Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Evolution of Blue Jeans

Chances are you’ve got a favorite pair of blue jeans in your closet. Hip huggers, skinny jeans, Western wear, you name it. Jeans have changed considerably over the years, reflecting American culture and attitudes.

That pair of jeans you love actually has a history dating back to the days of the California Gold Rush. Miners working in tough conditions wanted a pair of pants that could stand the wear and tear of the hard work they performed. Strauss used sturdy cotton fabric from France, which was called “denim” in America. He dyed the fabric an indigo blue and added copper rivets to the stress points. Eventually, his denim pants became known as “Levi’s,” and workers appreciated that they were made to last.

The 1930s brought Western movies, and Strauss’s creations were incredibly well-liked. Western clothing represented an independent, rugged lifestyle, and was popularized by people like John Wayne and Gary Cooper. Easterners seeking authentic cowboy experiences at Western dude ranches made sure they outfitted themselves with jeans right away.

Sailors, miners, cowboys, and factory workers used blue jeans the most before the 1950s. In certain cases, those sporting men’s jeans weren’t really respected. Some school administrators, worried about the behavior of their students, banned the clothes as “motorcycle boys” and “juvenile delinquents” wore them in movies. Even the performer Bing Crosby was nearly turned away from a hotel after showing up in the lobby wearing jeans. In the 1970s, though, a fashion revolution took over and many groups of people took a liking to jeans. The pants were made in a bell bottom or flared style. Jeans became “play clothes” and were decorated to reflect attitudes. Embroidery, sequins, beads, and paint all added to the individuality people could showcase in their wardrobe.

Tight, designer jeans took over during the 1980s. People wore them everywhere. Even in upscale restaurants, where men’s and women’s jeans might have been banned before, the clothing staple was becoming more widely accepted.
Jeans have only continued to grow in popularity. In fact, the average American today has seven pairs of jeans, according to the PBS Web site. This trend is one that was predicted decades ago. An American Fabrics writer wrote in 1969, “What has happened to denim in the last decade is really a capsule of what happened to America. It has climbed the ladder of taste.”

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