Denim has become one of the most important categories in modern style, but the relationship between denim and consumers in America has been a long and fickle one. Jeans didn't even start out as a fashion statement, with Levi’s using the durable material for miners' workwear in the mid-1800s.
That's greatly changed in recent years, as we well all know by looking in our closets, with cuts, colors and treatments evolving with cultural trends. Follow the journey of the jean below and see how it became such a wardrobe staple.
'50s | Farmers and cowboys
In the beginning, there was Levi’s, the king of outdoor workwear and a fine example of when denim was still demure. Bad boys like James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” brought a rugged appeal and opened a window for brands to re-market themselves.
'60s | Off-duty housewives
As clothes became a bit less reserved (women wearing pants — crazy!), Wrangler’s flattering “W” pocket became the style du jour for the woman of the house. The design was fitted and popular in both short or long pant styles paired with a cotton blouse for a pretty and classic look. The brand would later become a huge hit with the younger generation.
'70s | Sex symbol uniform
The self-proclaimed “hottest jean in America” was a denim brand called Dittos, at least in the 1970s. Known for flair legs and signature saddleback stitching on the seat, these jeans were perfect for dancing queens and Farrah Fawcett. The '70s also marked the debut of the infamous "Daisy Dukes" short-shorts from "The Dukes of Hazzard."
'80s | Serious stone-wash
Big hair, bold prints, bright colors and the Brat Pack dominated the market in the '80s. As did Jordache jeans, famous for the slim fit and tapered fit. Denim was everywhere, from pants and jackets to stone wash and white
'90s | Enter the boyfriend
In 1992, a pair of jeans came along so influential, they catapulted the careers of the campaign’s models Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg. Calvin Klein’s looser “boyfriend fit” went against the body-conscious styles that dominated.
'00s | How low they did go
The defining qualities of a “must-have” pair of jeans in the '90s? Low-rise with dark denim or edgy rinses. Even more crucial were the large back pockets placed lower than usual, giving the illusion of a lifted or smaller bum. All we can say looking back on this trend, is long live the high-rise.
'10s | Skinny minnies
The mantra of the past five years is, “if you've got it, flaunt it.” Indie brands started the revolution of skin-tight jeans. Eventually, celebrities began to rock the trend and the look went from hipster uniform to status quo.
2015 | Anything goes!
Great news: Zeroing in on one specific silhouette is less important these days and comfort is key. "Normcore" has become mainstream, tailored classics are a hit and solid straight legs are all up for grabs this summer. Just find the style that suits you best.