American’s Love Affair with Denim

I have noticed in my travels that Americans love Denim.  I have done other posts on denim and how to wear them but lets talk history, facts and what makes some different form others.


A few facts about denim:

1. Jacob Davis, a tailor in Reno, Nevada, came up with the idea of riveted pants in response to a customer whose pockets kept ripping. He feared someone might steal his idea and recruited Levi Strauss, owner of dry goods wholesaler Levi Strauss & Co., as a business partner. They obtained a patent on May 20, 1873.

2. Denim jeans — or trousers, waist overalls or dungarees — started out as work-wear for hard labor in mines, factories and fields. By the 1980s, as high fashion brands began to introduce the concept of designer jeans, the shape and fit began to slim down.

3. Consumers in the United States buy approximately 450 million pairs of jeans every year.

4. On average, U.S. consumers have seven pairs of jeans in their wardrobe, according to Cotton Incorporated.

5. Environmental awareness has pushed denim laundries to improve techniques for bleaching and coating jeans to give them different looks, Corrente said. Where lots of water, aggressive washing and sandpaper was once the norm for creating that worn vintage look, lasers and and ozone gas cameras are now being used to minimize water waste and chemical runoff.

6. This year’s trends are marked by a hybrid appreciation for fads of other eras. You’re as likely to see someone rocking the heavy raw denim popular among ’60s bikers and rebellious youth, an ’80s-inspired high-waisted, flower print, or the acid-washed, ripped-up grunge look of the ’90s.

Where did the name Denim come from? The word comes from the name of a sturdy fabric called serge, originally made in Nîmes, France, by the Andre family. Denim was originally called serge de Nîmes, it was then soon shortened to Denim.

What exactly is Denim and how is it made? Denim is a rugged cotton twill textile, in which the weft passes under two or more warp fibers. This produces the familiar diagonal ribbing identifiable on the reverse of the fabric, which distinguishes denim from cotton duck. It is a twill-weave woven fabric that uses different colors for the warp and weft. One color is predominant on the fabric surface. Because of this twill weave, it means the fabric is very strong.

What was Denim first used for? Denim was originally used by workers. They wore denim clothes because of it’s durability, it was extremely strong and perfect for their daily jobs, it didn’t wear out easily making it a good fabric for the long run.

How has Denim evolved throughout the years? This is a very important question, one that explains so much about why we wear denim today. Without the history behind denim, we will wonder forever how it became so famous and such a key piece of clothing.

In the 1800’s American gold miners wanted clothes that were strong and did not tear easily. To meet this demand from the miners, a man called Leob Strauss started a wholesale business, supplying clothes to people who required it. Leob and a Nevada tailor joined forces to patent an idea the tailor had for putting rivets on stress points of workman’s waist high overalls, commonly known as jeans. Strauss later changed his name from the rather plain Leob to the extremely recognisable Levi, this is when the brand Levi Strauss was created and is still extremely successful today.

cowboy The History Of The Wonderful Fabric, Denim!

The 1930′s Cowboys often wore jeans in the movies. This made jeans become very popular, as you know how much of an influence clothing in the movies has on every day wear. This lead to a huge increase in people wanting to purchase jeans.

During the 1940′s fewer jeans were made due to World War 2, but American soldiers did introduce them to the world by wearing them when they were off duty as a casual, comfy item of clothing. After the war, rival companies, like Wrangler and Lee, began to compete with Levi’s for a share of the international market.

In the 1950′s Denim became very popular with young people. It was the symbol of the teenage rebellion in TV programmes and movies. James Dean, in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, was a symbol of this. Some schools in the US went so far as to ban students from wearing denim on the premises!

70s denim The History Of The Wonderful Fabric, Denim!

n the 1960′s and 70′s manufacturers started to make different styles of jeans to match the 60′s fashions which included embroidered jeans, painted jeans, psychedelic jeans etc, these were a huge part of the fashion and culture. Think of the 70′s flares with platform shoes, everyone today remembers the 70′s fashion for this, even if like myself, you were not even born then! In many non-western countries, jeans became a symbol of ‘western decadence’ which meant they were very hard to get.

In the 1980′s jeans became a very high fashion clothing. Famous fashion designers like Gucci started making jeans, with their own labels on them. This meant jeans had lost their appeal as a workers fabric now and were classed as a very fashionable item of clothing to own. Because high fashion designers like Gucci had taken jeans on, this meant that jean sales started to rocket, everyone who was anyone had to own them. More and more different types and styles of jeans were created, the flares were dropped and in came the super skinny jeans, acid washes and little Denim jackets. Denim really was taking the fashion industry by storm!

80s denim1 The History Of The Wonderful Fabric, Denim!

What happened in the 1990′s? Although denim is never completely out of style, it certainly goes out of “fashion” from time to time. The 1990′s youth market wasn’t particularly interested in 501′s and other traditional jeans styles, mainly because their parents: the “generation born in blue” were still wearing them. No teenager in their right mind would be caught dead in anything their parents are wearing, this meant the1990′s youth turned to other fabrics and styles like cargo pants, khakis and branded sportswear. Since I was born in the late 80′s I definitely can relate to this. Not very many people were wearing jeans when I grew up in the 90′s.

Denim was still in vogue, but it had to be in different finishes, new cuts, shapes, styles, or in the form of aged, authentic, vintage jeans, discovered in markets, and second-hand stores, not conventional jeans stores. Levi Strauss & Co., the No.1 producer of jeans, closed 11 factories throughout the 1990′s due to the sudden decrease in want for their product.

