The Story of Jeans
Blue jeans dominated the second half of the twentieth century, and they’re walking all over the first half of the twenty-first century too.
However, did you know that they came about by accident? Back in the 18th century, a group of people in Nimes, in France, were trying to copy a durable Italian fabric called serge – and didn’t quite get there. What they did create was called “serge de Nimes”, which would be shortened to “denim.”
Blue jeans as we know them, however, date to 1853, when a Bavarian immigrant called Levi Strauss brought denim to America. He had come to San Francisco at the height of the Gold Rush, where thousands of men would spend months camping in hostile terrains. They needed tough, durable trousers, and the rest was history. Levi Strauss would soon find his jeans selling to cowboys and miners alike.
How though, did blue jeans get on everyone’s legs? Well, that was due to the power of cinema. When James Dean wore blue jeans in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause in 1955, alongside a white T-shirt and red Harrington jacket, he was changing the look of the American male forever – and not just in America. Young men everywhere wanted to be Dean, down to the jeans, a pair of Lee101 Riders that were dip-dyed to make them stand out even more on the big screen.
This was the uniform of a nonconformist, an adventurer who didn’t want to follow their parents’ boring lives in suburbia, so it’s only natural he should dress in a cowboy’s trousers That other cinematic rebel Marlon Brando wore them as the leader of a biker gang, and when Elvis Presley brought jeans from the farm to the stage, the deal was sealed.
That may explain why rebellious young men who didn’t want to become their fathers started wearing blue jeans, but what about rebellious young women? Marilyn Monroe’s last act as an actress and fashion icon would see her make jeans look amazing in The Misfits, where she escapes her mundane life with some latter day cowboys in the desert.
And the style stuck. While baby boomers might not still be wearing the leather jackets of kaftans of their youth, the functionality and practicality of jeans meant that they stayed an essential part of their wardrobe, supplanting slacks. Their kids and grandkids have continued the trend, though not without their variations, such as the hip-hop inspired baggy jeans of the 90s, or the hipster inspired skinny jeans of today.
Whatever the cut or style you choose, blue jeans are an essential component of any stylish person’s wardrobe – why not upgrade your wardrobe today?