How many times a week do you wear denim? Fortunate for me, my work environment is such where I can dress casual, so most days denim is what I opt to wear. In recent years, our denim options have grown, and they have become an acceptable wardrobe selection in almost all situations. It's comfortable, can be dressed up or worn casually, and comes in many different washes, fits and price points. But, I found myself wondering when the trend began, who initiated the style and where the denim movement first took off. Let's take a look at the evolution of denim.
The word "jeans" comes from the French phrase bleu de Gênes, meaning the blue of Genoa, but the fabric, Denim, used to make jeans gets its name from the French town of Nîmes (de Nîmes). The Denim trousers were first made in the 16th century and sold in Genoa, which at the time was an important Naval and trading harbor in France. The men stationed here were required to wear all-purpose trousers while washing the deck, and denim fit the bill. To wash, the pants were dragged behind the boat in a net and dried in the sun. The sea and sun combination eventually bleached the pants, turning them to white.
The Jean made it's way to American and was introduced to the mining community in 1850. At this time, a tailor named Jacob Davis noticed that men were bringing jeans in for repair, and they were ripping in the same spots. Mr. Davis approached Levi Strauss, the only commercial maker of jeans at that time, and recommended rivets to reinforce the weakened areas on the pants - around the pockets and at the top of the button fly. In 1873, the American blue jean was introduced!
Widely accredited to the cowboy community in the 30's, they spread to the working community in the 40's, and became a symbol of teenage rebellion in the 1950's, after James Dean wore them in his movie Rebel without a Cause. Jeans became widely accepted in the 1960's and became fashionable in the 70's. Who doesn't remember the stonewashed Guess? jeans in the 80's (at the time, the $60 price tag seemed absurd) and in the 90's, when vintage jeans and purchase of such products in second hand stores took off? In 2005, Americans spent roughly $15 billion on denim.
Designer jeans were introduced in 1978 by Jordache, who originally only marketed their brand to women. Guess, Gloria Vanderbilt, Calvin Klein and Diesel followed, with brands such as True Religion, Seven for all Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, William Rast and Rock and Republic being the most recent to enter the luxury denim market.
A pair of Gucci "Genius jeans" that had been distressed, ripped and covered with African beads, when they debuted in October 1998 in Milan, were priced at an astonishing $3,134, but this wasn't the most expensive pair we've seen on the market. Forbes showcased Escada jeans that sold for $10,000, which were Swarovski crystal-encrusted from top to bottom. The most expensive jeans (as in the most anyone has spent for a single pair of jeans) go to Levi Strauss & Co., who spent $46,532 buying a pair of its own jeans on an eBay auction in May 2001. The jeans were found in a Nevada mining town and date back to the 1880s.
While I find it tough to shop for jeans, I love when I find a pair that fit just right. And who knew that every time I put on my J. Crew Matchstick or AG Jeans (which are my favorite), I was wearing a piece of history. Which are your favorites? How do you wear them?