These days it’s hard to imagine a city street that’s not full of people sporting denim in one style or another. It’s a staple part of modern style for men and women alike. But how did this working-class garment make it from humble beginnings in farming communities of Europe to take its place at fashion’s top table?
Denim and jeans started out as two separate but similar fabrics. Genes, as they were originally called, came from Genoa in Northern Italy, whereas denim (literally de Nimes) was from Nimes in Southern France. Both were practical work garments worn by farmers and agricultural laborers because they were sturdy and hard-wearing.
Levi Strauss heads to the US
In 1851 Levi Strauss moved from Germany to New York to help his brother run a goods store. In 1853, Levi moved to San Francisco where he opened his own dry goods business. There he met Jacob Davis, a tailor who became a regular customer of the Levi Strauss & Co. wholesale house and in 1872, Davis wrote to Strauss asking to partner up with him to patent and sell clothing which was reinforced with copper rivets at its stress points. Levi agreed and the two men went into business in 1873.
Jeans for general wear
Jeans remained workwear for years, popular with factory workers, miners and farmers, but after WWII parents began to buy the denim pants for their children, again because of how hardy they were. Jeans became far popular on urban streets but were still the domain of the working classes. They were a loose fit and resembled ‘waist overalls’ worn by US soldiers during the war.
The jean rebellion
It was in the 1950s that jeans first became a fashion item. Popularized by James Dean in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, jeans were soon adopted by youth culture as a symbol of rebellion. During the 50s and into the 60s, denim was a key part of the greaser subculture look. Greasers, as seen in the film Grease, were so-called because of their greased back hair but jeans, a t-shirt, and a leather jacket were just as much a part of the style. Jeans had become a fashion statement – and they remain so to this day.
Jeans as a staple
Since then jeans have been through many changes. They’ve been variously tighter and looser in fit, paired with pretty much any top and footwear that you can think of, been ripped, stained and dyed in all sorts of colors. But through it all, a pair of blue jean pants has been the mainstay of the jean market and continues to be so.
Like any other garment, jeans should fit properly. That means trying different styles to find what suits you best. Then it’s up to you how you wear them. For a casual weekend look, pair them with a sweater, hoodie or t-shirt and sneakers or pumps, or for a slightly smarter look, a well-fitting shirt looks great. It’s best to contrast a light shirt with dark jeans and vice versa. You can even pair denim with a blazer or sports jacket for a smart casual look.
At Louis Collections in Bangkok, we have anything and everything you might want to pair with a decent pair of jeans to achieve whatever style you’re after. Check out our style lookbook to find your perfect look.