Right Sort of Jeans

Studded blue jeans shocked the parental generation in postwar. Europe even more than in the United States, where jeans had been around for a long time as cheap, nondescript trousers, while the idea of inexpensive, robust, washable pants that could be bought in your local drugstore or supermarket was entirely foreign to Europeans. For the young people of a continent shattered by war, these jeans, like other everyday products from the United States, came to symbolize liberty, adventure, and a new start.

The second change of image – from a display of rebellion to a socially acceptable item of designer clothing – began in Europe in the late 1960s. The idea of designer jeans then went back from Europe to the United States in the 1970s. In the 1980s, a European trend centered on the fashion for 501 jeans. Trendsetters of the early 1980s had shrink-to-fit 501 Levi’s imported from the United States, some time before they became the “in” thing again in the 1900s. They were worn with Kiton sports jackets and experience English shoes. Jeans therefore became established in Europe, slowly but surely, as an indispensable part of the leisure look among well-to-do young people. It became increasingly important to have the “right” sort of jeans, and the only right sort was shrink-to-fit Levi’s 501s. In the 1980s their straight cut was in great contrast to the wide-cut trousers with front pleats that were popular at the time.

By the early 1990s the excitement over jeans had died down to some extent and for a while they fell out of fashion. They no longer had a place even in the gray world of fashion. But as so often happens, this trend was reversed and by the beginning of the new millennium jeans were back in favor. The attractions of unwashed dark blue denim were suddenly rediscovered. The old looms that had produced denim fabrics were dusted off and brought back into service. Designers combed through their archives in search of original models and revived them as part of vintage collections. Jeans were suddenly more expensive than ever before and the words “red selvage” were on everyone’s lips. This term refers to the red selvage edge on old denim materials, which was visible when the hem of the original jeans was turned up. Suddenly, this feature was just as important a detail to fashion experts as hand-sewn buttonholes on their shirts.