“First introduced into the American fashion lexicon in the mid-19th century by Levi Strauss, denim-because of its heavy, withholding texture-was originally aimed toward the downtrodden, hard-working California gold miners as durable, hefty everyday garb that could sustain even the most distressing of digging conditions.””
First introduced into the American fashion lexicon in the mid-19th century by Levi Strauss, denim-because of its heavy, withholding texture-was originally aimed toward the downtrodden, hard-working California gold miners as durable, hefty everyday garb that could sustain even the most distressing of digging conditions.
It wasn’t until the ’50’s that jeans, which were previously only associated with the poor, working-class and the cowboys of the Western flicks, were adopted by rebellious middle-class American youths as a rejection of the rigid, buttoned-up sartorial rules of their era.
Still, well-to-do adults held contempt for the fabric which they thought was the essence of banality. For the most part, the only people past a certain age to wear denim in the ’50’s or early-’60’s were either destitute day laborers or the most unabashedly daring fashion-forward folk.
Diana Vreeland, the editor of both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and iconic style maven, famously said at the time, Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola.
As the hippie movement rose to prominence in the late-’60’s, jeans became even more of a familiar sight, sometimes elaborately done up in beads or other ornate trim, and by the ’70’s, a good majority of the American population outfitted themselves in denim.
Blue jeans grew into such a national custom, that eventually designers like Gloria Vanderbilt and the ultra-trendy fashion mecca Fiorucci capitalized on the beloved casual, common wardrobe staple and began marketing high-brow versions of the cover-ups which were once only reserved for meager miners. Also, designers introduced new uses for the material, developing denim jackets and button-ups. In the Eighties, Calvin Klein followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, boosting the sexual allure and glamour of denim with his highly risqué ads, the most famous of which starred an adolescent Brooke Shields seductively whispering that nothing comes between [her] and [her] Calvin’s.
The following decade, the players of the grunge era proposed a totally new way to wear jeans, bringing new innovations to the previously classic, clean appearance of denim.
Rips, tears, fades, and different washes were soon imitated by jeans manufacturers everywhere, and continue to be used in order to bring a modern touch to the guise of the blue jean.
Now, in the 21st century, denim is just as relevant as in the past.
Jeans are no longer constricted by the taboo of simply being too plain or dowdy and designers continue to introduce chic, sexy ways to wear denim.
Recently, at the revered Parisian house of Givenchy, the very directional Riccardo Tisci sent luxury tight-fitting, highly-erotic, heavily biker-influenced denim-and-leather ensembles down the runway, testing the preconceptions of the fabric as being cheap.
Also, following the same route as Tisci, super-trendy, influential designer Christophe Decarnin at Balmain showed shredded, light-washed jeans that exuded the air of the grunge era, but with a hefty dose of the high-octane, night-club sleaze-decadence that seems to be all-over the place at the moment.
One doesn’t have to spend exorbitant amounts on the aforementioned ultra-expensive adaptations of the American original, however, to be de rigueur. Sticking with the classic, trusted denim brand Levi’s, along with other companies that are known for their high-quality jeans like Diesel and Guess, is a good way to go.
Also, this month the always affordable Gap has released a line of jeans which promise to be America’s Best Premium Jeans. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter where the denim is bought, but rather the manner in which it is worn.
Despite previous beliefs that jeans should only be donned in the form of either pants or a jacket, and never, ever both at the same time, head-to-toe denim is actually a very key trend of the moment, a look that can be surprisingly soigné and elegant.
There are two ways which this can be done successfully: either jeans and a denim jacket worn over a white or black tee, or denim pants worn with a jean-button-down shirt, optionally topped off with a black leather jacket.
Though it is recommended that the denim isn’t of the same wash (different tones and shades of blue really off-set one another in a modern way), darker jeans always look impeccable together, especially when paired with anything black. And, if full-on denim isn’t one’s cup of tea, one can still get in on the trend by doing it the old-fashioned way.
Jeans worn with a clingy plain white or black tee, or a denim jacket thrown over khakis and a crisp button-up are combinations that will never go out of style.
Call arts writer Vincent Ciarlariello:
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