Denim has broken both class and national boundaries
What would we do without jeans?
That infinitely comfortable pair of pants that matches everything in our wardrobes is gradually becoming more and more acceptable for all occasion – it s called smart casual.
This amazing garment has started to be worn globally with no race, ethnic, gender, class or age boundaries. But how did this denim phenomenon start anyway?
The whole story began in the 19th century when labor workers in the young United States started to wear denim due to the strength of the material and its durability. In 1853, a certain Levi Strauss, a German-born immigrant who came with his family to New York in 1847, started a wholesale business supplying jeans to gold miners, labeling them with his name.
The color blue wasn’t always a fashion-based choice. At the time, before synthetic dyes, yarn was wrapped in a blue pigment. Dark indigo was also a smart choice because it did not need to be washed frequently.
Later in the 1940s during World War II American soldiers who wore them off duty introduced the world to this super-practical clothing item. After the war other companies wanted to share this market with Strauss, and labels like Lee and Wrangler were established to compete with Levis.
In the 50s jeans became the symbol of rebellion after James Dean’s 1955 portrayal of a bad boy in the cult classic “Rebel Without a Cause. They were even banned in some schools across America. Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando were other huge stars that wore jeans, making them internationally desirable.
In the 60s and 70s flower power adherents took to embroidering their jeans and one style had people cutting off the legs to make Bermuda shorts, then short shorts or even duffle bags using a cord to draw up the waist loops. Old jeans got recycled into patchwork jeans and skirts.
By the 80s, prices soared when designers began picking up on the highly popular trend, making consumers choices of jeans infinite.
In the 90s, teenagers were less into classic Levis since naturally they did not find their parents (the generation born in blue ) wardrobes cool. So now it was trickier to attract young people, every label had to get more innovative and come up with different styles like cargo for guys and super stretchy for girls with colors ranging from shades of blues and blacks to white, pink and every other color under the sun.
Jeans fashion went in and out during the 90s, and other pants like khakis, chinos, combat and branded sportswear pants vied for their share of the fashion world.
In the 21st century however, jeans made a forceful return when the classiest most expensive labels were producing haute couture versions of the beloved fabric.
Gucci, Chloe, Dior, Versace . you name it. Every catwalk features denim today, whether it’s in clothes or accessories. Even Louis Vuitton has a jeans bag for heaven s sake.
Although modern well-traveled Egyptians have been wearing jeans for decades, the local industry has only been mass producing for about 12 years.
According to Ramy Shorbagy who owns a textile business and has been in the field for many years, the first time Egypt saw locally made jeans was in the late 70s from Alber Ashba’ owner of Mobacco clothes store.
Today hundreds of factories create denim and hundreds others make jeans products, ranging from large scale factories in Port Said and Borg El-Arab who produce up to 30,000 pairs of jeans a day for export, to small one room workshops that produce a couple.
The jeans made locally mostly target the C class market. Class A shoppers usually opt for imported labels.
Today trendy labels like Seven for All Mankind, Rock and Republic, Diesel and True Religion can sell the simplest pair of jeans for a couple of hundred dollars. Even here in Cairo, these jeans range from LE 2,000-LE 4,000, and are met with high demand, regardless of the high prices.
On the other hand, you can probably buy a pair of perfectly good jeans for less then $10.
According to Shorbagy, it is actually cheaper to mass produce jeans than it is to create well tailored cotton pants.
Denim has a long history, and it is one fashion item that has made it through decades and decades of morphing fashion and ever-changing individual tastes. Who knows what the future holds, but for now denim is hanging around, whether in the shape of pants, dresses or even underwear.