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The best way to rock vintage wrangler jackets this summer

July 21, 2018

It’s baking hot now but it won’t be long before its time to throw one of your vintage wrangler jackets over your summer clothes for cooler evenings. A jeans jacket is the ideal pairing for hot weather outfits, giving them a cool casual look. A blue denim trucker jacket is also practical as it protects against breezy days whilst still being light enough to pop into your bag in case it’s not needed.


A vintage Wrangler denim jacket is the perfect match for any kind of outfit this summer. It goes with any colour or pattern, and works with t shirts, shirts, dresses, vests or shorts. It has become the summer staple that can’t be can’t be done without.

Vintage Wrangler jackets in every colour


Vintage Wrangler advert

Vintage Wrangler advert


It doesn’t matter what colour the jacket is either. Some people prefer a lighter blue, some a dark blue denim trucker. Strategic rips and fading are part of vintage denim’s charms too. And denim in other colours is making a comeback too. Apart from blue, you’ll mainly find vintage denim jackets in black and white and perhaps scarlet. But there are also jackets from the 1990s around in a whole rainbow of colours, like orange, yellow, green and purple.


A bit like jeans and leopard print, denim jackets are the kind of neutral that goes with everything – including other denim. A few seasons ago, double denim came up on the catwalk again. It was much to the horror of many who remembered it from the 70s and 80s. But, as Brad Pitt ably demonstrates in the upcoming film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” it looked good then and it looks good now.

Vintage Wrangler jackets – the double denim trend.


Wrangler Double Denim

Wrangler Double Denim


Double denim can consist of jeans with a 70s denim Wrangler jacket. Or follow the trend that’s exploded in the last couple of years and find some denim dungarees or a jumpsuit to wear with it. You can also wear it with jeans shorts of whatever shortness you fancy, from a classic knee length to much shorter short shorts. This goes for men too, especially if you really want a proper 70s look – you’d be surprised how tiny shorts were in that era. For the full look, you need to wear them with white sports socks pulled all the way up and white trainers. The finishing touch is a funky tight t-shirt or vest.


The “Cool 70s Dad” look isn’t for everyone though. If it’s not your style, how about taking your Wrangler dark blue denim back to its roots with some Western styling. You don’t have to go full cowboy to achieve this. Just add some Western touches, like a Western shirt, cowboy boots, or a skinny leather tie. If you really want to you could add a cowboy hat, which is not only striking but very practical in this hot weather. Russell Brand was very fond of a cowboy hat, and Sienna Miller used to pull off cowboy boots nicely.


Vintage Wrangler jackets from every era


The cowboy look

The cowboy look


Each era has a different take on denim and denim jackets. Denim was invented as a tough fabric which protected a worker’s skin from everything from rough rocks when worn by French miners to rattlesnake bikes when worn by American cowboys. Denim jackets had similar light, tough properties. The fabric was also made into dungarees and overalls for use by farm workers and other manual labourers.

1940s Wrangler clothes

The company which became Wrangler was started in 1904 as the Hudson overall company. It went through a few name changes: in 1919 it was the Blue Bell Overall company, supposedly because the bell used to signal worker’s break times became covered, like everything else, in a fine blue denim dust. In 1926 the company was bought by Big Ben Manufacturing but retained its Blue Bell name.


In 1943, Blue Bell bought out the Casey Jones Company, who also manufactured work clothing. They had a brand name, Wrangler, which they rarely used.


By 1947, the Blue Bell Company, loving the idea of the all American wrangler (a wrangler is another name for a cowboy) asked celebrity rodeo tailor Rodeo Ben to design some jeans for them. This results in the unfussily named 13MWZ design, which was worn by celebrity rodeo riders Jim Shoulders, Bill Linderman and Freckles Brown.


In 1948, Jim Shoulders agreed to officially endorse Wrangler jeans. He was already a World Champion Cowboy and went on to win a total of 16 world championships, including five All-Around, seven Bull Riding and four Bareback Riding World Titles.

1950s Vintage Wrangler Jackets

In the 1950s, denim was just beginning its journey from a man’s practical work clothes to a fashion item. Blue jeans were worn by teenagers to show their rebellious side, as in the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause”.  At first it was male teenagers but quickly women wore both men’s jeans and denim jackets. Soon they were cut for women too, and appeared as cute capri pants as well as full length jeans. There are photos of Marilyn Monroe in both jeans and a classic denim trucker jacket. She still looks incredibly glamorous.


Vintage Wrangler jackets from the 50s are remembered fondly for the distinctive “Blue Bell” label which featured a, you guessed it, blue bell with the words “Blue bell” in white , “Wrangler” in light blue rope font below the bell and Sanforized, made in USA below. It was in the 50s that the 8MZ jacket was introduced. Featuring 8 oz denim. a zipper at the front, this model also had one breast pocket in contrast to the preceding model,  two pockets at the hips and elasticated side vents.

