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History of Denim

The word “jeans” originated in the 1800s. It originally referred to a twill cotton cloth used to make trousers, but soon the textile merged with the garment it was commonly used for. Blue jeans, now known as “denim”, were made from this fabric and produced in the French town of Nîmes (bleu de Nîmes).

Levi Strauss and Davis originally made jeans in two types of fabric- brown duck and blue denim; however, the invention of the denim 501 style in 1890 boosted the latter fabric's popularity. Within the 10 years that followed, Strauss made innumerous design improvements: a double arch of orange stitching for sturdiness and to designate them as Levi's; belt loops appeared in 1922; and zippers replaced the button fly on some designs in 1954. Strauss and Davis' patent expired in 1890, which allowed other manufacturers to replicate the model. OshKosh B'Gosh debuted in 1895, followed by Blue Bell (later Wrangler) in 1904 and Lee Mercantile in 1911.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood helped romanticize the blue jean by putting the trousers on stunning cowboy types, including John Wayne and Gary Cooper. This glossy new image appealed to shoppers looking for casual leisurewear they could wear on weekends and vacations. Publicity images of actresses, such as Ginger Rogers and Carole Lombard, wearing jeans helped persuade women that the trend was for them as well.

Vogue declared jeans to be "Western chic" in the 1930s. Claire McCardell, an American designer, sold over 75,000 of her denim Popover wrap dress in 1942. However, it wasn't until the 1950s that jeans became synonymous with rebellious, anti-establishment youth. The image of the denim-clad teenage idol with huge sex appeal was popularized by Marlon Brando and James Dean; rock'n'roll stars helped cement the style as cool; hippies and anti-war protestors wore jeans in the 1960s and early 1970s to show support for the working class; and feminists and women's lib organizers chose blue jeans to demonstrate gender equity. By the 1960s, jeans had come to symbolize the counterculture. Some high schools prohibited the clothing, which only helped to elevate its prominence.

High fashion began to gain an interest in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Fiorucci's Buffalo 70 jeans were skin-tight, dark, pricey, and difficult to get - the polar antithesis of the younger generation's preference for fading bell-bottoms. They became popular with the Studio 54 jet set. Calvin Klein was the first designer to send blue jeans down the runway in 1976, soon followed by Gloria Vanderbilt debuting her famous jeans in 1979.

In the 1980’s, not only were these designer jeans a commercial success, but they were also marketed with a racier image in mind. Brooke Shields' provocative Calvin Klein campaign and Claudia Schiffer's sexy Guess advertising helped give the blue jean a new level of seductive potential. By the 1990s, high fashion brands such as Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Dior were among the brands that had joined the jean market.

Over the years, the types and styles of jeans became stratified among groups and subgroups: hip-hop styles of the early 1990s were characterized by oversized, low-slung baggy jeans; intellectuals and hipsters turned to dark denim as a way to return to the style's roots; pop stars preferred Diesel's sandblasted and whiskered styles; and aficionados paid high prices for vintage Levi's and Levi's.

Almost all luxury labels and high-fashion designers now send jeans down the runway, and they come in a variety of styles: broad, slim, high-waisted, low, light, dark, or coloured. "I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans," Yves Saint Laurent commented in November 1983 to New York Magazine. "They have expression, modesty and simplicity — everything I look for in clothing."



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