How old is your oldest pair of jeans? Two years? Five? Ten? You and those jeans have seen some pretty good times. But while you may think you’ve worn them in perfectly, the real story of what makes those jeans so special started long before you put them on – and way before you were even born. Here, we take a look at some of the key moments that turned denim from workwear essential to the most versatile style statement of the 21st century.
1) One of the first recorded mentions of denim in English – 1695
If the hipsters of the late 18th century hadn’t been so busy stressing over their breeches and skirts the size of Tasmania, they might have noticed a much more significant fashion event. Edward Hatton wrote a small entry in The Merchant’s Magazine, describing ‘serge Denims’, referring to a French-made cloth that was rapidly gaining in popularity.
2) The blue jean is born – 1873
San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss teamed up with tailor Jacob Davis to create super-durable riveted workwear made of blue denim. The patent they received for their invention signified the birth of the blue jean as we know it.
3) Rosie the Riveter becomes the first female denim icon – 1942
The image of this feisty, denim-clad heroine helped recruit more than 2 million American women into the workforce during the Second World War poster campaign. Rosie’s slogan ‘We Can Do It!’ proved there was nothing men were doing that women couldn’t – wearing denim included.
4) Bing Crosby dons all-denim tuxedo – 1951
Way before Britney and Justin and those matching red carpet outfits, this guy was breaking all sorts of dress codes with his jeans-wearing antics – even getting denied entry to a hotel for sporting head-to-toe denim. Luckily for Cosby, Levi’s® designed him a bespoke denim tuxedo. The jacket even had its own ‘Notice to Hotelmen’ patch sewn inside, telling them to back off and let him in.
5) Grace Kelly makes the ultimate style statement in Rear Window – 1954
Hitchcock’s classic movie was equal parts thriller and catwalk, but it was the final scene that really stole the show: Kelly reclining in turned-up jeans and loafers. It was a real fashion-forward moment for 50s film – and a look that would still work today.
6) Debbie does double denim – 1978
Blondie front woman Debbie Harry was one of the most famous jeans-wearers of the 70s and 80s. If the 50s and 60s were about women making jeans their own, then the 70s were about making women’s jeans edgier and sexier. And there was no one who could make double denim sexier than Harry.
Image: Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr
7) Bruce Springsteen’s jeans-clad bum sells more than 30 million albums – 1984
One of the definitive albums of the 80s needed a cover to match, so when Springsteen enlisted photographer Annie Leibovitz to shoot it, the result was always going to make an impact. The shot of his blue Levi’s against the backdrop of the US flag became one of the most memorable album covers in history.
Image: Carl Lender via Flickr
8) Anna Wintour picks jeans for her first Vogue cover – 1988
The world’s most discerning fashionista knew how to make her mark when she took over as Vogue editor. In a move that caused a collective sharp intake of breath in couture circles, Wintour chose a model in a pair of jeans for her debut cover – the first time in Vogue history jeans landed the prime slot.
9) Brad Pitt stars in that Levi’s® ad – 1991.
Before the Brad ‘global megastar and one half of Brangelina’ Pitt that we know today, there was Brad ‘you know that hot guy from the Levi’s ad?’ Pitt. When he was on the cusp of making it big in Hollywood in the early 90s, Brad starred in quite possibly the sexiest 60 seconds ever seen in an ad break (with the help of a T-Rex soundtrack and the perfect-fitting pair of jeans).
10) The new jean for 2015
With a decade in the limelight, the skinny jean knew this day would come: when a new cut of denim would come along and threaten to steal its crown. With the launch of the Levi’s® 501CT coming in early 2015, with its upsized waist, customised and tapered fit from the knee to ankle – the anti-fit jean is back.