Whether it’s a pair of jeans, a shirt, a skirt, a dress, or a pair of shorts, we all own something made of denim. In fact, half of us live in jeans and yet we don’t really know much about the history of these beloved items.
Denim gets its name from the phrase ’serge de Nimes’ – the fabric of Nimes, the town in France from where the fabric originates. An interesting woven fabric, darker on one side than the other, although it wasn’t until later that it acquired its trademark blue colour. In the 18th century in America, Indigo dyeing transformed the fabric into its famous dark blue indigo has been replaced by synthetic dyes and sometimes even sulfur for bleaching effects.
Before becoming the universally loved fabric that it is today, denim was long associated with manual labour and the impoverished. Before jeans became fashionable in the way that they are today, denim clothing was worn mostly by labourers such as miners and prison inmates due to the strong and durable weave of the fabric. Jeans became the uniform of the impoverished and downtrodden, and a way of identifying those of the working class or convicted. In the 1930s denim jeans gained some popularity when ‘cowboys’ in the famous Hollywood Western movies of the 1930s started to don them.
Later in the 1950s, young people adopted denim clothing as a way of rebelling against society, identifying themselves with the subjugated and outcast. Over the decades, denim has managed to break away from its earlier incarnations and has infiltrated the wider fashion world in a multitude of forms – from the denim mini skirt of the ’90s, the denim flares of the ’70s, and the denim hot pants of the ’00s.