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Denim used to be something different

This ad from January of 1960 tells lady readers to come get their “farmer’s daughter denims”. The use of denim, along with a sprinkling of bandana print, made up the “country cousins collection with citified airs”. Denim was what men wore, bikers wore it, farmers wore it. James Dean wore it because he was a rebel. This ad shows the designer trying to mainstream the fabric, which meant getting ladies to buy it.

I’d be willing to bet you or a member of your immediate family is wearing denim right now. It’s been the go-to fabric for my entire life, starting just a little over a decade after this ad. I’ve been through several incarnations of the general term “denim” in my personal wardrobe, which for argument’s sake I’ll say started around school-age. Since, that’s when every kid wants to blend in and wear the same stuff their friends are wearing.

First there were the starched stiff thick cotton denim jeans of the 70s and early 80s, which my mom bought too-long in the leg and hemmed up, only to be let down later with a worn edge an inch above the true hem. Don’t believe me? If you can get past all the awesome that is 12 year old me, check those pant cuffs.
Jenn in Jeans

In the 80s denim took off, and lucky me, I was right there! I had acid wash, stone wash, dyed colors, high waist, yoked and pleated, and most importantly pinch rolled cuffs.

Photo not available.
I mean, it’s at my Mom’s house and that’s really far away.

For argument’s sake, let’s just say I looked like this:

In the 90s we had the last of the great jeans. All cotton, thick fabric, REAL blue jeans. REAL denim. Some still made in the USA, which is super hard to find now 20 years later. Even Levis, who built their name on the American-ness of denim jeans has not been made in the US for a decade plus. I wore the same 5 or so pairs of Levis denim jeans through 4 1/2 years of college in the early 90s. They were standard issue jeans (see photo above), but they were solid. They stood up to Northern Missouri winters and everything an art student could spill on them. It may have helped that laundry money was not a priority over art supplies, so washing was infrequent.

The denim I wore after that was a bit thinner in the fabric, then came STRETCH DENIM! Lovely stuff for daily wear, but it’s certainly not a “keeper” item. There’s no wearing it daily for a week, lest they fall to your knees from stretch failure. It’s a product of fast fashion, to be sure, and I doubt that 50-100 years from now anyone will be paying thousands of dollars (or moon bucks or whatever the currency is then) for a pair of them, like those REAL denim jeans from the 1900s-1960s fetch today.
Boy, do I wish I could find more of those real denim jeans!