Denim has come a long way, since the first sailors of the 1500’s wore their all-purpose jean pants for hard work on the open seas. Then, referred to as dungarees, these comfortable, yet durable trousers and overalls were quite popular. Jeans today are just as popular, acquiring thousands of styles, with: embroidery, tears, bleaching, etc. But how did this phenomenon all begin? How did jeans get to where they are today – a part of most every individual’s closet space?
Denim was first created in France, titled as ‘serge de nimes’. This phrase was then shortened to ‘denim’, and has since remained. In America, gold rush miners required a strong pant that would not wear after a labor-intensive day. The miners also needed pockets in these pants, and belt loops, for which to house a belt and trusty set of tools. A German businessman opened a wholesale store soon after this request, that provided just that. Workers all over the United States began purchasing jeans as part of their daily uniform.
In the 19th century, an American company launched the start of what we refer to as the ‘denim industry’. Jeans became even more popular, thereafter, in western movies; projecting an image of ruggedness and raw strength. Buffalo Bill and John Wayne soon became known for their cowboy hats and dirty jeans.
James Dean then took this image of strength, and added a hint of rebellion. Bad boys everywhere were cuffing their jeans and strutting the hallways of school. In the mid-1900’s a more free-spirited group of teenagers began taking interest in the fabric, adding embroidery, and patterns to individualize their clothing. Holes in ones pants just became good reason for sewing on patches, and adding even more individuality.
By the 1980’s jeans became high fashion, and top designers took the fabric to the runways. The prices of denim soared, as designers placed their label on each pair. Although, it was not long before the high prices of jeans set the entire industry back. As individuals started to cut back on their clothing expenses due to a fall in the economy, jeans began to go on sale. Today, over two hundred pairs of jeans can be made from one bail of cotton, making this comfy necessity even more affordable than ever before.
Denim has been transformed into shirts, jackets, hair accessories, and handbags. It has continued to be a work pant for some, and a designer outlet for the fashion conscious. It is also no longer necessary to take your jeans home and make them your own. Styles, cuts and colors vary so immensely; there is no single pair of jeans alike, it seems.
Denim has done its fair share of travel through the tests of time. From the creation of the first jeans, to the present, denim has been a staple in the element of fashion. Who knows what shape or style denim will take on next.
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Sheila A Harris