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Fashion Flashback: Denim's fascinating journey through fashion history

Denim has become one of the most important fashion categories in modern style ... but it didn't start that way. See the style evolution!
/ Source: TODAY

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

Corey Allen, James Dean, Natalie Wood, 1955
James Dean in a promotional poster for "Rebel Without a Cause," 1955.Courtesy Everett Collection

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

Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, John Schneider
Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, John Schneider in "The Dukes of Hazzard."Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

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

Claudia Wells, Michael J. Fox, 1985
Michael J. Fox and Claudia Wells in "Back to the Future Part II," 1985.©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

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

Britney Spears
Britney Spears rehearses for the Super Bowl in 2003.Getty Images

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

Model Kate Moss
Kate Moss arrives at the London gala screening of "Control."Getty Images

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!

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston walks in the rain in New York City.WireImage

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.