Jeans are critical to every man’s wardrobe. This once-industrious form of cotton has consistently remained an icon of comfort and fashionable taste and is one of the highest-grossing designer items around today.
A History of Jeans
Jeans-style bottoms originated in several of the world’s regions. The 19th-century Italian Renaissance brought loose-fitting denim trousers, or dungarees, worn by sailors in Italy, France, and Dhunga, India.
Levi Strauss & Co.
By the mid-1800s, Levi Strauss began selling denim “waist overalls” with a button fly to the hardworking miners in America. Straus’ loyal customer and tailor Jacob Davis suggested that Strauss begin using small, round copper reinforcers, called rivets, to prevent these jeans from tearing at the front and side seams, as well as fly. The two friends patented these denim creations, giving birth to Levi Strauss & Co. and the first riveted blue jeans. These jeans were decorated with a brown leather logo label on the back, showing an illustration of blue jeans being pulled by two farm horses.
World War II
The war brought Levi’s business to the American soldiers, who often donned these sturdy, inexpensive blue jeans in their private time. Fellow denim companies Lee and Wrangler began marketing their sales of denim for this purpose.
Jeans in Hollywood
Western-themed programs and movies often included actors in denim jeans. In the 1950s, legendary actor and teenage icon, James Dean donned a t-shirt and jeans for the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause. Somewhat controversial, denim bottoms were even banned in certain American schools. However, this style was quick to become an International phenomenon of fashion!
Decoration and Designer Jeans
Painted “Hippie” Jeans
The first paint-decorated denim jeans were seen during the Cold War of the 1960s when hippies popularised hip-hugging bell bottom jeans. Bearing brightly-colored, psychedelic flowers and “peace” sign designs, jeans such as these were mainly a product of North America and extremely hard to obtain overseas. However, the 1970s gave way to denim-producing factories in Southern continents, where jeans were inexpensively produced and circulated worldwide.
The Start of Designer Jeans
This once-simple workwear was steadily evolving into one of the world’s most influential fashion trends. Designated by their trademark pocket stitching, the first elite denim designers include:
- Calvin Klein
- Gloria Vanderbilt
- Sergio Valente
Designers employed the use of indigo dye to color their denim jeans. Colors included a medium blue (often called a medium or regular wash), very dark blue (indigo wash), black, or the use of chlorine to develop the interesting acid wash seen on many performers and sitcoms of the 80s and early 90s.