In the fashion industry, denim is undoubtedly the most emblematic fabric, and today it is an important and indispensable accessory in any closet.
But what is the story behind the denim industry?
Of French origin, the word “denim” refers to the cotton twill fabric used in the manufacture of jeans and other clothing accessories. It comes from the city of Nimes, one of the French cities considered most important for the textile industry. The denim, when plaited and rolled up, becomes the roll of fabric whose threads are dyed indigo, followed by a process of foularding – a system of impregnating textile chemicals into the fabric – and air oxidation, responsible for the blue color in the fabric.
The history of denim goes back to the mid-19th century, more specifically to May 1, 1853, when German immigrant Levi Strauss founded Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco, making it the first jeans brand of all time and a worldwide reference. Twenty years later, on May 20, 1873, tailor Jacob Davis and his fabric supplier Levi Strauss patented the traditional jeans known today as “Levi’s 501” in the United States.
Later, during the 1920s and 1930s, jeans began to gain prominence and appear in cowboy movies by well-known Hollywood celebrities such as James Dean and Marlon Brando. Since then, women, men, and children began to wear jeans as casual clothing for their associated comfort. The year 1935 marked the moment when Vogue Magazine published its first issue, using a model dressed in a pair of jeans. By 1950, the most popular styles of jeans included light washes, jeans with cuffs, and black jeans, with Levi’s, Lee Cooper, and Wrangler standing out as dominant brands. From the end of this decade, jeans were associated with rebellion, individuality, and self-expression.
The 1960s marked the beginning of the hippie era, with jeans representing a symbol of freedom. In the 1970s, jeans came to symbolize American cultural heritage. One of the most prominent and trendy jeans looks during this period was the ripped jeans popularized by punk rock bands. In addition, this era marked the popularization of denim skirts and vests.
The 1980s saw the emergence of the wider style jeans, chosen mainly by hip hop artists, and also the skinny jeans, chosen by punk rock and heavy metal artists. At this time, brands such as Calvin Klein, Jordache, and Gloria Vanderbilt were considered to be of choice. Later, in the 1990s, overalls began to appear, with several pockets and flaps, and there was a popularization of overalls, especially among younger women, and baggy jeans for men. This era was also marked by the emergence of the “boot cut”, a slimmer, more subtle style of jeans suitable for everyday wear, and the JNCO, a style of jeans that are extremely wide from the waist down.
Coming into the 2000s, pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera helped popularize low-waisted jeans. This period was further marked by a popularization of skinny jeans, a model designed through innovations in stretch denim technology. During this period, culture diversified and people began to decorate and customize their jeans with patterns, prints and embroidery, allowing an expression of their personal styles in creative ways – DIY jeans officially became an integral part of denim fashion.
The 2010 decade saw the return of high-waisted jeans, baggy jeans and straight jeans, with skinny jeans losing expression. This was also a year marked by a growing concern, on the part of brands, to respect a more environmentally conscious production.
As we approach a new decade, the question that looms is “What will be the future of denim?”
Given the growing shift in consumer behavior towards more conscious and sustainable shopping habits, it is certain that the future of classic blue jeans will remain green in spirit and a truly timeless fashion classic.