A real Denim is clean and untreated. Looking back in history the purpose of a denim jeans was purely utilitarian; to provide durability at ease. If anyone cared to look at any brand or make of their denim at those times, it was to see which one would withstand better under abuse.
As one would notice that today’s market is flooded with denims which are prewashed/ distressed; the scenario wasn’t the same until 1970’s. Denims were sold raw, untreated and crispy. The term “Blue Collar” came to use, as a result of denim jeans being used as primary work wear. They were tough, sturdy on one hand and relatively soft, flexible on the other.
The word denim comes from the original name of the fabric “serge de Nimes”, serge meaning sturdy fabric and de Nimes meaning of the town of Nimes, France. There is some contention over whether denim was actually developed in Nimes, but everyone agrees that there is one event that solidified denim jeans as we know and love them today.
A pair of denim jeans from 1880’s.
In the early 1870s, a Latvian immigrant tailor named Jacob Davis was producing clothing for miners in Reno, Nevada. Davis developed Copper rivets and secured stress points on garment. With the outreach of his value addition which made his clothes durable he tried to patent his riveting and failed to do so several times.
Davis reached out to his fabric supplier in San Francisco, Levi Strauss, Bavarian dry goods merchant, about going into business together. Strauss and Davis received the patent in 1873 and soon began making the riveted denim jeans “waist overalls” that would define the how we think of jeans today.
The work wear denim mindset slowly saw a change when it became evident that jeans were the de facto cow boy uniform in Hollywood western films. The American youth idolized their on screen heroes and wanted a pair each. But still denims were predominantly related with middle class.
During WWII, many Americans put on denim for the first time as they went to work in factories to produce for the US war effort. Once the war ended, however, many soldiers and workers refused to take their jeans off. This gave denim a countercultural and anti-social bent, wearing jeans in polite company in the 1950s was considered transgressive at best and immoral at worst. This sentiment resonated well with suburban teenagers, who identified with the anti-authoritarian and denim clad characters in movies like Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One.
The breakthrough came with the Elvis Presley’s film Jailhouse Rock which made the denims popularity to go undeniable or unnoticed and it was slowly accepted as casual clothing by the mainstream Americans.
”Though denim jeans became casual, the methods of pre washing / pre treating came as an opportunity for many brands in 1970’s to 80’s mainly because people were not ready to wait for the denims to deteriorate naturally on its own which takes lot of time and lot of hard work by the wearer. The brands saw this intolerance as an opportunity to capitalize and thus stone washed and distressed jeans came in to existence. So now everyone could put on a pair of jeans that felt like pajama pants right after they pulled off the price tag.
During this period, Japanese denim enthusiasts became disillusioned with American denim manufacturers. They believed that the American brands had lost their way, and a small group of Japanese companies began reproducing jeans in the same manner as the American brands from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. They rewove their own selvedge denim, recast buttons and rivets, and even bought up the old sewing machines that used to make American work wear so they could produce their own new “vintage” jeans.
These “reverse-engineered” jeans began to expand beyond Japan in the late 1990s and soon inspired a new wave of American brands to recreate the jeans of the past with their own special touches and fabrics.
With the new brands producing and selling domestically in the late 2000s, raw denim’s popularity in the United States grew rapidly. Today, there are dozens and dozens of small manufacturers making raw denim all over the world, enough to the point where sites like ours exist to document it all. Now that we all know about the “Real” denim untreated and clean, look out for the best collections from TRIGGER this festive season.