How blue jeans conquered the world
We list the seven most important moments in the history of fashion's most iconic item.
1. AN ITALIAN INVENTION
The denim tale starts in Genoa, Italy, where Genoese sailors used the strong fabric as protection from the weather. There are different theories about where the word ‘jean’ comes from, but a popular one is that it derives from the French name for Genoa – “Gênes". When translated to American English ¬– which is where the blue trousers became mainstream – the spelling changed to 'jeans'.
2. FROM WORKWEAR TO VOGUE
Levi Strauss introduced jeans to the American market in the late 1800s, and in 1934 the company launched “Lady Levi’s” – a denim line for women. The lady jeans were popular on the west coast, where women worked on farms and ranches. One year later, the lady jeans were featured in Vogue and found their way to New York and the rest of the world.
3. BECOMING ICONIC
In the 1950s, Hollywood put all the bad boys in blue jeans. Of course, the most memorable ones were Marlon Brando and James Dean, who made the indigo trousers into trend objects and launched themselves as style icons for young men all over the world. While the two hunks immortalised men's jeans, perhaps Grace Kelly did the same for women’s denim with her appearance in Rear Window (1954), where she wore rolled up denims and a red men’s shirt.
4. THE BAGGIER THE BETTER
The 1980s was the first decade when (basically) all people were wearing denim – regardless of social background or work place – and the fabric could be described both as symbol of egalitarian fashion, as well as one creating subcultural association. If you were into punk rock you were most definitely wearing skinny distressed jeans, if you were a streetwear pioneer who loved hip hop you probably sported low-slung baggy jeans, and if you were following trends, it was the decade that designers brought denim to the runway.
5. THE RISE OF MINIMALISM
When the peacocking '80s turned into minimalistic '90s, the denim trend followed suit and changed shapes yet again. Baggy jeans stayed a big streetwear trend, but in womenswear classic straight-legged and dark stone washed jeans epitomised the minimalistic trend that ruled the decade.
6. LOW-SLUNG AND BOOT-CUT
But the '90s weren't all about minimalism. In the latter half of the decade – continuing into the early 2000s – carpenter jeans, overalls and double-denim were all huge youth trends. Come the new millennium and baggy and relaxed-fitting denim was quickly forgotten when pop stars opted for ultra-low-rise flared jeans, which many of us still vividly remember – and perhaps partly regret.
7. THE S/S 18 DENIM TRENDS
For spring and summer 2018, denim is as relevant and on trend as ever before. Although jeans have been around for centuries, new takes on the iconic indigo blue trousers are continuing to reshape our wardrobes season after season. Moving on from the past years' denim trends with cropped legs, high waists and patched up and reworked details, are the returning baggy '90s jeans, jeans with contrasting stitching and tuxedo stripes, as well as paper bag waist denims.
Celebrate the iconic wardrobe staple by browsing H&M Magazine's selected favourites below.
PHOTOGRAPHER Andreas Sjödin
DIRECTOR Andreas Sjödin
STYLING Lisa Lindqwister | Lund Lund
DOP Max Larsson
MODEL Alima Fofana | W360
HAIR Lok Lau | CLM Agency
MAKEUP Anya De Tobon | Link Details