Almost every American has worn them at least once in their lifetime. They have become a staple in wardrobes across the globe. At first, they were considered “work” clothes. They are now made in many different colors and styles and are worn both casually and for special occasions. I am talking about denim jeans!
During the 1950s jeans evolved into a symbol of youth rebellion. Denim became popular after the debut of the 1955 film, “Rebel without a Cause.” The main character in this movie, portrayed by James Dean, had a troubled past and his clothes reflected his rebellious attitude towards his parents, peers, law enforcement and society in general. Even though the characters may have similar issues in their lives, it is easy to “label” these teenagers because some wear the classic styles of that era and do not stand out to the extent that the characters wearing denim do.
Movies like this had a great impact on teenagers and guided their clothing styles. Jeans made a statement against the “establishment” and gave people a sort of toughness and individuality that may not have been felt in the past. Believe it or not, some theaters, restaurants, and schools banned this article of clothing. People who work in the fashion industry feel that jeans, beyond a doubt, made fashion history during this period. The young people followed in the footsteps of film stars because of the influence of the actors and actresses in the popular movies like Rebel without a Cause. Teenagers were very interested in the new look and fashion of blue denim jeans.
Along with film stars, pop icons started to wear jeans, too. Popular figures such as James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Marlon Brando all wore denim. These men had a strong, commanding image that was fun to mimic and the easiest way to do that was to copy how they dressed. It didn’t take long for this fashion to spread across the world due to the international success of some actors and musicians.
Young men and boys wore jeans with white tee shirts, maybe a flannel shirt and Converse high top tennis shoes. A button down shirt with a popped up collar and a shiny belt would complete the outfit. Often a leather jacket was worn as well. Girls wore a collared button up, too, but a pretty sweater was worn to keep them warm. Young women often cuffed the jeans and wore simple ankle socks and tennis shoes. These outfits were simple but popular back in the 1950s. Below you can see the typical greaser look which has the rebellious youth aspect to it too.
As generations past, variations of these styles have been worn by people of all ages.
Once the 1960s started, the youth apart of the counter culture wore jeans as a symbol of their connection or to show their unity with the working class. This is when embroidered designed jeans became popular too. You can think of designs or patches as an advertisement and statement because they usually showed a person’s slogan or association. After the sixties, jeans became a fashion necessity in everyone’s wardrobe. Just before the rise of this new fashion necessity, clothing manufacturers began to make a variety of jean styles and sizes to fit all. The symbolization of jeans went from representing the rebellion of youth in the 1950s to defining every American after the 1960s.
Fontaine, Mia. “The History of Denim.” Zady. April 16, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2015.
Mahe, Yvette. “History of Jeans.” Fashion in Time, January 17, 2015. Accessed April 17, 2015.
Shuck, David. “A Cinematic History of Denim.” Rawr Denim. April 28, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2015.
Bailey(Published 3/25/15; Revised 4/14/15)
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