1960s vintage wrangler jackets

By the 1960s, denim was everywhere and made into all kinds of clothes. Jeans had made their way into the mainstream. For women they were tight and highwaisted. They also came as knee length, equally tight, shorts. They were offered as a range of washes from dark virgin denim to light blue. They also came in all other shades too, white, beige, mint green, yellow, turquoise, lime green and brown being some, with matching canvas shoes.


In 1962, having been an American brand, Blue Bell opened a factory in Belgium and launched Wrangler in Europe.


Wrangler became a brand with a particularly wide reach, although its adverts had to remind the buying public to “Wremember – the W is silent” and “Look for the W – because it is silent”. Models in the ads looked confusedly at the large W embroidered on each other’s bum pockets. It was in this decade that Wrangler brought out “Broken Twill” denim in 1964 to combat the twisting of the leg of the jeans. The issue of the classic Wrangler 24MJZ denim jean jacket came with with snap buttons at the top and kept the box pleating from the previous 11MJZ model. The brand introduced the heavier 14 oz sanforized, pre-shrunk denim which was advertised as the “heaviest denim ever made”. Another distinctive feature of vintage wrangler jackets is the pale blue, circular stop-stitching found on the front.


Denim also came in dungarees, romper suits, mini skirts, dresses, structured tops, waistcoats and safari jackets as well as the classic trucker jacket. George Harrison of the Beatles was pictured in classic hippie gear with a blue denim jacket studded with badges on top. Audrey Hepburn, looking a lot more elegant, wore denim jeans for a scene in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.


By the 70s, the trend for denim hadn’t abated. The shapes changed, and now jeans were flared as well as straight legged. There were also culottes and cropped culottes for women. Vintage Wrangler dark blue denim skirts reached maxi length and romper suits as well as waistcoats, dungarees, overalls and aproned dresses were still popular. The trucker jacket was still there too, now often embroidered and appliqued with patches. So were jeans. Denim jackets also appeared with a faux sheepskin collar.


By the 1970s Wrangler capitalised on its reputation in the rodeo ring and received the official endorsement of the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association.


The late 70s saw punks in denim jackets with and without the sleeves cut off and an array of rips, tears, patches and safety pins. Debbie Harry did double denim in the 70s with tight jeans and a classic denim jacket worn over bare skin. 1978’s “Grease” had John Travolta imitating the Greasers of the 1950s in jeans and a tight white t shirt. This pastiche film fuelled greater demand for denim in the 1980s.


By the 1980s, denim was firmly taking over the world. 1983’s cult hit “The Outsiders”, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, continued the double denim trend nicely. While in 1985 “The Breakfast Club” featured John Bender in a similar plaid shirt and denim jacket look to show his wild side. 1988 saw River Phoenix rocking a denim shirt in “Running on Empty”.


In 1981, the Wrangler brand sponsors racing driver Dale Earnhardt and his car is repainted blue and yellow, with the legend “Wrangler Jean Machine” on the front. In 1983 they also sponsor Nottingham Forest.


The 80s denim jacket size was big and baggy, though the same classic cut. Tight fitting was not really cool. The blouson jacket also appeared. Fringes and studs were added and denim baseball caps and baseball shoes appeared. Jeans were less tight than the 70s, with a straight leg and denim was made into pencil skirts with the classic row of metal buttons down the front, and RaRa skirts, a particular 80s speciality. Coloured jeans were still popular in the 80s and so was distressing, with a pale acid wash a particular favourite.


Madonna wore the double denim look of ripped and distressed jeans in a pale denim alongside a denim jacket of mid blue denim, a white vest, black leather bracelets and pearl choker in the 80s. Bros also set a massive trend for jeans with ripped knees or cut offs, again with the ubiquitous denim jacket.


Vintage Wrangler varsity Jackets sdvert

Vintage Wrangler varsity Jackets advert



In 1992, Wrangler supplied outfits for “Pure Country”, a film starring George Strait in Wrangler jeans as country music superstar Dusty Chandler. By 1996 Wrangler is the market share leader and a quarter of all American men wear Wrangler jeans. In 1997 The Wrangler jeans design 13MWZ, the official jeans of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, had its 50th birthday.


Brad Pitt wore a denim shirt and a cowboy hat for “Thelma and Louise” in 1991. Denim trends for the 1990s were baggy on the bottom, cropped on top, so big baggy jeans with crop tops and tiny cropped denim jackets. Lauryn Hill wore a cropped denim jacket in the 90s. The other major trend for denim in the 90s was for men, especially rappers, in dungarees, worn with one strap fastened. 90s ravers also liked to wear denim bucket hats.

Customising your denim jacket

So you see, vintage wrangler jackets have never been out of fashion. Whichever period you prefer, you can copy it faithfully, with period appropriate accessories, or you can mix n match. You can also customise your vintage jacket to make it truly your own.  Try adding applique patches and embroidery. This works especially well for a 70s vibe. You can choose your own colours and patterns, and have fun!



vintage wrangler jackets Images supplied courtesy of Wrangler




Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood