Mainpoint – The progression of jeans from the 1960’s to the present. And where to find jeans made in the USA.
Blue Jeans Hit The Fashion Parade
Starting in the mid to late 1960’s was the first real change in the actual style of jeans since its inception. There had been minor changes, but there were still the old classic jeans. These new designers were going to make jeans a fashion statement. And there was no bigger statement than the inception of bell-bottom blue jeans. The bell bottoms, named because of their exaggerated flare at the end of the jean’s legs, resembled a bell (sort of). The circumference was 27 inches almost twice the circumference of the traditional or straight leg jeans. They were a major hit with the counter culture, hippies. Patches were placed on jeans and very often accompanied with tie-dye T-shirts, and granny glasses. Almost around the same time came the “hip huggers”. They were worn much lower on the hips, similar to the low cut or ultra low cut jeans of today. This was the jump start of jeans into fashion, never again could you just say, “I would like a pair of jeans”, without having a salesperson say, “What kind of jeans?”
Other Fashion Bubbles and Improvements
The early 1980’s were the time of “Designer” jeans. Jeans that were created by “Name Designers” like Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein. These were expensive compared to the older, classic jeans, and very form fitting (“tight butt hugging”). Jokes were frequent – like how long it took to get into the jeans, and how you would get stretch marks just bending over to pick up a coin. This fashion faded, (and its made a comeback), but there has always been a new jeans fashion to replace it. And the designers are always inventing new names to make it sound cool. I will go over some “improvements” and I hope to demonstrate that these new names may not be as difficult to understand at first glance. First, let us go back to the ‘classic jeans’. They were brand new denim, never been washed (this is called the ‘wash’), the waist or ‘Rise’ was just over the hips and a couple of inches below the navel. That is now called ‘medium rise’. The ‘Fit’ (the tightness or looseness around the legs and rear) was slightly relaxed. The ‘Cut’ at the end of the trouser was ‘straight leg’, no flare, no taper, 14 inches in circumference.
This will help you when you respond to the salesperson’s question, “What kind of jeans do you like?” Instead of saying , “What kind of jeans do you have?” You can say,” I would like Mid-rise, classic fit, straight leg, raw denim.” But if you are not sure, when the salesperson starts rolling off their entire menu, at least, you will be prepared to know what some of the terms mean. So, let us look at all of these names or variations:
This is easiest to comprehend. It is where the waistband goes around the body. Starting with the normal fitting trousers, pants or jeans – the ‘classic’ is considered ‘mid – rise’. As I described before – it goes over the hips and a couple inches below the naval. For centuries this has been the most natural of designs as the hips tend to keep the pants from falling down. ‘Low cut’ or ‘low rise’ (or ‘ultra low cut’) have the waistband at the hips or just above (the hips are where the bony prominences of the proximal femurs can be felt). If the back is not covered, the crack of the butt can be sometimes be seen with standing and certainly with squatting. These are meant for young people only. The ‘high rise’ or ‘high waist’ has the waistband coming across the navel. It has been in and out of fashion throughout the years.
The fit is the tightness or looseness of the jeans around the legs and butt. Starting from tight to loose: ‘Skinny jeans’ (also known as cigarette jeans) are form fitting, like the 1980’s Designer jeans. ‘Skinny jeans also incorporate a smaller leg opening at the bottom. ‘Slim fit’ are the next step down. There are not as form fitting (they don’t ‘hug’ the body) like the ‘skinny jeans’, but usually with a straight leg. The next step is the ‘classic fit’, for some women they are called the ‘classic boyfriend fit’. The overall form is still seen but there is enough space around the legs and butt to be comfortable. Next, ‘relaxed fit’ – one additional inch in the butt and thighs. Then there is the ‘loose fit’. In the ‘loose fit’, there are an additional 1 – 4 inches of additional room in the seat and thighs. Last and certainly least – the ‘baggy jeans’. Certainly a fashion statement with all that additional and unnecessary material. ‘Women’s jeans’ are made to enhance the look of the woman’s anatomy, more curves for hip room versus the men’s traditional straight up and down anatomy.
The Cut or Leg
The cut refers to the trouser leg, sometimes starting below the knee or above the knee. starting from largest to smallest. ‘Bell Bottoms’ – starting at the knee the opening at the opening got larger around 27 inches in some cases. Similiar, but not as pronounced, are the ‘Flare cut’. This starts at or just below the knee with gradually widening until 21-27 inches. The next cut would be the ‘Trouser jeans’ or sometimes called the ‘wide leg’ or even the ‘baggy jean’. In this cut, the leg is widened the entire way and may get bigger at the bottom. The ‘Boot Cut’ are straight or even a little tighter in the thighs, but below the knee flares out to accommodate a boot, opening anywhere from 15-22 inches. The ‘straight leg’, the traditional cut has no taper, opening 14 inches. ‘Skinny jeans’ – thin all the way down with a slight taper at the ankle to 13 inches. ‘Micro skinny’ – opening 12 inches.
Blue jeans are impregnanted with an indigo colored dye and are very dark when first manufactured. The wash refers to the number of times they have been washed or in some circumstances treated in a different fashion to give them a distressed appearance. It is kind of funny that we desire our brand new clothes to look like we got them at a second hand store filled with rips, and frays, holes, stains and fading, but that is the fashion. If jeans have never been washed they are called ‘Dry wash’ or ‘raw wash’ (Never washed seems more appropriate to me). I have heard that a single hand wash of the jeans can still be considered a ‘raw wash’. The manufacturer can throw the jeans into a washing machine full of large stones and then call them ‘stone-washed’, or add chlorine and call it ‘acid wash’, or some other chemical and call it ‘dirty wash’. There are actually too many numerous variations, and I tire of the entire lame wash subject. So, enough about washes.
So, I have covered most of the types of jeans and I hope I have made some sense of all this mish-mash, but just realize many stores like to use their own particular name for the types of jeans they sell. So, then you have to ask the salesperson – “What is a modern cut?” or whatever it is called this week, the salesperson should be able to say, “Well, that is equivalent to a low rise jean.”
Jeans made in the USA
It is rather a sad subject that the piece of clothing originating in America, a true American original, and which made clothing history is very infrequently manufactured in the U.S. Most jeans come from Mexico, China or Honduras. But there are a few manufacturers still here. There are several jeans manufacturers that have their own retail stores, plus distribute them to department stores. The best known are 7 For All Mankind and True Religion. I had just found out that Levi Strauss after a few year hiatus, makes a limited number of American made jeans since March of 2011. Other jeans made in the USA, found in retail outlets are: Hudson, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, Ernest Sewn, Paige, Doheny, Postage, Rock And Republic, Raleigh Denim, Citizens of Humanity, and Blues Jean Bar. Most of these manufacturers are premium jeans so the are expensive $150 – $220 for full retail. If you can find them at Nordstrom’s Rack, maybe you can buy them for $75.
“Fashion is the science of appearance, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.” -Henry Fielding