If you survived the bad fashion of the ’80s and proclaimed you will “never ever wear acid wash jeans again!”, well, we’re sorry to say but the chemical denim finish is back in vogue. The style gods have decided to reach back into the decade of excess and pull out acid wash as the trend to resurrect 20 years later. Look at it this way: at least it wasn’t shoulder pads, leg warmers, or heaven forbid, mullets!
Another thing to be thankful for is that the latest resurrection of acid wash jeans is more refined, soft, and sophisti-chic than its predecessor. They’re not meant to be worn with neon colors and baggy jackets like in the ’80s. Instead, they should be the main focus of an outfit. They’re meant to spice up basic articles of clothing or be toned down by streamlined pieces.
But don’t just let us tell you — let these celebrities wearing acid wash jeans show you how. Scroll through for 11 things to try, and to watch out for, when it comes to styling acid wash.
1. TRY: ’80s Throwback
Subtly stir up nostalgia and wear acid wash jeans with other ’80s-style clothes. Ashley Tisdale is an expert at this: see how she paired a Transfomers graphic tee and red wayfarers with her acid wash jeans. She kept the look up-to-date with an It Bag (back then, it was the Alexander Wang “Rocco” bag with studs on the bottom) and gotta-have Christian Louboutin boots.
With the same of pair of acid wash jeans, Ashley also tried a layered look with a cutoff muscle tee and ’80s-style neon pink bra. Note the very Jem and the Holograms tinge of purple on the tips of her blond hair.
Ashley Tisdale leaving her hairdresser’s salon in Los Angeles, California, on August 13, 2009; Ashley Tisdale helping Puma launch the “Project Pink” initiative to fight breast cancer at Macy’s in New York City on July 19, 2012
WATCH OUT FOR: Creating a Dated ’80s Look
The keyword here is “subtle”. Be careful about going overboard with the ’80s throwback. Kelly Osbourne wore her shoulder-padded tuxedo jacket, “Like a Virgin” Madonna lace corset, and acid wash denim skirt to a themed event, and it should remain that way. On no other everyday-life occasion should a literal ’80s outfit like hers be worn.
Kelly Osbourne at the Naomi Campbell’s Fashion For Relief – Haiti NYC, 2010 held during Mercedes-Benz IMG New York Fashion Week Fall 2010 in New York City on February 12, 2010
2. TRY: Oversized Sweaters
Wear an oversized sweater with acid wash jeans, just like they did back in the ’80s. We love how Sienna Miller pulled together a simple sweater + acid wash jeans + sneakers look by choosing a monochromatic color scheme.
WATCH OUT FOR: Too Big, Too Bulky, Sack-Like Sweaters
You want to look comfy, not frumpy. Fearne Cotton’s sweater isn’t actually that baggy, but the bulky knit fabric coupled with the socks with leopard-print pumps are too ’80s for her own good.
Sienna Miller signing autographs after performing in “Flare Path” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London, England, on March 21, 2011; Fearne Cotton arriving at the BBC Radio 1 studios in London, England, on September 2, 2013
3. TRY: Rocker Chic Style
Bring acid wash jeans back to their heavy metal roots and style them a la rocker chick. It’s studded bracelets and bad boots for Christina Aguilera, biker jeans and spiked Louboutins for Elle Macpherson, and a ripped black graphic tee for Ashley Tisdale.
Christina Aguilera leaving SoHo restaurant in Los Angeles, California, on June 17, 2010; Elle Macpherson leaving after dropping off her children at school in London, England, on March 14, 2011; Ashley Tisdale leaving a rehearsal studio in Hollywood, California, on August 10, 2009
WATCH OUT FOR: Going Overboard with the Rock Elements
Audrina Patridge’s nearly see-through tank top, overly holey and ripped jeans, and oddly mismatched slouchy suede boots are just too much.
Audrina Patridge of “The Hills” leaving The Viper Room on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, on August 18, 2009
4. TRY: High Waist
Another way of throwing back to the ’80s acid wash jeans is by wearing them high-waisted. We’ve got our own do’s and don’ts on how to wear high-waisted jeans.
WATCH OUT FOR: Wrong Proportions
You can see in the picture below that Leigh-Anne Cook and Jasmin Walia’s looks are nearly identical, but the latter’s high-waisted acid wash jeans are a lot more flattering. Leigh-Anne’s straight-across-the waist jeans make her look like she has a paunch and wider hips than actual.
Jasmin Walia at the “You’re Next” screening at the Soho Hotel in London, England, on August 13, 2013; Leigh-Anne Pinnock outside the BBC Radio 1 studios in London, England, on June 18, 2013
5. TRY: New Update to the Acid Wash
The Kates have it: Kate Bosworth’s faded acid wash jeans are ultra chic, and Kate Beckinsale’s streaked black acid wash jeans are copy-worthy.
Kate Bosworth leaving after having lunch at Joan’s on Third in West Hollywood, California, on February 11, 2009; Kate Bowsorth leaving the Byron & Tracey salon in Beverly Hills, California, on November 12, 2009; Kate Beckinsale departing Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, California, on January 6, 2010
WATCH OUT FOR: Atrocious Acid Washes
Not all acid washes are made the same. Britney Spears’ bleached and spot-faded jeans are over-the-top.
Britney Spears leaving a spa in Westlake Village in Los Angeles on February 10, 2013
6. TRY: Mixing and Matching with Different Styles
Bohemian babe, biker chick, or posh momma, different styles can look great with acid wash jeans. Ashley Tisdale, Kate Hudson, Ashley Benson, and Gwyneth Paltrow all found a way to incorporate acid jeans into their own personal styles to great success.
