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Blue Jeans... 138-years old now!!
20
May '11
Blue jeans, the ubiquitous cotton denim trouser, is 138-years-young today. On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and Nevada tailor Jacob Davis were granted U.S. Patent Number 139,121 for their use of rivets to add strength to denim workpants. Over a century later, blue jeans continue to rivet consumers and designers around the world. Today, U.S. consumers own an average of 7 pairs of denim jeans, according the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor survey, and the appeal of denim jeans shows no signs of going out of vogue.

What began as workwear during the California gold Rush has evolved into a workhorse for the apparel industry; with current price points ranging from around $10.00, to upwards of $10,000.00 for a pair of custom-designed denim jeans. The 2011 global denim industry is an estimated $54 billion at retail, with demand growing steadily at 5% to 6%, according to a report by the ATA Journal for Asia on Textiles and Apparel.

Responses to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor survey show that consumers are true-blue in their dedication to denim. "According to responses to our most recent survey, over three-quarters of consumers love or enjoy wearing denim," says Melissa Bastos, Manager, Market Research at Cotton Incorporated. "For women 13-to-34, that number jumps to 81%," she adds.

Highlights of denim's fashion evolution:

1930s

Work, war and film were influential in shaping the shape of women's trouser-wearing. In the 1939 film, The Women, Manhattan socialites visit a dude ranch, in full, high-waisted, stiff-denimed dungarees. Vogue and Mademoiselle both deemed denim appropriate for dude ranching and Levi's had already jumped onto the trend with their short-lived Lady Levi's line in 1935. But jeans were less a fashion statement and more a costume of Western color.

1940s

During World War II, Rosie the Riveter was an icon representing women who took up the labor slack while men were fighting overseas. In 1943, a then-unknown model named Betty Bacall modeled Rosie's signature denim coveralls on the cover of Harper's Bazaar.

Perhaps influenced by Rosie, Wellesley College students felt the freedom to wear blue jeans on campus in 1944. But, then a "scandalous" photo of denim clad Wellesley Girls appeared in an issue of Life magazine. Dubbed "the sloppy look," it created a national stir and set ladies jeans-wearing back a good decade.

1950s

In 1954, Grace Kelly reclined on a sofa in Hitchcock's "Rear Window," wearing a pair of jeans and reading an attire-appropriate book about traveling in the Himalayas. As Jimmy Stewart dozes off, Kelly discards the book and switches to the latest issue of Bazaar, making a silent but powerful connection between fashion and denim.

Thanks to "The Wild One" (1953) and "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955), a pervasive association with blue jeans and juvenile delinquency had entered the public consciousness. Thanks James Dean and Marlon Brando! So widespread was the detrimental denim mindset, that the Denim Council was formed in 1956 to combat declining sales.

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