This original article was first published here: Jeans: A Brief Overview of the Past 150 Years
There isn’t another piece of clothing that is so popular all over the world as a good pair of jeans. There is something endearing and special about jeans, and they have proven that though fashions and styles come and go, they are here to stay.
The fabric used to make jeans is denim, and it’s a cotton creation that is extremely durable and long-lasting due to the diagonal weaving that takes place during their production. A good pair of jeans can last you for many years, which isn’t something you can say about other pieces of clothing.
The first jeans
Though denim, the material that is used to make jeans, had previously been around for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the 1850’s Gold Rush in the United States that it was used to create a pair of pants for the prospectors who were out hunting for gold.
These denim pants were made by Mr Levi Strauss, who produced them for his store in San Francisco, from which he sold other products, including canvassing for tents.
The pants were made with the sturdy denim material, as he wanted them to be durable, comfortable to wear and have large enough pockets for the prospectors to store any gold that they found. It was this initial market for his product that set about the status that these denim pants were for the working and poorer class of people.
It wasn’t until 20 or so years later that Strauss, along with Jacob Davies, applied for a patent for their blue jeans. Davies was a customer of Strauss who suggested adding rivets to the corners of the pockets and the seams in order to strengthen them. Once their patent was approved, they went into production and began marketing their jeans. No one could have imagined how this simple garment would change the world, and set about a huge range of different types of jeans such as high rise, boot cut and push up jeans.
The 1930’s and WW2
During the 1930s, the image of the wild west of America was thrust around the world through a number of movies that were produced. It was the battleground for cowboys and Indians. The Indians would be in their impressive traditional outfits, while the cowboys were all wearing Levi jeans.
During the Second World War, many of the off duty American soldiers would wear jeans, which led to a lot of interest in them from across Europe, especially in the United Kingdom and other allied countries.
Post WW2 and the 1950’s
It was after the Second World War that the popularity of jeans really took off. During the 1950s, they became a symbol of rebellion, and to wear a pair of jeans meant you were part of the cool club. The main catalyst of their sudden rise to fame was the legendary movie actor James Dean, who popularized jeans in the iconic movie “Rebel Without a Cause”.
The actor Marlon Brando was another popular icon who wore jeans and added to their bad-boy image that youths instantly recognized and wanted to be part of. In fact, during the 1950s there were many establishments such as restaurants, theatres and even schools, where people were turned away simply because they were wearing a pair of jeans. It was during this time that jeans actually ceased to be a pant for workers, and were suddenly a fashion statement.
The Swinging 1960s and Sensational 1970’s
By the 1960s, jeans were much more acceptable as a piece of clothing than the previous decade. They were being worn by many famous people across the world, and it wasn’t just the younger generation that was wearing them. They became a garment for people of all ages.
Musicians, actors and other celebrities were all wearing denim, and its influence on modern culture at the time was obvious.
As the 1960s rolled into the 70s, denim was still the fashion garment of choice for a huge percentage of people, and though fashions changed during that time, and with hard rock, funk, punk and disco all being born during that decade, jeans were a popular choice of garment, albeit with a slightly different style including the legendary flares.
The 1980s, 1990s and Noughties
Since the 1980s and onwards, technology really came ahead leaps and bounds, and the world of the 60s and 70s was but a distant memory.
Each decade since has had its own fashions, styles and attitudes, and through them, all, denim and jeans, in particular, have been part of it all. During the decades, we’ve seen the introduction of many new types of jeans, and today there are many different styles that are popular the world over.
Though the classics such as straight fit and boot cut jeans are still very popular, there have also been many other styles that have appeared such as skinny fit jeans, baggy jeans, tapered jeans and mid-rise jeans.
There have been some styles that have been extreme to say the least, such as worn out and distressed jeans which can often look as though they’ve passed several times through a meat grinder. The distressed look is one style that is not one for everyone. It is extremely popular, however, and though you can purchase brand new jeans with the worn look, many people actually prefer to make their own, using old pairs of jeans.
If you were to pay a visit to the famous Camden Market in London, which is a truly one of a kind market place, you’ll find that there are lots of market stalls wearing old and used pairs of jeans, particular the Levi 501 brand. Many people prefer to pick up a pair of these and make their own modifications for a really unique distressed look.
Some final words
Jeans are a piece of clothing that has been with us for well over 100 years. During that time, we’ve worn them in completely different styles, fittings and colours.
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to the jeans they enjoy wearing. While the straight leg type is classic and most popular, there are so many other unique styles, making it a garment that is suitable for all types of look, whether you are going for the smart casual, or something a little more extreme.
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