Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
They have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have a collection of jeans that fall into categories:
- Housework jeans
- Yard jeans
- Office jeans
- Party jeans
- Fat jeans
- Skinny jeans
- Dress up jeans
- Pregnant jeans (retired)
If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for the one pair of jeans that is a perfect fit. It’s the pair that magically reshapes your body and makes you look and feel good. This is the purpose of a good pair of jeans. Of course they also have to make a fashion statement, and a wise shopper knows the age-to-fashion-trend ratio that must be applied in order to succeed at this. Some styles are best left to the millennials.
I have BFFs who send me text alerts when the jeans we love appear on sale. When I find them I am tempted to buy more than one pair, knowing the manufacturer will discontinue them and the perfect fit will once again elude me. I think about when and how I will wear them, mentally pairing them up with my shoes. Some jeans simply can’t be worn with heels, others demand a stiletto. There are very few items that don’t go with jeans.
Our Favorite Jeans
Most of us have a favorite pair and a favorite brand*. We put them on and the world feels right—we are at one with ourselves. When we’re not in our jeans, we’re thinking about when we can change into them. Some of us even get to wear them to work. Most of us would agree that our jeans play a significant role in our wardrobe and our lives. When I think I have nothing to wear, I put on a pair of jeans; they are the clothing equivalent of comfort food.
The origin of denim is a bit vague. According to Wiki the word comes from the French phrase bleu de Gênes, literally translated to the blue of Genoa. Denim, the original jean fabric worn by sailors, came from the French town of Nîmes, from which the name is derived. Genoa de Nîmes = blue jeans. There are even reports of denim being used by Christopher Columbus in the 1400s. I have seen some people wear jeans with so many rips and frays they look like they could have come straight off one of his ships.
To Denim and Beyond
Today jeans are much more than the traditional blue denim. They come in sand, stone, dark and acid washed, sand blasted, boot cut, baggy, skinny, curvy, bell bottom, boyfriend, straight leg, relaxed fit, frayed, ripped, torn, patched, painted, cut off, cargo pocket, stretch, high waist, low rise, hip hugger, bib and blinged. Jeans come in just about any fabric and color you can name and some you never heard of. I will also give a cursory nod to the fashion misstep that combined jeans and leggings and called them jeggings. They are pretenders to the throne.
The earliest American blue jeans were made by Levi Strauss in 1873. They were originally designed for cowboys and miners as work wear. These hard working men gave them an iconic link to American history and culture. When Hollywood started producing westerns in the thirties, jeans went from work wear to movie wear. By the time James Dean donned a pair in the fifties, working jeans became sexy, and teenage boys imitated the look in Lees, Wranglers and white t-shirts. By the sixties they were being worn by women and that turned the five-pocket denim jean into a fashion staple. When Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein put their names on the waistband jeans were elevated to designer status.
What’s in Your Closet?
From working class to the runway, jeans are one of the most humble and durable consumer goods. Today they represent a $5.2 billion industry. According to Cotton Inc., 96% of us own an average of seven pairs of jeans, accounting for 6% of the clothing in our closets. A look inside my closet reveals I am well above the 6% ratio. Together we purchase over 450 million pairs of jeans every year.
We like to say we live in our jeans. Some of our best memories are probably wrapped in jeans. They evoke good times; comfort and perfect days. We develop relationships with our jeans and even when they wear out or no longer fit us we can’t bear to part with them. They may be consigned to a bottom drawer or storage box but they remain within arm’s reach.
The Jeans Chronicle
My jeans chronicle my personal history and we go back a long way. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t wear them and my wardrobe would be incomplete without them. Many of the important moments in my life are documented in photos of me wearing jeans. I look at a picture and feel the emotion tied to the place or time and even the style of the jeans I wore. This photo was taken my freshman year in college at the Olympic Park in Munich, Germany. My jeans are sporting a peace sign on the bottom left leg; I wore wired rimmed glasses and straightened my hair. Power to the People.
I like to keep pace with fashion trends but don’t veer too far off the beaten path. The other day I noticed a Pinterest board devoted to jeans—specifically “sixty jean styles you’ll love.” Fifty nine of them looked like this. I wasn’t feeling the love.
I’m more of a traditionalist, preferring classic styles and colors and opting for a good fit over a passing trend. The clothing you wear speaks about you and jeans are no exception. That said, I don’t oppose the more adventurous jean wearers but I do believe certain rules have to be applied.
Jeans can be worn by anyone but there should be a few basic guidelines. Nothing extreme – just a little common sense and a full-length mirror in the bedroom.
- If more of you is out of your jeans than in, it’s not the style for you
- Skinny jeans only work if you have skinny genes
- Avoid holes in questionable places
- Size matters
- The mirror doesn’t lie
When it comes to jeans, Yves St. Laurent said it best: “I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, and simplicity—all I hope for in my clothes.
I agree with Yves. Jeans are so much more than clothes. They’re a feeling.
*NYDJ (Not Your Daughters Jeans)