Denim is quintessentially American, and it’s a well-loved wardrobe staple in the United States and across the fashion world. But even though you can find it practically everywhere, does denim have any real staying power? Keep reading to find out why we think denim is here to stay.
The Story of Denim
Back in the 1800’s, a German named Levi Strauss moved to New York City and then on to San Francisco, where he and his brother had a business selling dry goods. One of the items they sold was a cotton cloth that would go on to become the famous denim.
One fine day, a man named Jacob Davis came to the Levi Strauss’ store looking for a sturdy pair of pants he could wear while working. His trade was making wagon covers and tents. He ended up with a pair of denim jeans with durable hardware to reinforce the areas where pants tend to tear, like pockets, in-seams, and flies.
The denim was dyed the classic indigo color in order to hide dirt and dust that workers were constantly exposed to. The pants were so great that he asked Levi Strauss to partner with him and sell these jeans. The rest is history.
Americans Love Their Denim
In the United States alone, nearly 450 million pairs of denim jeans are sold each year, and on average, every American has at least seven pairs of jeans. Even though they began as functional workwear for men, they’ve gone on to become incredibly versatile.
Now, you can wear jeans to nearly every occasion: from work to the bar, from a lazy Sunday morning to an A-lister event. It all depends on how you style them and with the wide range of denim choices available now, that’s easier to do than ever.
The Staying Power of Denim
During the 1950’s, if you wore denim it could be seen as a non-conformist fashion statement. It was the sign of a rebel or delinquent, and movie stars like James Dean didn’t help matters much. Luckily, that changed and by the 1970’s, denim was acceptable and very vogue.
Denim seems to hold up through thick or thin in the fierce world of the fashion industry. That’s because denim is easily adaptable to the passing trends. And when a trend returns, it finds a happy home in denim. Here are some classic examples:
High Waisted Jeans
Women have been wearing denim jeans since about the 1940’s when they were working as factory employees during wartime.
Now, high waisted or high rise jeans are all the rage, with brands like Zara, H & M and 7 For All Mankind producing pairs for today’s fashionista. And of course, Levi’s has their own take on this wardrobe staple. But this style is making a definite comeback. They were common back in the 1970’s and throughout the 80’s and 90’s. But they took the back seat to other trends.
Now, they’re back and fashion bloggers and influencers are embracing these slimming jeans with open arms.
Back in the 1950’s skinny jeans were definitely “in” and for the last decade or so, they’ve been the “it” jean. You could wear them with a smart blazer for a professional office look like entrepreneur Mimi Ikonn does here. Or, you could wear a cozy, oversized sweater for an easy Sunday brunch.
While they’re not as popular now, there’s no doubt that they’ll return to the runway and we’ll be wearing them again soon.
These are only two popular denim styles. But let’s not forget all the other jeans that come and go depending on the trends. There’s the flared, bootleg, cropped, the boyfriend jean, the mom jeans, fishermen jeans and sailor pairs. And within every style, you can find distressed, frayed and fringed detailing.
And denim shorts are a must-have during the summer months, too, making denim a perfect for practically every season.
Even if denim skirts are not trendy, they’re never not in style. It all started back in the 1970’s when women were spotted wearing wide, midi length skirts, which then made way to the short, mini skirt. Pencil skirts were soon to follow, along with detailing that included frays, embroidery, embellishments and fringe.
Celebrities and style icons, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Palermo, Eva Longoria, Gigi Hadid and Poppy Delevingne have all created looks ranging from classic, elegant, playful and casual with their denim skirts.
True to the story of denim, the jean jacket began as working attire, in the form of a sturdy, denim shirt back in 1905. Luckily, it’s no longer a utilitarian necessity and women (and men!) can wear this legendary piece from day to night.
The jacket style has evolved over the decades. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, women wore big, boxy silhouettes. Over the last decade or so, jean jackets became more fitted and cropped, but now, we’re seeing a return to the boxier pieces. Nonetheless, you can still find classic jackets at certain retailers, like Madewell.
When it comes to jean jackets – and the rest of denim items – it’s not whether denim is in style or not. It’s more a question of what kind of trend the denim is being used for.
Because everyone loves denim, it’s in such high demand. This had lead brands and manufacturers to produce a constant flow of denim pieces. Unfortunately, this has wreaked havoc on the environment and lead to lots of water and land pollution.
One brand, however, is leading the way to produce clean denim and to help reduce the negative impact that denim factories have on the environment. Everlane, based in California, is helping keep this wardrobe staple in your closet, but without adding toxic chemicals into the water supply.
Denim is Here to Stay
Will denim ever go out of style? It seems unlikely. It’s been a fashion favorite for about 50 years, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. So, if your wardrobe needs a new piece, you really can’t go wrong with denim. It’s something that you can return to again and again.