Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Jeans in my Genes

This is the beginning of my tribute to what I consider perhaps the best invention of all time and by far my most favourite item of clothing:

Many of us can identify with the convenience of jumping out of bed every morning and slipping on a pair of jeans. Most of us have that special pair that fits the contours of our body just right, a brand that we couldn’t dream of being disloyal to or even that stonewashed pair that we’ve had since high school that we refuse to throw out. Jeans are as synonymous with style as they are with comfort and durability, almost acting as a witness to our outings, break-ups and infinite happenings. And it seems as though they’ve been around forever. The truth is, they have. Well, almost.

The earliest form of the jeans began in India in the 16th century. A coarse material called ‘dungaree’ was dyed indigo and sold near the Dongarii Fort near Mumbai, which sailors cut to their preference and wore. However, it gained recognition by German dry goods owner, Levi Strauss, who sold blue jeans in the 1850s under the name, Levi’s, to the mining community in San Francisco. Levi noticed that a regular customer, a tailor, would consistently buy cloth from him to reinforce torn pants. It was then that he came up with the idea of reinforcing the pants at the most common points of strain, such as the edges of the pockets and base of the button fly, with copper rivets. This innovation is what we see on almost every pair of denims we pick up today.

Over the years, jeans have given rise to a specific culture. From merely being clothing that was worn during World War 2, particularly by factory workers, jeans became a mild form of protest against conformity, in the 1950s in the US. They, developed into a fashion statement in the same country in the 1970s. Besides sailors and workers, cowboys and convicts have also been wearing jeans for years. Today, children, teenagers and adults have adopted the versatile apparel, usually as a form of casual wear.

Flared or ‘boot cut’ jeans were popular during the 90s after a sudden blast from the 70s past. But after the millenium, they gradually faded into oblivion with the straight leg making a powerful comeback. British supermodel, Kate Moss, is attributed with popularising the very famous skinny jeans and ballet flats ‘look’ that several girls around the world imitate. Besides Ms Moss, James Dean, also played a role in catapulting jeans to iconic staus.

Some of the major achievements of jeans have been in acting as a symbol of gender equality ever since women began wearing them in the 60s, at the peak of the Feminist movement. The moment a woman slipped on a pair of what was considered solely a man’s outfit, she transcended the sterotypes that society imposed on her previously corsetted frame. The best part is that jeans look as flattering on a woman as they do on a man, if not more. They’re also a great social leveller, with everyone, from the blue-collared to the blue-blooded, being brought together by the blue fabric.

The latest invention has been organic jeans in the light of the international community becoming increasingly environmentally-sensitive. Emerging as ‘a company with a conscience’, Netherlands-based Kuyichi Jeans has developed organic materials, eco-friendly manufacturing procedures and a fair trade policy in relation to Peruvian cotton farmers, who cultivate the raw material for this particular jean-maker. Other companies have also joined the green brigade, with Levi’s making it’s entire Fall 2006 prodcution line 100% organic. A small company based in the Denman Islands (British Columbia, Canada), Rawganinque, has come up with jeans that are wholly made of organic cotton and hemp.

Considering that they’ve been around for so long and that they have inflenced so many fashion and other changes, it doesn’t seem as though jeans will find a suitable replacement soon. But if that day ever comes, the new product will have some very tough shoes to fill, or match as the case may be! Until then, whether it’s lounging around at home or something semi-formal, jeans make for the perfect garb.

Long live the Jeans:)

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