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Is denim an American Story? The answer is an unequivocal Yes!

January 22, 2019

While denim is a part of tradition and history around the world, it is an essential element of America’s culture and style. Is denim an American Story?  Very much so.


Is denim an American story? The answer is that nothing says U.S. of A like a pair of blue jeans – and David Little’s book, Denim: An American Story, aptly illustrates that. Denim and blue jeans are at the heart of American style, embedded in the psyche, traditions and sub-cultures of America like no other fabric or fashion.

Sailing card, clipper ship California, representing a scene from the California gold rush, circa 1850

Sailing card, clipper ship California, representing a scene from the California gold rush, circa 1850

Is denim an American Story with gold rush roots?

When the California gold rush moved east, Jacob Davis – the inventor of the original blue jeans – and Levi Strauss & Company set up their blue jeans mass-production facilities in San Francisco in the 1800s.


Gold rush fortune seekers who needed sturdy, rugged and durable work-wear pants bought up blue jeans in masses, loving the pockets reinforced with copper rivets, the heavy fabric and the double-stitching on all the seams.


Blue jeans were not limited to gold rush opportunists, though.  Farmers, miners, construction workers and cowboys were all early adopters of blue jeans. And that is denim an American story at its roots.

Elvis_Presley in Jailhouse Rock

Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock

Is denim an American Story of rebellion?

 Blue jeans were not the sole territory of miners, farmers and prospectors for too long. By the 1950s, American rebels like James Dean, Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley rocked their blue jeans with white T-shirts and leather jackets and the blue jeans rebellion was born in America and around the world.


Teenage boys jumped on the look and blue jeans became the flag of rebels everywhere.


Is denim still for the masses?

In the 1950s and 1960s, girls and women jumped on the trend, adopting a high-waisted, slim-fitting blue jeans look with cuffed hems worn over ballet flats and with tucked-in white shirts. They finished the look with brightly coloured and patterned neckerchiefs ala Marilyn Monroe.


Men of all ages, backgrounds and cultures converted to blue jeans as well. From pre-teens to dads, blue jeans became the timeless yet trendy off-duty uniform, worn in all variety of cuts and styles.

denim jeans and two pocket hooded denim jacket

denim jeans and two pocket hooded denim jacket

Is denim a story with no end?

The blue jeans story is alive and well today in America and across the globe. David Little’s book, Denim: An American Story, recounts many of the events, with colourful photographs, that made denim an American tale.


Blue jeans now come in all shapes, sizes, styles, colours and trends. Classic blue jeans never go out of style and are a universal symbol of casual-cool chic.

Denim has also branched out into office-ready tailored dark washes that bring blue jeans into the office tower domain.


Denim dresses are a spin on blue jeans and come in all kinds of shapes and styles, from fit-and-flare to shirt dresses to overalls. Denim skirts, another reworking of blue jeans style, are available in a variety of colours and cuts and look both retro and modern at the same time.


Denim jumpsuits and overalls take blue jeans to the next level and are uber-trendy right now. Dress them down for day with T-shirts and sneakers or glam them up for night with statement jewellery and high-heeled ankle boots or pumps.


And finally, denim bags, shoes and other accessories round out and extend the original blue jeans realm into new ways to rock the denim trend.


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