Denim was conceived by accident, had a laborious career, was discovered by Hollywood and changed a generation. Denim jeans, you could go as far as saying, are one of the most socially altering garments to grace sartorial times – a twill with a torrid history.
Developed by the Andre family in Nimes France, the weave ‘serge de’ was an unsuccessful attempt at recreating a then-popular type of corduroy produced out of Italy. Its durability ensured its popularity a hundred years later when in 1848 the California gold rush began. Miners and workers-in-general adopted the fabric to shield against the rather uncomfortably harsh elements, from snow to scorching heat. The next genre to adopt denim into their wardrobes were cowboys, incidentally becoming the first to introduce the fabric into American pop culture. Maybe this was the first little step towards the cool we associate with denim today? Especially if you think of Ralph Lauren jeans and their charming nod to American history. The 1950s brought with them the great icons like Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, all who played characters in films who oozed sex appeal and rebellion. What did they wear? Denim jeans. This third installation in the timeline of blue jeans, Hollywood, started a youth movement, an anti-establishment stick-it-to-your-parents act of rebellion. A little like the effect of the Beatles a decade later. The restriction against wearing denim jeans in formal places like clubs or hotels made for the perfect divide between a far more conservative generation and their hip-shaking children. A pair of straight high-waisted jeans became the very symbol of “all that was wrong with the next generation!” and the marvelous beginning of casual cool attire.
If you ask Wikipedia, which happens from time to time, casual will be defined as ‘a dress code that emphasizes comfort and personal expression over presentation, formality and conformity’. The brief history and definition above explains why jeans are the official emblem for casual and how this has translated to personal style. Ironically a pair of ‘smart jeans’ would now be the most appropriate thing to wear to the Ritz or a members club worth their weight in gin and tonic, a funny development and a symptom of change. These fundamental shifts help in understanding the phenomenon that is the denim craze, and our perpetual attraction to jeans brands. The introduction of designer jeans in the beginning of the eighties, think Versace jeans or Karl Lagerfeld's first few collections for Chanel, changed how we wore denim yet again, moving from the runway to our wardrobes and jeans into the realm of luxury. The beginning of the 2000s saw American denim emerge again, with labels such as True Religion jeans, Paige jeans and 7 Jeans. Quickly these designers became the rising stars of American fashion, dressing popstars and movie stars of Hollywood like they had in the 50s. This time also saw the development of stretch denim, your beloved skinny jeans and slim-fit jeans and launched the hysteria over the must-have pair of low-rise zippered Balmain jeans. (The paparazzi shots of Kate Moss in these are still clear in our minds) This era moved women’s jeans into the socially acceptable jeans-almost-everyday category that it is today, and started the creative adaptation on how we style them.
That’s nice, but what about now?
Women’s jeans have made their most elegant conversion, a reflection of the women who wear them and our style evolution. Black jeans, grey jeans, white jeans, light blue jeans, dark blue jeans, all have become classical elements of our wardrobe to build chic outfits upon. New stars have emerged with the development like Frame, a label who has become known for creating minimal streamlined silhouettes. The Swedish duo design denim garments that have elements of European style but with that LA jean knowledge that elongates and flatters, a powerful combination. (Karlie Kloss worked on a range with them for taller women) Again from Sweden is Acne, a brand who has cult like followers! (a true reflection for the need of minimalism within our wardrobes) They have a pair of black high-waist jeans that are now the very reduction of the word hip. M.i.h jeans famously a favourite of Gwyneth Paltrow, could be responsible for the return of the flare with their ‘Marrakesh’ jeans. A label to be thankful for. The American denim legends of the 2000s are still as important, trusted favourites and a testament to good quality. Today it would be difficult to function within our modern lifestyles without our beloved jeans. Monday, Friday and Sunday would be difficult days indeed. Jeans for women are saviours, ready to solve all manner of problems.