Saturday, 12 December 2009

Denim; a fashion staple? By R.O.

SO here we are in winter 2009, on the cusp of the second decade of the new millennium. I'm sure we could all think of a few adjectives to describe fashion in our time; 'fickle', 'fast', perhaps 'ever-changing'? I'm sure that one of the last ways you would think of describing fashion would surely be with words like 'stable' and 'constant'? Yet these are words that could be used to describe the continuing presence of denim in our wardrobes.
I have always been interested in denim; from purchasing far too many denim items as a misguided teen, to insisting on studying the infrastructure of its industry for my IBSc dissertation. I find it fascinating; I can’t think of any item other than the humble pair of denim jeans which could be considered a necessary item of clothing in almost every decade since it was invented. But why is this? In this post I am going to concentrate on standard denim jeans.


To understand the history of denim is perhaps the key to its appeal. Denim cloth originated from a location in France, therefore 'de' NĂ®mes became 'denim'. It is important to distinguish between denim, a material which can be made into any colour, and blue jeans. Although both have been enduring, blue denim jeans are the more popular of the two.
Denim was most famously incorporated into dungarees as a uniform for American factory workers and railroad workers in the 1800s, as in the picture below.

Interestingly enough, the name for dungarees comes from Dongari Killa, India, where this type of clothing was originally fashioned in the 1600s. From here to usage in America’s working population, denim was then incorporated into popular culture and eventually into mainstream clothing. Its popularity was spearheaded by the winning combination of jeans with leather as a rebel statement, characterised in the 1950s by film stars such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. From rebel to a symbol of casualness; in the G20 protests, bankers in London’s ‘City mile’ were advised not to wear their usual uniform of suits. They subsequently wore denim jeans in order to look ‘casual’. This is what I think makes denim jeans so interesting; they have symbolised the working force, the rebel youth, and now are a symbol of the conventional norm for all ages.

The appeal in celebrity

Of course, as with all fashion, the popularity is both precipitated and continued by its popularity in the celebrity sector. Every high street trend is usually preceded by a celebrity showcasing a new style of clothing. Unfortunately for the true fashionista, since Kate Moss was pictured in her skinnies and Uggs, little else has prevailed on the high street. Even with small waves of popularity for other styles (flares have been trying to make a comeback for many seasons now), it is due to the power of celebrity that skinny jeans are still the flavour of the moment in 2009.

Denim Jeans Styles

Of course, with an item which has lasted through so many decades, many different styles of denim jeans have existed. From flares to skinnies; straight leg to bootcut; jeggings to capris, there is a style for everyone. I personally am an advocate for different styles; I think that the saddest renaissance of the denim jeans has been in the late Noughties. Beware of the skinny, it does not suit everyone, and contrary to popular belief, it does not automatically suit those who are extremely slender either (I have noticed that my legs closely resemble Twiglets when cast in a pair of skinnies).
And apart from the styles themselves there are the colours! For a smart look, deep indigo is choice of preference, contrasting nicely with the stonewash favoured by American cowboys. Or how about the distressed and bleached fashions in favour in the early Noughties? It’s all there for you to peruse. The brilliance of denim jeans is that they are appropriate for almost any situation...And this is what I believe makes denim jeans my favourite pair of clothing; it is definitely the most VERSATILE piece of clothing you can buy!

Keep it MODO people!

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