History of jeans as a style icon
Aye, you no doubt know that jeans were working class uniforms before WW2. They’d have remained so had it not been for movie stylists. Jeans have defined movements from rock to hippy to punk… our history respects their humble origins and mighty style.
From skinny fit to boyfriend, from flares to straight leg, jeans have become a staple item in all of our wardrobes.
This definition of casual wear wasn’t always as fashionable. The classic’ blue jeans’ first found life as the working classes’ uniform, and was mainly supplied by our now beloved Levis and Wrangler; during World War Two, jeans manufactured for both male and female workers. Even the United States Navy changed their coveralls and utility uniforms to boot cut jeans.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s popular American culture began to explode, with teens and young adults aspiring to be like their screen idols, that jeans started being seen as anything other than workwear. James Dean in the ‘Rebel without a cause’, and hotness symbols like Marlon Brando, Gene Autry and Cisco kid all inspired the revolution of the jeans.
In 1954, in ‘River of no return’, Marilyn Monroe sported a pair of straight legged jeans, which helped spark the common popularity of women’s jeans; Sandra Dee and Audrey Hepburn also made this particular shape of jean sexy, admired and stylish.
Jeans symbolised small scale rebellion for the teen and young adult generation. They didn’t want to conform or be mistaken for their parents, and in some ways it was a mild protest over not wanting to obey the rules of society. The teens of the 1950s craved a youth style and jeans were the answer.
Over time jeans have become socially more acceptable as casual wear, but have also been perfect for defining social movements and indicating aspects of popular culture. Through the 1950s and 1960s, jeans were an association for the rebellious rock ‘n’ roll and pop music culture and became the identity of the youth. The 1970s saw personalised bellbottoms being the staple of any live gig, and the in the 1980s musicians such as The Sex Pistols and The Ramones dominated the skinny jean trend during the punk movement.
Today jeans are apart of our everyday life, they have become our weekend staples and even our casual Friday godsend – but if it wasn’t for our movie industry stylists, they may have just stayed for the workers and cowboys.
Women like myself are now in constant search of the perfect fitting jeans, waist vs thighs, tights vs bottom; It’s a lifelong search that the fashion industry plays on – with five page features in Vogue or Look stating the elasticity, length, the fit to how the colour of a pair of jeans affects the perceived shape of our figure!
Even high end designers such as Yves Saint-Laurent and Calvin Klein have transformed jeans by adding colour, perfectly-placed rips and accessories, although not always for the best; the fact that designers want to make their lasting staple on such a simple but versatile garment shows us how accessible this item of clothing has become, and that the classic and now iconic jeans are here to stay.
“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, hotness appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.” – Yves Saint-Laurent
Marilyn Monroe inspired jeans for women
Marlon Brando made jeans a symbol of rebellion
Work jeans before WW2