Rhapsody in Blue
There are women, who would be terrified to live in a world with no chocolate. I, on the other hand, am scared to think about life without jeans. What would we be wearing if Levi Strauss had not invented trousers intended to withstand the hard graft of San Francisco’s gold-seekers? How many sartorial dilemmas would go unsolved?
What would I wear for the first date, when the look I want to achieve is alluring, but not overtly sexy? What, if not jeans, could I wear to go clubbing, shopping, for a walk with a baby in a pram, for lunch with friends, weekend in the country, air travel…?
I can wear jeans and T-shirt to clean the house in the morning and later on the same day I can change into designer jeans and tunic and accessorize them with killer heels, jewellery and a glamorous clutch bag.
Jeans are the new Little Black Dress, in that they have become the most versatile thing in any woman’s wardrobe. Personally, I think there are only two occasions when it is inappropriate to wear jeans: funeral and giving an official speech. No wonder, then, that everyone, everywhere, young and old, big and small, fat and thin, like wearing jeans. It is the most democratic piece of clothing ever invented. The Soviets boycotted jeans – during Communism, imported western Wranglers or Levi’s were a symbol of freedom and a lucrative black-market hit.
Indeed, an alternative world without jeans is difficult to imagine.
So it is quite surprising to learn that the first jeans for women became available as late as 1935. The manufacturer – Levi’s marketed them at the rich New York socialites, who’d wear them on weekends spent at their country estates. Soon, women from all social ranks discovered the comfort of jeans and in the 50. denim became very popular with American teenagers. In the 60. jeans epitomised that decade’s ideals of youth and peace. Two decades later, Calvin Klein explicit ads equated wearing jeans with sexual freedom. The 90. were the beginning of an era of jean snobbery and individuality that still continues today. Niche brands, such as Earl Jeans, became popular and paved the way for the present multitude of designer brands. Show me your jeans and I will tell you whom you are.
Harrod’s stocks 20 brands of designer jeans, Selfridge’s – a whopping 30. The most fashionable brands still hail from California: Seven for All Mankind, James, Juicy Couture or Paper Denim & Cloth are all designed in either San Francisco or Los Angeles. Selfridge’s even offers custom-made service: a special device takes a 3D scan of a person’s body and a pair of jeans is then expertly cut and hand-made – not cheap, but you’d expect to pay a little extra to achieve The Holy Grail – a perfect pair of jeans.
Though the title mentions the most popular shade of denim, jeans are now available in a variety of colours. White jeans are trendy, but they are one of those fashion traps that women tend to fall in. You put them on, watch the news, drink coffee, cough…and you have to change again. Similarly, skinny jeans are only for the Elle Macphersons of this world – mere mortals, not blessed with Amazonian physiques, just end up looking stumpy.
Fortunately, dark denim is getting fashionable again.
If you want to find out what life without your trusted pair of jeans would be like, try not wearing them for two weeks. I congratulate the brave ones who can pass this test; meanwhile, I am hitting the shops and their jean departments.