History of Jeans
Apr 28, 2011

history of jeans


1600s: Originally made from a blend of silk and wool in Nimes, France, from which the material gets its name (“de Nimes”), Denim has overtime evolved into a cotton twill textile, in which the weft passes under two or more warp fibers. It is favored for its durability and sturdiness, making it the material of choice for sailor’s pants and the sails on the ships itself.

1800s: The all-purpose onesie
The durability of the fabric made it a “must have” garment for the manual labor set. From sailors to inmates to gold rushers, jeans allowed people to spend more time searching for golden nuggets and less time patching up their pants. Later, Levi Strauss would introduce rivets to reinforce pockets and other “stress points”, thus giving birth to the “blue jeans” that we know today.

1930s & 40s: Sexy swagger
Popularized in Hollywood westerns, no gun-tottin’, bandana wearing, cigarette lighting cowboy getup would be complete without a pair of sturdy blue jeans. It is during this era that Jeans found itself a sex-symbol-in-the-making.

1950s: All the cool kids are wearing it
Before there were Tweens, Levis was the first to notice a niche market in budding delinquents. Ads targeting teenagers itching to break away from the apple pie homefront, jeans came to symbolize non-conformity and independence … then James Dean threw a tight white t-shirt over it in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, and a staple of Americana was born. This decade also witnessed the introduction of the zipper fly as an alternative to the button closures.

1960’s & 70s: Express Yourself
Blue jeans become a closet basic, ubiquitous the world over. In line with the times, a trend towards variations on the classic is seen. Dyed, bedazzled, embroidered, faded washes start hitting store shelves as young people experiment with jeans as fashion garment.

1980’s: Getting in between you and your Calvins
Jeans go glam. High-end fashion designers get in on the jean craze, smacking their labels on the denim and adding the glamour and sex appeal that gold-rushers only dreamed about. Jeans also cross the Atlantic as Europe picks up the trend for couture-denim.

1990’s & 2000s: Getting low
A prolonged slump in jean sales in the early 90s, fueled by a rejection of the younger generation to resemble their denim-crazed parents, meant that denim took a back seat to lighter-weight fabrics and branded sportswear. Not to fear, a resurgence was right around the corner with the mainstream take over that was the hip-hop movement. Baggy jeans became the style of choice among the youth, much to many of their parent’s dismay.

Today, Jeans are considered a “closet basic”, with the average person reporting at on average 5-6 pairs in their closet. It is ubiquitous across borders, ages and income. Current trends in denim are towards vintage jeans, slimmer fits, raw denim, and experimentation with various cuts and styles.

By Natalie Lasavanich

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