowance (about an inch/2.5 cm) you gave yourself. Check you are happy with how they look. If necessary, fold more or less material up and remark the leather accordingly. The picture shows the hem fold before the jeans are tried on again.

Step 6

With your hem folded, use the glue spreader to smear a good amount of glue onto both sides of the inner fold. Make sure you push the glue to be bottom of the fold and also into the seams. Do not use so much glue as to saturate the leather, but make sure there is a good, even coating. Depending on your glue’s instructions, you may need to wait until the glue goes tacky before pressing the fold down to make the hem. When you do, make sure you press all the way along, keeping the hem straight and parallel to the bottom of the jean leg (lining up the leg seams helps here).

Step 7

Wipe any excess glue from the leather – check the seams since glue can sometimes ooze through the stitching. Use clamps to secure the hem in place ensuring you place clamps on the leg seams.

Before leaving the jeans over night, make sure no glue remains on the outside or inside of the jeans. Then leave them so the glue can set.

The next day, remove the clamps and turn the jeans back the right way and enjoy your fitted jeans!

It may take a few wears for the glue to flex into shape and for the jeans to hang in the way that you want over your boots. And while we all want things to be precise and neat, the one advantage of leather over other fabrics is that small differences or mistakes in alterations tend to go unnoticed. So while we advise being careful and make sure you are happy with what you are doing (measure twice, cut once remember!) don’t get too caught up in perfection.

Images left and right courtesy of MisterB