I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity… —Yves Saint Laurent
On May 20, 1873 Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent to manufacture utilitarian denim work pants and the blue jean was born. Little did Strauss and Davis know that, in addition to embarking on a wildly successful business venture, they were igniting America’s ongoing love affair with this deceptively understated garment. Although the original model was created for men (miner and farmer types) even 19th century fashionistas coveted the ultimate “boyfriend jean.” Whether the impetus was fashion or function, being a consummate businessman, Strauss created the first pair of women’s jeans, Lady Levi’s®, in 1934.
Over the years blue jeans have become quintessentially American. They’re the fashion embodiment of our pioneer spirit—reinvented in every imaginable way: low-rise, high-waisted, boot cut, flared, bell bottom, skinny, straight, button-fly, pegged, acid-washed, distressed, dark rinse, neon bright, and floral print to name just a few. No matter what the style, it’s clear we can’t get enough of them. Except, of course, the dreaded “mom jean.” (We forgive you Jessica Simpson and still remember how hot you looked in your Daisy Dukes).
What makes jeans so irresistible? They’re sexy, cool, edgy, sophisticated, and practical. Few garments can cover so many bases at once. Skin-tight skinnies with sky-high stilettos smolder; comfy, rolled up boyfriend jeans with brogues are casually chic; and a slim floral print with ballet flats is ladylike with a modern twist. As denim aficionado Andreas Kurz said in a recent interview: “Jeans will never go away and are the most versatile piece of clothing that goes through life with you and tells your story.”
THE BLUE JEAN EVOLUTION
40s—Rosie the Riveter kept the factories running during WWII in her roomy dungarees and overalls.
50s—Rebel Without a Cause but with plenty of curves—think Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits.
60s—Jackie Kennedy barefoot on the beach in slim, cropped white jeans or embroidered flower power bell bottoms.
70s—From Farrah Fawcett skateboarding in her high-waisted flares to Debbie Harry’s skin-tight and shredded punk version.
80s—Who can forget Brooke Shields with nothing between her and her Calvin’s? We try to forget the acid-washed extravaganza on Beverly Hills 90210 (pictured above).
90s—Baggy boyfriend grunge and minimal fin de siècle style—think Liz Phair and Lilith Fair.
00s—The ultra low-rise jean ushered in an era of denim free love—wear every and any style, it’s all in!
Now—Make way for a blue jeans renaissance. With today’s fabulous array of bright hues and gorgeous prints, blue is entirely optional.
FOR A “MY A** LOOKS PERFECT” FIT
- A boot cut flatters every figure.
- Ultra high-waisted jeans are not easy to pull off. Know your body type and be willing to take a fashion risk.
- Emily Current and Merrit Elliot (the team behind Current/Elliot) recommend “wearing a more oversized shirt with skinnies to play up proportions.”
- Pocket size and placement are key.
- Dark rinse is sleek and slimming.
- Be comfortable!