One of the amazing things about denim is how it is completely mainstream because everyone wears it and yet, it can still be completely rebellious and niche. All of this, of course, depends largely on the fit and style you wear. The question remains, how did denim become what it is today?
It's difficult to say who is responsible for the popularity of jeans. We know that for a very long time, jeans were limited to miner's and cowboys. Jeans were workwear or western wear and in some cases they were both, but they were never a fashion statement. Denim was created to work in - plain and simple.
Then, in 1949, a painter by the name of Jackson Pollock was photographed for Life magazine. He was shot wearing dark denim with paint spots all over it.
Denim and The Beats
After Pollock changed the way that artists dressed, a new phenomenon began to happen and it all started with the beat generation. The beat generation was essentially started by a group of writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S Burroughs. These men, as you may know, celebrated "the rejection of received standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities " - Wiki
Kerouac and Neil Cassady
William S Burroughs
"Jack Kerouac was responsible for selling a million pairs of jeans with On The Road" - Burroughs
Denim and Cinema
Almost simultaneously, denim was becoming synonymous with an entirely different form of rebellion. In 1953, a movie titled "The Wild One" starring Marlon Brando came out. Leather jackets, denim, and motorcyles dominated the big screen.
Just two years later in 1955, James Dean starred in a little flick called "Rebel without a Cause" also wearing denim.
Image by - Bettmann/CORBIS
The rebellious style of the 1950's is where jeans and counterculture first crossed paths, but no one would have been able to tell that they would never separate. From then until this very day, denim has become the fabric of American culture.
Part Two of Raw Denim and the Counter-Culture will be covered next week. Stay tuned!