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The inside scoop on workers denim and how it evolved

June 15, 2019

Workers denim fashion has changed over the past 150 plus years, evolving from purely rugged workwear back in the day, to leisure wear and today’s fashion statements


We’ll take you through a journey into how workers denim clothing changed, and how working men and women’s perceptions about how they dressed have transformed.  We’ll also talk about two sources from where you could get not only a history lesson on workers denim – but buy vintage workwear denim clothes and contemporary classics too!

Vintage Levi 501 Jeans photo

Vintage Levi 501 Jeans photo


Levi 501 Jeans label at the Metroplolitan museum of modern art - 1978

Levi 501 Jeans label

The Who’s Who of Workers Denim

If you truly wish to get under the skin of what working Men’s and Women’s denim is all about, you’ll probably need to start exploring authority sites on the subject – Sites that actually know what they are talking about. And there are a number of them out there.


We’re taking a close look at two sources that have a wealth of information about workers denim fashion. But since we wanted to also explore ways for you to source denim clothing, our Who’s Who picks of denimwear had to include sites where you have a curated selection of denimwear clothing as well.


And as we take our trip into the world of workers denim fashion, lets keep in mind that Denim was invented in the 1870s to fit the need for strong, rugged, durable workwear. But let’s also remember that denim work clothing today has also evolved into a fashion statement – and not just reminiscent of the sweat and toil applications that it was originally created for.


To give is a flavour of these diverse dimensions of workers denim, we’ve chosen two websites that illustrate the power of denim as it transformed workwear over the centuries. So, lets dive deeper into our journey of denim discovery – shall we?

  • E-Workers

Nearly 8 years ago, a group of Japanese online entrepreneurs embarked on a project to highlight vintage American clothing history, and the important role that workers denim played in shaping that history. Uniquely, the site doesn’t just confine itself, like many of its peer sites do, to discussing various items of vintage American fashion. In addition to doing that, they also share insights into manufacturers of workers denim clothing, and the historical context of the clothing they produced.


If you are a history buff, deeply interested in the various aspects of denim, and how this timeless fabric evolved from workers denim to fashionwear of choice today, then you’ll find lots to interest you at E-Workers. From photographs and old newspaper and magazine clippings and adverts, to posters and news-worthy articles – you’ll find it all in the workers denim archive of this site.


But many denim enthusiasts will likely not be satisfied with just “talk about things”. They need clothing! And for all of you workers denim buff’s out there, E-Workers has you covered. If it’s clothing you are after – then you won’t be disappointed. From brands like Lee, Big Yank and Carhartt, to Crown Overalls and Filson – you’ll find it all there!


Curated denim wear

Neatly catalogued and curated, you’ll find a wide variety of vintage workers denim wear, cotton twill garments, drill trousers and shorts – and plenty more. The best thing about E-Workers is that they’ve neatly classified everything you need into easy-to-identify groups. From workers denim clothing, traditional workwear, outdoor fashion, military uniforms and clothing – it’s all there for you.


And if you want that ideal accessory to go with a workers denim jean or pants that you see – you won’t be disappointed either. From Venetian Loafers and Trail Moccasins, to Moto Leather Boots and English Clogs; and from U.S. Mail Bags and Canvas Leather bags, to sachets and rucksacks – your workers denim pants will be in great company.

Lee jeans back pocket and label

Lee jeans back pocket and label

  • Lee

Anyone who’s interested in how workers denim clothing became so ubiquitous, first throughout America and then Europe and the world, won’t be doing themselves a service if they avoid browsing through the Lee site online.


Lee’s is an ideal place to get a sense of how workers denim wear evolved, starting in the late 1880s, with the founding of the H.D Lee Mercantile Company by founder Henry David Lee. Denim lovers are then taken through a remarkable journey – through decades of the 1900s, as Lee’s expanded and innovated its workers denim outfit offerings.


As you take in all of the information on the Lee site, you can’t but help be riveted by Lee’s success. As the undisputed King of Denim back in the day (and arguably Lee might still be worthy of wearing that crown even today!), Lee expanded its brand’s recognition to over 50 countries world-wide during the 90s – a feat that pushed workers denim fashion beyond the borders of America, and out onto a global stage.


Lee Stormrider denim jacket from Blue17 vintage


High demand

As the demand for workers denim clothing continued to soar, Lee expanded its fashion lineup too, but also pressed on with an education campaign to get the word out about the qualities and resilience of the Lee brand, and also of the denim fabric. Workers denim fashion got a huge boost from Lee when they launched Lee National Denim Day in 1996.


But this site isn’t just about an American commercial success story. Nor is it simply a place to get a great denim history lesson. If you are looking for some great workers denim clothing – from vintage designs to contemporary fits and cuts – then this is the place to go to.


Both men and women can conveniently go to the site and search for workers denim classics by Style (101, Luke, Daren, Boyfriend, Jodee), Fit (Skinny, Slim, Relaxed, Super Skinny, Bootcut), Size (XS, M, L, S, XL), Length, Colour…and a whole range of other filters.





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