Dress Sense and Sensibility - Are Blue Jeans in or Out?

List: Posted: 08/31/11

What is it that simultaneously unites and divides the generations?  The one addiction shared by teenagers and over-sixties alike?  An item possessed by both men and women, by both boys and girls?  The answer is the blue denim jean.


The person who started it all - who can be blamed or lauded, depending on one's point of view - is Levi Strauss.  This Bavarian immigrant to the U.S. was the first to fashion denim (a sturdy fabric called serge originally made in Nimes, France) into robust trousers for gold-rush miners, using copper rivets to strengthen the pockets.  These became known, simply, as Levi's.


Denim Through the Generations


In the 1950s, U.S. teenagers appropriated the classic cowboy version as a symbol of youthful rebellion against the more formal attire of their parents.  Constantly adapting over the succeeding years to reflect current trends and fashions, blue jeans remain a symbol of informality and of youth - or, in the case of those of advancing years, the desire to remain forever youthful, despite bulging waistlines and drooping behinds.


"Low-riding," the trend for wearing jeans slung low on the buttocks, is one of the latest fashions.  Reputedly inspired by prisoners who have their belts confiscated to prevent them from hanging themselves, this style can be claimed exclusively by the young, as the older wearer would neither want, nor be able, to emulate it and thus make it respectable.


California Dreaming


Some celebrated senior denim-aholics carry off their chosen leg-wear admirably, helping to quell any youthful sneering or mockery.  Clint Eastwood, now aged 80, has been photographed wearing not just denim jeans, but a denim shirt as well, which works perfectly with his cornflower-blue eyes and his Californian tan.


If the jeans are figure-hugging, a certain leanness is preferable, and not just for the older wearer.  However, high waistbands, tailored legs, and sometimes even braces, can help those who have passed their half-century (or their optimum weight!) to continue indulging their denim addiction well into older age.


The Rise of Women's Jeans


Women are especially fortunate in this regard, having available to them many elasticated versions which simultaneously function as a lower-body corset.  These have stretch for comfort and the higher waistband and shaped leg designed to flatter the older figure. 


One of the most successful women's denim labels is Not Your Daughter's jeans, which proclaims the wearer's preference for fit over the latest fashion look.

Timeless Fashion


Thus the fashion industry, which loves the clothes-buying public to adhere to its diktats, has had to bow to the pressure of those who loved wearing denim jeans in their teens and twenties and see no reason why they should stop now.  The idea, born in the 1950s, that denim is the exclusive preserve of the young has long been dispelled.


Today's youth can still wear denim of a style to which the older generation cannot lay claim.  Oldies can rest easy in their beds, knowing that the sheep they are counting to help them get to sleep are not always mutton dressed as lamb.

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