Ashley Tisdale leaving Barneys New York in Los Angeles, California, on March 7, 2013; Kate Hudson arriving at LAX Airport in Los Angeles, California, on September 21, 2014; Ashley Benson leaving Toast Bakery Cafe in Los Angeles, California, on May 9, 2013; Gwyneth Paltrow outside of the Stella McCartney fashion show held during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 Ready To Wear at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France, on October 5, 2009
WATCH OUT FOR: Clashing Looks
As you experiment, you’ll realize that not all styles go with acid wash jeans. Fearne Cotton in a confused country western look and Chantelle Tagoe in a tired belted denim skirt look learned that the hard way.
Fearne Cotton leaving Celeb Juice Recording held at Riverside Studios in London, England, on April 2, 2014; Chantelle Tagoe at the premiere of “Toy Story 3” held at the Empire cinema in London, England, on July 18, 2010
7. TRY: Boyfriend Jean Cut
What better way to modernize a retro trend than by mixing it up with a new trend? Selena Gomez and Heidi Klum show how acid wash and boyfriend jeans can look so good together.
Selena Gomez visiting the NRJ studios in Paris, France, on September 5, 2013; Heidi Klum attending a football practice in Brentwood, California, on November 2, 2013
WATCH OUT FOR: Unflattering Cut and Fit
Rita Ora not only chose atrocious acid wash boyfriend jeans but also paired them with an ill-fitting denim jacket. Stephanie Jory likewise added too much bulk to her bleached boyfriend jeans with a long coat and strappy biker boots.
Rita Ora catching a flight out of the Narita International Airport in Japan on September 30, 2012; Stephanie Jory shopping at The Grove in Los Angeles, California, on December 19, 2012
8. TRY: Pairing with Modern Accessories
Fun accessories like a brightly colored handbag and cute shoes perk up the fuzzy finish of acid wash jeans.
Sienna Miller leaving after performing in “Flare Path” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London, England, on March 22, 2011; Fearne Cotton leaving after her show on Radio One in London, England, on April 1, 2014
WATCH OUT FOR: Mismatching Accoutrements
Just like styles and cuts, not all accessories will go well with acid wash jeans. Fearne Cotton’s boho-print jacket and fringed handbag look too soft for her edgy jeans. Similarly, Teyana Taylor’s military jacket, graphic tank, and gladiator sandal booties with her biker acid wash jeans were a bit too all over the place.
Fearne Cotton at BBC Radio 1 studios in London, England, on August 11, 2014; Teyana Taylor at the premiere of “Halloween II” held at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on August 24, 2009
9. TRY: Double Denim
Yes, you can do double denim with acid wash. Just pair it with colored denim like Kate Hudson, or do a complete contrast with a faded acid wash and raw denim like Rihanna.
Kate Hudson arriving at LAX Airport in Los Angeles, California, on April 10, 2015; Rihanna out and about in Manhattan, New York, on November 2, 2009
WATCH OUT FOR: Too Much Denim
Just don’t wear too much denim. Miley Cyrus’ acid-on-acid outfit and Nicki Minaj’s head-to-toe denim ensemble make them look like they’re wearing costumes.
Miley Cyrus leaving her hotel in London, England, on September 11, 2013; Nicki Minaj leaving her hotel in London, England, on October 31, 2012
10. TRY: Wearing with Stilettos
Sass up acid wash jeans with sexy stilettos. When worn in the ’80s cigarette cut, acid wash jeans with stilettos can look super sexy even when you’re wearing a baby sling like Kate Hudson.
Christina Aguilera leaving an Italian restaurant in New York City on May 7, 2010; Khloe Kardashian shopping at Alice + Olivia boutique on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, on October 29, 2009; Kate Hudson arriving at LAX Airport in Los Angeles, California, on July 30, 2013
WATCH OUT FOR: Going Too Sexy
Some sexy looks like a belly-baring crop top with acid wash jeans and heels can only be pulled off when you’re supermodel-thin like teenaged Kendall Jenner. As for unapologetic Rihanna, her too-tight corset and low-slung jeans were too vulgar for a daytime stroll.
Kendall Jenner at the launch of the Kendall and Kylie Jenner New Holiday Collection at the PacSun store in Glendale, California, on November 9, 2013; Rihanna arriving at her hotel in New York City on May 6, 2009
11. TRY: Wearing Acid Wash on Denim Shorts
Cut off your acid wash jeans and turn them into shorts for a look that’s fit for an outdoor festival. Vanessa Hudgens wore her frayed pair in her much-copied boho style, while Miley Cyrus toughened hers up with a corset, a plaid shirt, and biker boots.
Vanessa Hudgens at day three of the 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 17, 2011; Miley Cyrus heading to lunch at the Studio Cafe in Studio City, California, on February 3, 2012
WATCH OUT FOR: Butt-Revealing, Too Short Shorts
Acid wash or not, too-short shorts that have the front pockets hanging out and especially ones that show butt cheeks are never a good look.
Bella Thorne at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 12, 2013; Miley Cyrus performing on the “Today” show as part of their NBC Toyota Concert Series in Rockefeller Center in NYC on October 7, 2013; Laura Whitmore at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival in Glastonbury, UK, on June 27, 2014
Credit: Adriana M. Barraza /Andres Otero/Craig Harris/Derek Jarvis/Louie Angelo/Mario Mitsis/Michael Wright/Owen Beiny/Will Alexander/Williams/FayesVision/JP/JFXimages/Richfoto/STS/WENN