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A Gentleman’s Guide to Sun-Bleaching

It’s as close as fashion gets to a golden rule: as the weather gets warmer, the colors get lighter. And not just lighter, but hazier, too. Suddenly, the jeans are a little bit more broken-in, the sweatshirts a bit more weathered.

It’s a look designers spend whole seasons on, tinkering with dyes and rinses until they get that perfect washed-out shade of red—but we’d like to propose a shorter path to the sun-baked look: let the sun do it.

Step One: Choose a CandidateThis is essentially an accelerated way to break in clothes, so you won’t want to do it on anything too delicate. Dress shirts and knits are right out. The ideal candidates are oxford-cloth button-downs, sweatshirts and polos—something that can soak up some real UV-related punishment without getting brittle.

Step Two: Prepare the Field It’ll work best in direct, punishing sunlight, so you’ll want a real backyard to make it work. If you happen to live in the Southwest, all the better. Leave the offending item on a hanger in a spot where it’s sure to get sunlight on both sides (you don’t want to worry about uneven fading) and you’re pretty much set.

Step Three: Wait for a Very Long TimeThis is going to take a while. A conservative estimate is three weeks until it’s faded enough to look like a new item, but cloudy skies could mean an even longer bake. If it’s going to be ready by Memorial Day, you may want to start now.

But most of all, stay away from stencils like this one. Done right, sun-bleaching’s an all-or-nothing proposition.