Vintage Jeans Inspiration Throughout the Years
From mines to the big screen to glamorous catwalks and red carpets: much like flannels, jeans have a proper rags to riches story! One thing is for sure: after breaking free from their humble origins, these hard-wearing trousers have stolen the scene and left indelible marks throughout the decades, becoming the central element of their most memorable trends and popular outfits. Here’s some vintage jeans inspiration, history and looks from different years to help you create the perfect denim style.
Vintage Jeans History and Inspiration
Late 1800s - 1940s
Invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873 using denim and dungaree cloth, jeans used to be worn by miners, cowboys and the male American working class, particularly in the West. They were usually paired up with warm flannels and were just as durable, especially after the addition of copper rivets to their pockets.
Thanks to the iconic Levi Strauss red flag, jeans even became the first item of clothing to showcase a designer label on the outside. The first pair of womens jeans—the Lady Levi’s—didn’t appear until 1934, but they weren’t very popular amongst the fairer sex just yet, except in ranches and farms.
1950s: a fashionable rebellion
It’s the decade of jukeboxes and drive-ins that marked the switch from ‘practical working class garment’ to ‘fashionable rebellious statement’ for jeans. We owe it to Hollywood stars like James Dean and Marlon Brando who, thanks to their ‘bad boy’ looks, inspired lots of teenagers to challenge society’s strict clothing rules and try something new. Female celebrities started sporting them too: more and more girls bought pairs of jeans after seeing them on style icons like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot. The unisex "plain white t-shirt and jeans" pairing became one of the signature looks of the 50s.
1960s: Jeans flower-power
So different from traditional formal trousers, jeans became a perfect symbol of freedom for hippie communities, together with jeans shorts and jackets. Whilst flowers bloomed in their long hair, patchwork and colourful embroideries started sprouting on hippies’ jeans, emphasising the uniqueness and individuality that characterised the flower-power movement.
1970s: disco and flares
Even though they were already quite common in the late 60s, bell-bottom flares became an unforgettable staple of 70s fashion, both for regular trousers and jeans. As dungarees grew in popularity, denim skirts, vests and jackets would also steal the scene, giving birth to one of the grooviest but riskiest trends: the double denim. Are you brave enough to try it or would you prefer pairing up your 70s jeans with some flashy disco shirts?
1980s: peg them up!
Forget about flares! The 80s were all about tight high-waisted designer jeans, usually worn with a belt and with shirts or t-shirts rigorously tucked in. And how did you know if someone was cool? By checking if the peg at the bottom of their jeans was on point, of course!
1990s: baggy jeans
90s fashion saw the development of lots of different trends, but they all seemed to have something in common: they were about being casual and boasting a ‘too cool to care’ attitude. When it comes to jeans, this translated into slouchy trousers that were perfect for the Grunge scene or even baggier models for those who preferred some hip hop and street-style vibes. Thanks to celebrities and fashionable characters like Rachel Green in Friends and Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, jeans dungarees made a loud comeback, too.
Which decade or trend do you mainly draw inspiration from when wearing your favourite pair of vintage jeans?