We can thank Levi Strauss for giving the fashion world possibly its favorite fabric. It was back in the mid-nineteenth century that he started making trousers from ‘serge de Nimes’, later known as ‘denim’.
Jeans are the most versatile and important piece of clothing in any wardrobe. They fit perfectly, the less you wash them the better, if they break you fix them and they go with everything. Ever since the invention of the ‘jean’ in 1873 they have been worn by everyone from average joe’s to some of the world biggest icons, and have been part of the fashion movement from the very outset. Denim is a pure, honest, unpretentious, reliable, hard-working, tradition that gets better with age and it doesn’t get any better than that. The story of denim is forever entwined with the story of fashion and culture. It’s part of our heritage, and a genuine icon.
The American film industry made jeans incredibly popular, not only did the stylists of Hollywood cinema understand to use it as a symbol of the dark, mysterious, anti-hero, however, the hero himself loved wearing it and it became a dangerous symbol. Jeans got worn by rebellious drop-outs, connected to dirty sex, booze, drugs and rock music. In several states, jeans were banned from being worn in public schools and colleges.
Here we look at our top 5 favorite icons and how their incorporation of denim into their lifestyle has influenced others around them.
1. Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen rose as an anti-hero who was rebellious, difficult on set, and easily idolized by the public. He was featured prominently in movies from the Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, to The Thomas Crown Affair. Then, at the height of his career, McQueen took a break from acting and Hollywood to focus on motorcycle racing.
McQueen wore jeans with leather jackets, G9s, T-Shirts and sweaters, and he did so quite well. It can be assumed that most jeans he buttoned up were raw, selvage jeans from US mills. McQueen wore his jeans tight through the thighs and with a straight cut leg. This is a style that will never be wrong, because it is perfect. A recurring fit shaped by a true denim icon.
2. James Dean
The jeans and fashion culture was perceived as something dangerous; connected to drugs, motorcycle gangs and rebellious attitude, most often the actor played the role as the loner, anti-hero and outsider in Hollywood stories; like Rebel Without A Cause, East Of Eden, The Wild One, On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire and Jailhouse Rock.
In the movie A Rebel Without A Cause, Dean wore a pair of Lee 101z riders. The Lee 101 was first manufactured in 1924 in the mid-west USA and in 1926 Lee introduced the zipper to their rider silhouette making them easier to wear. To complete the look, Lee released a slim fitting denim jacket, the Lee 101j, that came into the market in 1931, 7 years after the original 101 jean.
3. The Ramones
One of the biggest stateside punk acts of all time, The Ramones also happened to be some of the biggest denim-enthusiasts in rock. The nonstop tour-machines (they toured for 22 straight years, performing 2,263 concerts) paired a whole lot of ripped-up jeans with those legendary chain-adorned leather jackets. Punk bands like The Ramones and The Clash might have been the first musicians to make the skinny jean mainstream.
Levis most popular jean, the 501 line, was a five-pocket standard, button-fly front. However when the Ramones stormed the music scene the new and updated 505 became the new favorite.
After Joey Ramone graced the 505’s, skinny jeans became a staple piece and a true fashion icon. Today’s punk rockers, glam rockers, rock and rollers, and many other labels follow in Mr. Ramone’s footsteps. While the style was historically favored by rebels, there is something neat, buttoned up, and decidedly stylish about slim-fit jeans, even when they have busted-out knees.
4. Marilyn Monroe
Jeans are probably the mainstay garment of the twentieth century, part of America’s heritage, and Marilyn Monroe is responsible for some of the greatest denim moments in fashion history. James Dean and Marlon Brando made denim defiant and sexy in the 1950s and soon Marilyn became the female version of the look, equally sexy and rebellious.
Marilyn Monroe wore her fair share of denim back in the day– both onscreen and off. In The Misfits, alongside costar Montgomery Clift, you see great Lee icons of denim history well worn by Hollywood’s finest. It’s an added bonus for a film that’s a true classic, and full of real-life irony, sadness and loss of epic proportion– which just serves to add to my sentimental yearnings for this bygone Hollywood era.
The jacket was a Storm Rider by Lee, a model launched in 1933, with blanket lining and corduroy-lined collar, which the likes of Paul Newman and Kirk Douglas used to sport. But worn by her, it became the most influential denim jacket, even for men.
5. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry was a punk icon. Her style was incredibly unique, just like her; as the punk movement began hitting the United States, she was virtually the only female on the scene, and her band was pushing limits of punk and new wave with their shows. Debbie favored thrift store finds and alternated between an edgy punk look and a more feminine style, but her two-tone hair and loud lipstick were a constant.
Her style has been adopted times over times on; Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, and other women in the music scene. But there is something about the way Debbie Harry did it: she pulled things off that shouldn’t work like denim on denim, all because of her punk rock persona.
A combination of strength and vulnerability is seen to constitute much of these garments’s aesthetic and emotional appeal. This is enhanced by a cultural belief that the physical properties of the cloth allow it to ‘mold’ to an individuals’ body and to record personal entropy of wear.
From indigo rockabilly turn-ups and bellbottoms to the ongoing skinny jean phenomenon, jeans have been firmly entrenched in the fashion landscape.
Check out our huge range of denim over on our website.
We have all the iconic styles as well as new brands from Europe, Japan and the U.S.A.