Riding the wave of a denim evolution

How the blue fabric has become an haute trademark of our generation

Denim has evolved from a functional fabric to a high fashion statement.
Denim has evolved from a functional fabric to a high fashion statement.
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On numerous occasions, my friends have confessed their almost shameful collections of jeans: pairs upon pairs upon pairs. And that got me thinking: what is it about jeans that has allowed them to withstand the test of time? I mean, for the most part, fashion trends are cyclical in nature, often to the chagrin of many. However, these denim creations have been a constant and have come to define a culture of their own. Who would have thought that putting rivets on pants to keep the pockets from ripping would have placed such an indelible mark on the face of fashion?

Jeans are a wardrobe staple. They’ve come a long way from the high-waisted, tapered numbers of the past (although I have a sneaking suspicion we haven’t seen the last of that look).

These days, they’ve long since been elevated to the level of a status symbol the upper echelons of haute couture. They are no longer a garment of necessity, made to withstand hard work on a small budget, but a statement of personal style.

You won’t find Levi’s 501s in Fred Segal, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Barneys, or Holt’s. But you will find brands like Seven For All Mankind, Citizens For Humanity, and True Religion. Names such as these conjure up the cult-like following the brands have had. However, these jeans are hardly “for all mankind” at more than $100 U.S. a pop. For students, this is a somewhat ludicrous amount of money—well, for most students.

To add salt to my poor-student wounds the reality is my butt is never going to look as good as Giselle Bundchen’s in jeans—never—and my legs simply don’t reach the sky. No True Religion shrine in this girl’s closet.

More accessible, mainstream companies have recognized the diversity of consumers in the market for jeans and have—much to my satisfaction—realized that not everyone can fit into the same pair of jeans, despite what The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants might suggest. The Gap, for instance, has introduced different styles to cater to women of different proportions, curvy or straight.

But here’s what I want to know: what about people who are short? I’ve found that while stores are finally carrying sizes for petite women like me, the styles are still limited. According to Michael Penney, a Gap sales associate, the store doesn’t bother to carry “fashion denim,” which is a “small selection that they’re not going to carry for a long time,” in different sizes.

There’s a huge range when it comes to the styles worn by both men and women. A growing number of men are opting for a more tailored cut that falls straight down the leg and flares ever so slightly to fit over a nice loafer or boot.

On campus, however, it is more common to see them paired with a fashion sneaker like the Adidas Gazelle or a Puma. The wider leg jeans are a favourite as well.

Men are also experimenting more with different washes of jeans, like distressed wash or what fashionable types like to call “whiskered.” For women, the trend that has completely overrun campus—and everywhere else for that matter—is tucking tighter jeans into boots. It’s a practical choice to pair with the ubiquitous Uggs or Ugg knockoffs, thus ensuring another season’s wear out of the fuzzy moon-boot has-beens. (Newer variations have arisen, with pom-poms and all. But that’s another story.) Based on the Spring 2006 ready-to-wear collections, it seems that tucking jeans into boots will still be a fashionable combination, jeans will still be tight, and boots will not go up as high and will not hug the pant as snugly, for a more relaxed look.

A look that might also make an appearance is a super long—almost too long—skinny jean that collects at the bottom, which we’ve already seen Scarlett Johanssen in.

The power and effect of jeans and their infinite possibilities has completely overwhelmed society and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. And while the variety is much greater and the sizes are more accommodating, I still must take a moment to mourn the days of a simple pair of Levi’s 501s.

—With files from style.com and levistrauss.com

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