Then what happened during the year 2000 and still is today? Jeans made a huge come back on the catwalk with big name designers like Chanel, Dior, Chloe and Versace adding them to their summer ’99 collections. Jeans were back in fashion! Was it risky for these designers to incorporate jeans back into fashion after the 90′s? It probably was, but I am very thankful they did! Jeans today are the most worn item of clothing ever!

We are over half way through the year 2009 and I can’t believe how much progress denim has made! Every single brand almost has a denim line. Not just designers like Chanel and Dior, other companies have started out purely for jeans, DieselRock & Republic7 For All MankindTrue Religion, NudiePaige Premium, J Brand… The list is endless! Every year so many new faces in denim are appearing. Current/Elliott are a wonderful example, they created their brand purely for denim and introduced the boyfriend fit back into our lives!

Now articles of clothing such as dresses, shirts, shorts, skirts, coats, jackets and even leggings are produced in Denim. With all of these Denim brands in the market, I think it’s safe to say Denim will not be going anywhere any time soon! It’s here to stay! We are now obsessed with finding the perfect fit and the perfect jean, brands are trying their hardest to accomplish this task!

Denim trends also come back around! Think right now, the flared leg jeans are coming back in fashion as is the 80′s acid wash trend. As the years progress and the style changes, like everything in fashion, it repeats itself. Maybe in about 20 years time the boyfriend jean will be back in fashion!

Now that Denim is such a major part of our lives, many of us out there, like myself, love to create the fading effect and worn in look ourselves! This is where raw denim comes in to play! Raw, unwashed denim, which means we can create our own fades and our own look just by wearing them! There are so many types of Denim: Rigid denim which is just 100% cotton, stretch Denim either containing elastane or lycra, Selvage Denim which has stitching on the leg seams inside, not leaving them uncut with raw edges, and more. There are also so many cuts: skinny, straight, bootcut, flare, capri, boyfriend, carrot fit, bell bottoms… Isn’t Denim amazing? I could talk about it forever!

The Differences:

Elle magazine’s Anne Slowey, reveals the difference between a $200 decadent denim and lean, mean $20 pair of jeans.

The Denim and the Color

According to Slowey, one of the biggest difference between cheap and expensive jeans is the fabric. “Denim starts out like burlap, and through expensive processing, designers are able to make them feel like soft cotton,” reveals Slowey, Elle’s fashion news director. “There’s some jeans that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars that will actually form to the shape of your body overtime. They will flatter your silhouette and make you appear longer and leaner.”

Pricier jeans will also ensure that the color of the denim will always stay as crisp as the very first wear. “When you’re paying more money, you’re actually getting a jean that isn’t going to lose its wash,” she says.

Cheap Jeans Have Never Looked Better

But Slowey has found that bargain-priced denim jeans, ($10-$40 a pair) are now a better quality than they used to be. “There’s never been a better time to buy low-end denim.”

Slowey reveals four secret ways to make cheap jeans look expensive. First, only buy straight leg jeans in a dark blue wash. That’s the style most pricey pairs come in. Second, flip jeans inside out before they’re washed. This ensures that when the dye fades, it gets trapped inside the jeans. Third, use cold water only and never dry them. The dryer makes them lose their shape and turn frumpy.

“I don’t put anything in the dryer,” explains Slowey. “The dryer is the enemy of fabric. It’s going to cause your jeans to come out shapeless, lifeless and dull.”

And fourth and most shocking of all, Slowey says not to wash jeans until they absolutely necessary to preserve the shape, fit and color. ”

As far as washing and taking care of budget denim, at $29 and $35, you put them in the washer, you’re not only going to lose the shape and contour, but also the color. So I just say, wear them to death.”


Cheat Sheet: Anny Slowey’s Tips for Buying Jeans:

When trying on jeans, try on one size smaller than usual.

“Denim is going to stretch. Depending on the cut, buy one size smaller,” Slowey says.

A big time saver in the store is to hold jeans up next to the body and stretch the waistband. If the band goes all the way across the body, chances are they’re going to fit. Also, avoid a flare cut jean, which tends to cut the body and make everyone look shorter. Instead, opt for a straight leg pair which tends to be very slimming on most body types. That’s because they’re usually constructed with a higher waistband and will elongate the leg.

Slowey also warns not every style works for everyone. “Buy for your age, buy for your style. Don’t be lured and seduced by your department store dressing room. Everything looks better there,” she warns.

The biggest trend Slowey says to avoid is relying too much on belts. “Don’t buy jeans to accessorize with a belt. It’s not about putting a belt on your jeans this season. They should fit you perfectly as is.”




July 11, 2013. July.


  1. Kristy replied:

    I really believe that jeans are a staple item in most women’s wardrobes and there is nothing wrong with that, BUT, not every occasion or event is a “jean day”. The biggest issue I have is that jeans have come to take the place of dressing up; though there are several washes of denim these days, sometimes, the event requires a little something more than jeans. In my opinion, Americans have lost concept of dressing for dinner and travel and I think it is a shame! Living in Europe has given me a whole new perspective on dressing and I must admit that I absolutely LOVE getting dressed to meet my friends for a couple of drinks and tapas. If I dressed that way in the States, my friends would most likely say, “Why are you so dressed up?” It’s very simple, dressing up makes you feel great! In summary, jeans totally rock, but they should be rocked with caution!

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