Denim Day isn't particularly big news in the UK but it is a global event which is certainly very high profile in the US. So what is this special day that sounds like a major celebration of our favourite fashion statements?
Denim Day isn't actually a celebration of jeans. It is an annual event when people are encouraged to wear jeans in order to raise awareness of rape and sexual assault. This might seem like a strange way to highlight such an issue but Denim Day was born out of a terrible crime and a subsequent court ruling which scandalised people across the world.
A Terrible Crime
In 1997 an 18 year old from Rome, Italy was picked up for her first driving lesson by her 45 year old driving instructor. He took his pupil to an isolated road, pulled her out of the vehicle, managed to wrestle her out of one leg of her jeans and then raped her. He threatened the young girl with death if she told anyone about what had happened and then forced her to drive back home.
Despite the death threat the girl told her parents about what had happened to her and they helped her to press charges against her instructor. He was arrested, charged and eventually found guilty of rape and received a custodial sentence. He later appealed his sentence and the case eventually made it all the way to the Italian Supreme Court where the conviction was overturned. The chief judge stated that the conviction had been overturned because the victim had been wearing tight jeans. So tight, the court believed, that she must have helped the instructor to remove them and therefore the sex was consensual. It was the opinion of the court that it was common knowledge that it was impossible to remove very tight jeans without the collaboration of the person wearing them.
The verdict enraged women in the Italian parliament and they took immediate action by wearing jeans to work. This action inspired the California Senate and Assembly to do the same and then Patricia Giggans, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (now Peace Over Violence), made Denim Day an annual event. The first Denim Day was in 1999 and the event has taken place in April every year since. As of 2011 at least 20 US states officially recognise Denim Day and wearing jeans on this day has become an international protest against destructive and inappropriate attitudes towards sexual violence.
In 2008 the Italian Supreme Court finally overturned their findings meaning that there was no longer a "denim" defence to a charge of rape. Nonetheless, fashion choices remain talking points in the fight against sexual violence as there are still many people who view revealing clothing or even tight jeans as provocative. It seems incredibly arcane but some people still believe that women who dress in a certain way are asking for it. Thankfully most of the world is now more enlightened!
With the current trend for skinny and super skinny jeans it is a good job that attitudes are changing. Denim Day is proving to be a force for great good and perhaps the popularity of skinny jeans is helping too. Look out for Denim Day each year and wear your favourite jeans to help change attitudes and to save more women from becoming victims of a denim defence.