Monday, June 29, 2009

World-wide pants...

Over thinking blue jeans.
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A couple of blogs have posts concerning blue jeans and I suppose you could say, their role in the revolution. Don't ask. I have to object when people get historical things wrong and think they know anything about fashion. Oh - lighten up - I'm playing with you. Anyway - in order to set the record straight, I'm posting the following data concerning jeans - the label blue jeans was a later appellation invented in the 1950's and '60's. People of a certain age and education seem to think pop culture was born in the '70's - it wasn't. But I digress.
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Denim jeans were invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873 as a more durable type of waist overalls for working men. They eventually evolved to become the American working man's overall - cheap, affordable, practical. They were born to the working class.
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As cinema became more accessible, and the Westerns became a popular genre, the jean caught on with Americans - in the 1930’s especially. Movie fans admired the manly cowboys and ranch hands who graced the screen in their rough and tumble dust-washed denims - the jean soon became identifiable with manliness.
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Going forward, but before the Last Picture show ended and the Happy Days began, just about every small town kid had a pair of jeans to play in - they just couldn't wear them to school. In the 1950's they were no longer just for work, guys wore them cruising around town, hanging out at the drive-in, and just about every place else they didn't have to dress up for. James Dean perfected them as a sign of teenage rebellion - and so for a time, only hoods wore them... Until the 1960's. (Although there is evidence they had already been picked up by the avante-garde, even in Europe.)
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In the '60's preppy guys like Dobie Gillis did the white jean thing for a time, while beat guys like Maynard G. Krebs hung out in sloppy blues - but by the time the Beatles landed, the blue jean went mainstream. In the late '60's they became uniform, thanks to the hip generation. I suppose it can be argued jeans were identified as a symbol of revolution, like the Mao look - maybe. Yet for the most part they were simply practical, unisex, very available and very inexpensive pants. That is until they became big business and got to be a fashion wholly identified with the United States.
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In the 1970's the fashion industry began its exploitation of the trend, continuing into the '80's as designer labels were sewed on everything; the price surged and the jean suddenly became fashion - American casual became casual chic. Hence, jeans made it to evening wear, both for guys - tux top, jeans and cowboy boot bottom, and for women - anyway they wanted. So in this respect, yes, jeans symbolized freedom from convention, as well as a sort of libertarian spirit. Nevertheless, when blue jeans became a status symbol for the wealthy elite, it seems reasonable to assert that any so-called revolutionary symbolism finally lost its significance as well as any notion of rebellion. That is what fashion is and does.
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Today the jean has evolved and become so popular even the Pope noted its unifying dimension across nationalities. It is no different today than the Roman toga was to its time - I'm playing loose with Roman history here - but the jean has become a style that is as commonplace as a pair of flip-flops. I doubt anyone wears blue jeans with any consciousness or intention of rebellion, revolution, or egalitarianism. We just wear them - just like the t-shirt. And although the fashion industry still likes to capitalize on the status appeal - the proletariat has smartened up and returned to the commie-loving-Jew-manufactured basic jean, in regular or loose fit, depending on your taste and size.
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No offense, but this is not an important issue whatsoever - so don't take it too seriously. Change the world - ban jeans. LOL! Oh, and BTW, pierced ears for men did not start with gay men cruising bars - the modern trend developed in hippie culture, probably somewhat rooted in an appreciation for Elizabethan fashion, as well as a slight nod to neo-paganism. Gays didn't invent everything, they just know how to market it.

16 comments:

  1. I remember my first pair of jeans, at least the first pair a picked out...Gloria Vanderbilt.

    And I had her perfume too along with a pink GV perfume scented teddy bear candle.

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  2. Anony3:07 PM

    Ideologies do not take force like the historians of today tell us at school. It is not that one day an "oppressed serf" rose up and defied the "tyrannical" feudal lord. It was not the "people" who started the French revolution. It was some nobles who grabbed a bunch of prostitutes, bums and criminals and labeled them "the people".

    But none of these things happen out of the blue either. They happen because the human soul is already consonant with these ideas. But how? Because everything that that surrounded them, everything the breathed was slowly poisoned. How do you arrive from the holy time that was the Middle Ages to the times were even bishops and priests are as dirty as the world? How do you arrive to the point where the world mourns an absolute immoral man?
    Through little things...
    It was art that started showing less shame, the music was becoming more romantic, the love for a life full of troubles and victories, full of adventures and hardships was slowly being replaced by a love of the bourgeois life. Slowly, sensuality was sweeping into the before austere yet happy medieval man. From there you have the Renaissance, where without a shot fired, mentalities were imposed to a sleeping civilization. Through things you called unimportant, things like if the dress was a centimeter from the floor a centimeter the ankles. Whether the man for this or that, whether the Child Jesus was painted with clothes or no clothes... All these things prepared the souls for the revolutions that later came.
    Small things you say...
    A river starts as a drop of melted ice.

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  3. Hi, Terry. I think that jeans were a wonderful invention and a credit to American ingenuity. The toughness and durability of jeans probably spared many miners and cowboys from bad scrapes back when they were first invented. And still do. I don't know if comparing jeans with the ancient toga is quite accurate but I understand the point you are making. To me, it is fascinating how styles change and how certain styles become de rigeur for all walks of life.

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  4. Check out my blog Terry! I can't fit into mah Levis!!

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  5. I thought a pierced ear on a man was to signify a sailor that had survived his ship sinking.

    In high school a couple guys had the one pierced ear thing going on (my ex for one - insert eye roll here) and if I remember correctly the left piercing signified he was straight but the right meant he was gay.

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  6. LOL!!
    I had no idea jeans were such a deep topic for pondering...

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  7. I like the jeans. Paint more. Not necessarily jeans but paint, more.

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  8. Owen - best comment I got all day. You know I've been neglecting my duty.

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  9. Angela - I never heard the sinking ship story. As for which side the guy was pierced meant what, I'm pretty sure that rule was limited to high schoolers.

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  10. Terry, I didn't know but I know where you have a gift. As to the rest of the post, I confess* to not reading it. I only responded to seeing your painting. May you flurish in the gifting God has given you.

    *Hoping my sin is venial only.

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  11. Love the picture Terry!

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  12. I'm a bit surprised that all these posts on jeans don't even mention the word "dungarees". Isn't that what they were originally called for ions and ions? Back in the days when tehy were cheap and found for sale in hardware stores as "dungaree overalls"? When I was a little kid growing up in the sixties and early seventies, no one wore them, except farmers and painters and other workmen. It was not till around the early/mid seventies that the hippies took off with them...and quickly they became the fashion to wear to high school. The bell-bottom/flare version, of course! (I think it was so as not to be confused with those of a poor farmer, for which flares and bell bottoms would be impractical)

    Of course, I'm no historian, and I'm only going by memory -- and God knows that's shot these days.

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  13. Ooo, a quck online search says that "dungarees" come from the word for the fabric which originated in the Dungri district of Bombay, India. So much for the Levi guy inventing the fabric?

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  14. +JMJ+

    Angela: I think it's left that signifies that the earring wearer is gay.

    (Details, details! Straining at gnats and all that. ;) Don't mind me . . .)

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  15. Denim: because the cloth originated in Nîmes, France. It was "de Nîmes." Now widely used in monasteries to make work tunics!

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  16. Fr. That is right - I forgot to mention it.

    Gette - I had the word dungarees in the post but took it out because I didn't taake the time to research the origin of the word.

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