A Story of Denim

By Gabrielle Delgado

When you wear a piece of clothing, however simple, there is always a complex patchwork of history engraved in its structure, style, and material. Denim jeans are a classic that has evolved over the centuries from work use to comfort to fashion iconography, a piece most of us have in our wardrobe today. It is a universal item, one that pays homage to intricate yet simplistic craftsmanship and a love for finding that perfect fit. Find out more in A Story of Denim.

It all began in the late 17th century, born from a happy mistake. In an attempt to recreate serge, a corduroy blend of fabric developed by the Genovians, French weavers accidentally designed a sturdy cotton material, which came to be known as serge de Nîmes.

Its namesake was due to its origin of creation in the sun-soaked industrial city of Nîmes, an important outpost of the Roman Empire. It is rumored that, as the fabric became more mainstream among the English and French, the name was shortened to what we all know now as “denim”.

Around the same time, textile workers in Genoa were creating a fabric made with indigo-dyed wool and cotton, similar to this denim material. It was commonly worn and used by members of the working class for its functional wear and durability. For their birthplace and cool tone of hue, they were named “blue jeans”; “jean” short for Genoa.

Indigo is an organic dye born from an Indian plant named Indigofera tinctoria. Its ability to sit externally rather than sink into the cotton caused the classic fading effect over time. Natural indigo was since replaced in the 19th century with the invention of synthetic indigo which was much less expensive.

While most think denim and jean are interchangeable historic terms, it is seen here that both have individual stories of their own that end up intertwining across many industries, and eventually, overseas.

Before the turn of the century, a tailor and an entrepreneur created history in the American West. Nevadan Jacob W. Davis started using this strong fabric to make jeans into workwear for labouring men chasing the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s.

The classic belt loops we see on denim today were originally copper rivets made by Davis to make for stronger trousers. Once his designs started gaining notice, he made a deal with fabric supplier Levi Strauss, and hence the famous brand marked its beginnings.

Even with this great innovation, American blue jeans did not become such a staple in mainstream fashion until the 1950s. Mostly referred to as “waist overalls”, they were worn solely by blue-collar workers.

But a counter-culture movement erupted in this decade, with the help of swaggering screen stars Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe, who, accompanied by a smoke and a dashing gaze, made a practical trouser look effortlessly cool.

Rebellion became a common theme for the youth of the moment, and jeans were a statement of protest against traditional authority and conventional social behavior.

Although technically originating in Europe, blue jeans are undeniably tied to the American west and its class systems, and like denim, wrinkle and shift with time, yet always keep their hardness of shape.

LE JEAN Pre Spring 2023

In modern times, denim jeans are a staple of iconic style that can be designed and worn in many ways on many different occasions. Now denim is not only made for the legs, but can encompass an entire wardrobe. LE JEAN has done this and more, bringing styles of all kinds out of the tough yet malleable fabric.

Dresses, wrap-around tops, halter tops, and co-ords, all made of denim. Founder and creator Charlie Gay aimed to infuse a pairing of casual comfort and vintage style within the brand’s pieces.

LE JEAN Pre Spring 2023

Based in Los Angeles, the brand has a plethora of history with denim to pull from; Gay spends her downtime scouring LA’s vintage markets for genuine denim inspiration.

The modern woman holds the future, past, and present in her hands, and her gate of stride no less. LE JEAN crafts denim that keeps the classic, structured look of denim, while offering a feeling of comfort, elasticity, and in all, that eternal, indescribable coolness.

Centuries of craftsmanship, of tinkering with fabrics and methods of creation, have brought this iconic fabric to evolve from base functionality to creative and physical liberation.

The worlds of rock and roll, cinema, and the youthful air of rebellion live on through these pieces and the iconic material from which they are crafted. A long timeline of history unites us in these denim looks today, and will continue to inspire changes and shifts in design as we moves forward into the future.

To find out more about LE JEAN, see Here

If you enjoyed A Story of Denim, why not read The New Miss.

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