Denim originates from French attempts to duplicate the “jeans” of Genoa, which were actually closer to today’s corduroys. Originally, the material is called “serge,” but the town of Nîmes, France, is credited as the birthplace, and serge will eventually become known as “denim,” or of Nîmes.
American gold miners need clothes that are strong, and that do not tear easily. Jacob Davis has the idea of putting rivets on the stress points of workman’s overalls. He contacts Levi Strauss, and together, they receive patent number 139,121 for the “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings.” The patent is the birth certificate of modern jeans.
Lee Jeans are the first to use the zip fly instead of the button fly, creating an entirely new way for men to wince in pain.
Cowboys in film (like John Wayne) popularize jeans, leading to a huge increase in people wearing jeans as everyday wear.
Jeans are featured in Vogue for the first time, and they haven’t shut up about them since.
American soldiers overseas during World War II introduce jeans to the world by wearing them while off-duty.
Rosie the Riveter, a symbol for female empowerment during World War II, wears a denim shirt and a bandana in the famous “We Can Do It!” poster.
Denim becomes popular with young people as the symbol of teenage rebellion in film and TV. In 1953, Marlon Brando dons them for The Wild One, and two years later, James Dean wears them in the classic film Rebel Without a Cause, marking the beginning of the greaser trend.
Bing Crosby’s famous all-denim “Canadian tuxedo” is made for him by Levi Strauss & Co. in reaction to Crosby having been banned from a Vancouver hotel for wearing jeans.
Marilyn Monroe is photographed in the garden of her Palm Springs home looking hot in nothing more than a simple denim tunic. A huge step for denim, moving it in a decidely sexy direction for women.
“Jean Fever” begins in the USSR after Moscow hosts the World Festival of Youth and Students, where foreign students appear in fresh blue denim. The clothing becomes synonymous with the absence of freedom in the USSR leading to a ban on the material.
Mary Quant + denim = the swinging denim mini skirt.
Elvis Presley’s denim-clad hipshaking causes the devil to possess the children of the world.
Rokotov and Faibishenko, two profiteers in the USSR, are sentenced to death for charges including “trafficking in jeans.”
Bellbottoms on Jimi Hendrix send a message of free love.
Elio Fiorucci introduces the Buffalo 70 jeans, credited with creating the concept of “designer jeans.”
In 1976, Indian designer Mohan Murjani’s Murjani Corporation introduces a line with Gloria Vanderbilt’s name embroidered on the back pocket, as well as her swan logo. Her jeans were more tightly fitted than the other jeans of the time and brought designer jeans into the mainstream.
Clad in Jordache flared jeans, the image of Farrah Fawcett freestyling on a skateboard launched the ’70s fitted and flared denim look.
Sid Vicious wrote; “...Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.”
In a Calvin Klein Jeans ad, a 15-year-old Brooke Shields provocatively declares, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”
Magnum P.I. played by Tom Selleck, flaunts his high-waisted jeans, formidable moustache, and flaming Ferrari to ring in ’80s excess.
Ronald Reagan, captured on camera in a full denim get-up at Camp David, John Travolta in Urban Cowboy, and The Dukes of Hazzard bring about a honky tonk, cowboy revival for denim. Also, big hats.
The process of acid washing jeans was first used in 1985 by Rifle Jeans as a marketing tool, removing indigo dyes for a lighter, more worn look. This becomes the final word in denim for much of the American heartland.
For her first cover as editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour outfits model Michaela Bercu in a pair of $50 jeans and a Christian Lacroix top.
Guess Jeans signs Claudia Schiffer for their advertising campaigns, photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth.
Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and other grunge superstars define the slacker era with their ripped, shredded jeans and questionable hair hygiene.
Hip-Hop artists like Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, and Method Man popularize sagging.
Alexander McQueen debuts his infamous “bumster” jeans on the runway.
Tom Ford designs a pair of feathered, beaded, and distressed jeans on the Gucci runway. When these “Genius Jeans” hit stores, they sell out instantly at $3,134 (the most expensive pair of contemporary jeans ever sold).
Los Angeles-based brand 7 For All Mankind launches, commencing the premium brand denim trend, while Kate Moss begins the skinny jeans trend.
Lovebirds Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears wear matching denim ensembles to the American Music Awards. Timberlake later regrets this move. We’re not sure why.
A pair of 501 jeans manufactured in the 1880s is purchased by a Japanese collector in 2005 for $60,000, the most ever for a pair of jeans.
In protest of the Belarusian president’s Soviet-like policies, activist Mikita Sasim raises his denim shirt as a symbol of Western culture, suggesting that it be Belarus’ flag instead. The protests are dubbed “The Jeans Revolution.”
Katie Holmes wears husband Tom Cruise’s PRPS jeans, and the trend for the baggier “boyfriend” style comes back.
Barack Obama wears a pair of ill-fitting “dad jeans” to throw out the first pitch of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, proving that dad jeans might be worse than mom jeans.
Conan O’Brien wears a pair of Jeggings during the taping of Conan, the night after admitting his love for them to Project Runway’s Tim Gunn.
Karl Lagerfeld presents his Chanel resort collection inspired by denim. Lagerfeld’s contributions to the denim world began 20 years earlier when he matched the iconic Chanel jacket with a denim miniskirt.
Jeggings are entered into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, a registered brand name owned by none other than ISKO.
Denim’s place in the fashion world is solidified. The raw/dry denim explosion takes off with brands such as G-Star RAW, Nudie Jeans, Evisu, PRPS, Naked & Famous, and A.P.C. Denim dominating the spring runways of Céline, Derek Lam, and Stella McCartney.
Lana Del Rey releases her hit single, “Blue Jeans,” which reaffirms denim’s place as an icon for a whole new generation of music lovers.
Excessive skinny jean consumption causes US currency to become more expensive, since denim scraps are used for the manufacture of US dollar bills. The popularity of the jeans also leads to a global downturn in lunging exercises.
Kim Kardashian brings back the Canadian Tuxedo, surprising all of us who never thought it left.
Peak Skinny Jean: An Australian woman was hospitalized with temporary paralysis after her (very) skinny jeans cut off the flow of blood to her legs. Doctors were required to cut the jeans off the woman. The fate of the denim is unknown. The woman survived.