Vintage denimApril 22, 2015
Vintage denim tops the shortlist of things to blackmail your parents about.
Can anything be as unappetizing as the parentfolk Taking Life Easy in Traditional Jumpsuits? Stroking each other dementedly, looking for the hidden multicoloured pocket bedazzlement stickers? Why yes, it can! Pretty much anything issued by those wild trendsetters, the Jeans Joint!
What can be more exciting than vintage denim jeans, you ask? Vintage denim squared, ironed to an inch of its life, teamed up with a gingham shirt, denim-look cowhide belt and an impervious moustache, I say!
Vintage denim: what not to do!
If you ever find evidence of your parentfolk sprouting any or all of the above (especially Auntie Meryl), send it right over. But some say it doesn’t all have to be like this. Vintage denim can be charming. It can be truly fun to wear. It can be Le Cool.
Lee Cooper – when vintage denim became cool
Let’s put aside the denim powerhouses of Levi’s, Wrangler, Diesel or GAP for one moment and look at one truly unique phenomenon: Lee Cooper.
Lee Cooper, the English clothing company started by Morris Cooper and Louis Maister (freshly immigrated from Lithuania for all you heritage sticklers) in 1908, started as a humble overalls production line, then concentrated on the military uniforms during WW1 before switching to casual wear and denim production.
Lee Cooper jeans were popular among the cool kids during the 1950s and 1960s, and Harold Cooper, the son of Morris Cooper, capitalised on that even further by sponsoring a Rolling Stones tour and working with Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Mais oui, Le Vintage Denim does not come more sexy than Birkin and Gainsbourg!
Jean-Paul Goude: the powerhouse reworking of denim
In spite of the strange habit of writing Jeans with the capital J, the French brought much needed scandalous continental cool to Lee Cooper. The company thrived on public outrage – like in 1953, when they introduced the front zip on women’s jeans – and pushed this even further with some clever advertising campaigns.
In the 1980s, they hired no-one other than Jean-Paul Goude, the renowned French designer, photographer and advertising film director, to create their jeans campaigns. If you ever considered a pair vintage denim jeans, let it be the 1980s ‘painted jeans’ made all the more notorious with some of Goude’s most edgy campaigns.
Goude, who was at the time the partner of Grace Jones, was responsible for some of her most memorable performance choreography, music videos and album covers.
Famous for skirting the edges of surrealism and acceptable taste (and for having some of his campaigns banned for explicit content) Goude created a series of Lee Cooper ads that make vintage denim look considerably more cool: literally painted on the bodies, thin, indigo jeans look fresh, androgynous and youthful.
Of course, the videos were not without the expected controversy: Goude chooses to highlight exoticism of his models (playing the Le Jeans Sauvage card) as well as tactile feeling of five pockets, all easily accessible by complete strangers who might want to pat your bottom.
Here’s a better look at his campaigns from 1983 and 1985:
Jean-Paul Goude 1983
Jean-Paul Goude 1985
In a few short years, jeans leapt from flared to slim fit, from dropped to high waist. One thing is for sure: the vintage denim from 1980s Lee Cooper era certainly made your legs look longer!