The 1800s — Miner’s Uniform
We wouldn’t be wearing our blues hadn’t the miners demanded them! With the rise in trade, slave labour, cotton plantations and mines, workers and gold miners started complaining about the easily torn cotton trousers and pockets. For their close-to-the ground line of work, a man named Loeb Strauss decided to make tough and long-lasting pants for them to wear. Nevada tailor Jacob Davis joined Loeb to patent the idea of putting rivets on stress points of workman’s waist overalls (the old name for jeans) and they received US patent on May 20, 1873 which is celebrated as the official birthday of “blue jeans”. Strauss later changed his name from the plain Loeb to the cool Levi; this is when the brand “Levi Strauss & Co” was created.
1930s & 40s — Cowboy Culture
Jeans took on a new role in society and pop culture. Many people began spending their spare time watching movies, where the adventurous cowboys rode horses, shot bad guys, and wore blue jeans. This is when the young and middle-aged men started demanding jeans to imitate that casual, rugged cowboy-ish look. That’s how jeans gained cult status through their association with pop idols. A decade later, World War II broke out and soldiers were the new national heroes and role-models. The fact that they often wore jeans when they were off-duty further gained popularity among men.
1950s — A symbol of rebellion
The youth of the 1950s were the first to embrace jeans as a symbol of their generation, emulating young American film stars such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. During the mid-50s, Dean featured in a pair of Lee 101 Riders jeans, in Rebel Without a Cause and created cinema’s benchmark of adolescent cool. Some schools in the US went so far as to ban students from wearing denims, which further solidified their connection with rebellion. Tapered jeans became the next big trend with country music stars and the birth of rock and roll, when Elvis Presley donned the slim-fit jeans and shocked the country! Among women, stars like Gene Autry, Marilyn Monroe and Sandra Dee were spotted wearing pants very slim to the ankle.
1960s & 70s — The hippie era
During the hippie movement of the 1960s, jeans became the virtual uniform of the anti-war movement and were modified to suit the fashion of the decade; psychedelic colours, embroidery and cut-offs, all became the fresh innovations of the popular outfit. For some more variety, the makers came up with bell-bottom and stone-washed styles in the 1970s. In the year 1976, Faraah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels hopped on a skateboard flaunting her bell bots in style. This is when the denim lovers began personalising their pair of blues by adding panels at the hems to make bell bottoms, or painting statements and images onto the garments. Both men and women started sporting self-designed flare jeans to retro clubbing nights. Unfortunately, in 1979, flare jeans fell out of the fashion radar after an anti-disco sentiment manifested itself and ultimately created a backlash and decline.
1980s — Designer denims
Denims took the fashion industry by storm. Fashion designers could no longer ignore the power of blue and started creating their own line of jeans. In 1981, Calvin Klein launched their first designer Jean brand and showcased the collection through the legendary Brooke Shields advertising campaign, with its irresistible suggestion of sexiness. The concept was: clean, minimalistic and effortless styling with an element of edginess. The next innovation was the worn-out look with holes often torn on purpose. The 80s marked the invention of ripped jeans and coloured ones in pink and white. Denims soon started being associated with high-class glamour, being a part of working-class wardrobes at the same time.
1990s — Fall & rebound
Denims were never completely out of style. However, their popularity slightly faded among the youth. They weren’t really wanting to sport jeans when they saw their parents “generation born in blue” wearing the same. To be different, they turned to khakis, cargos and branded sportswear. During this phase, designers started blending jeans with other fabrics. Lycra, stretch jeans, big and baggy jeans in red, green and indigo shades were popular. Soon in the mid-nineties, denims were back in vogue as hip-hop made its way to the mainstream culture, with the latest style being baggy jeans. Gradually, jeans evolved into being the symbol of comfort, leisure and youthfulness for all ages, like it is today.
Denims are here to stay!
Denim has charmed the fashion world greatly, reaching an iconic level of popularity as a symbol of practical wear due to its unfussy appearance, easy-to-handle surface and affordability. Today, denims having augmented above the concept of just ‘jeans’ and expanded across many types of clothing, usually referred to as ‘denim-wear’ — clothing includes jumpsuits, denim tops, waistcoats, kurtas,jackets and the trendy jeggings and accessories like wristbands, fancy collars, neck pieces, hairbands, stoles, shoes, bags, wallets, caps and bangles.
Fashion runways across the world have been displaying denim wear across a vast price range, accepting the fact that the fabric has a mixed appeal, both as an upmarket fabric and as a basic wear item. Often called casual-formal, denims are perfect for our modern-day culture, wherein wearing relaxed attire and looking comfortably dressed even at work is defined as being fashionably progressive.