1990s Vintage DenimApril 22, 2015
By the late 1980s, the world of jeans changed again.1990s vintage denim was characterised by two trends: the emerging love of vintage, which revived the wearing of mid-century workwear styles, and the new crop of smaller, limited edition brands which produced dozens of new styles designed to suit the market.
Two vintage Denim Trends of the 1990s
The original Levi’s, Wranglers and Lees jeans became increasingly collectable, just as the 1990s vintage denim – splintered into subculture groups depending on treatment of materials, styles and cuts – is collectable now.
1990s Vintage Denim Fashion
1990s vintage denim can be distressed, sandblasted, it can have cat’s whiskers (the wear pattern at the crotch);
it can be ripped, modified, patched, reinforced, or raw; it could be bought “dirty” (as created by Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein) or in any number of finishes and colours, usually by brands such as Diesel, Replay, All Saints and others.
X-AM Jeans perfected the so-called mum cut, which fitted the 1990s grunge perfectly, especially when worn with a neon-coloured tank top, chunky shoes and a belly button piercing.
And as Levi’s started to produce special edition jeans for the Japanese market, Japanese designers (such as Junya Watanabe or Evisu) and street fashionistas returned the favour by providing inspiration for further styles and fashions.
The sexy schoolgirl look (as featured in the cult films Clueless or The Craft) consisting of tartan miniskirts, undersized sweaters, baby doll tees, miniature backpacks, navel piercings and chunky shoes has its mirroring fashion in Japanese schoolgirl and Goth Lolita look.
Neon colours, PVC, leather, faux-fur trimmings were incorporated into the fabric of the 1990s vintage denim.
When hip-hop fashion went mainstream during the mid-90s, baggy jeans developed an entirely new dimension. Combined with oversized baseball jackets, glitzy trainers, baseball caps they merged urban street wear with luxurious designer brands – trends that were separate in the 70s were now united in a single desirable product.
Britpop favoured the return of the 70s retro fashion, visible clearly in some of the 1990s vintage denim worn by the followers of Oasis, Blur or Stone Roses, whereas ravers preferred their jeans cut off to jean shorts, preferably worn with oversized hoodies.
The Osaka Five
The artisan vintage denim revival started in Osaka, Japan in an attempt to use pure indigo selvedge denim, carefully sourced parts and original designs in order to create true replicas of past styles.
Five companies, known as Osaka five, constituted the trend: Studio D’Artisan, Denime, Evisu, Fullcount and Warehouse. Fullcount, Denime and Warehouse are very traditional (almost archival) in their quest to replicate the originals, Evisu and Studio D’Artisan are more experimental in creating their tribute to the vintage denim.
Kojima, once the centre of school uniform production in Japan, is now the mecca for the revivalists of old-school quality jeans.
The darkest indigo from Germany and heavy, hand-picked cotton from Zimbabwe form the basis of the jeans, which are then chain-stitched on old American Union Specials sewing machines.
These jeans, which fetch prices from several hundred to several thousand US dollars, recreate, perfect and fetishize the original worker denims as the ultimate, perfectly engineered garment.
The 1990s Vintage Denim Revival
1990s vintage denim is now collectable and revived by brands such as Urban Planet.
The free spirited, street-smart chic of the times is perfectly embodied in early 1990s CK and Levi’s ads, in which the century of jeans comes of age. If 20th century could be summed up in a single garment, that would be a pair of well-loved blue denims.