Deconstructing denim

From cowboys to the catwalk, and streets across the world in between, denim jeans are such a wardrobe staple, most of us own several pairs

Christian Dior FW/2017 denim
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Now world famous as jeans and jackets, denim first appeared in France as a cotton thread called Serge de Nîmes. Dyed with indigo blue to create an intense deep-blue hue, the fabric became known as jean, after the Italian city of Genoa where it was woven.

Aside from being durable, another characteristic of denim is that it fades, which is caused by the indigo dye only penetrating the surface of the threads, leaving their core white. As the surface dye rubs away, so more of the undyed, white centre is revealed. The diagonal slant of the twill weave makes denim hard wearing and, because of its low production costs, it has been worn as workwear, in the form of trousers, jackets and dungarees, across the United States and Europe, for at least three centuries. Long favoured in the US by cowboys and farmhands, in 1873 Jacob W Davis decided to strengthen the pockets of denim jeans by adding copper rivets to their corners.

Overwhelmed by the immediate success of this alteration, Davis approached his cloth supplier, Levi Strauss & Co, for help.

Unfortunately for Davis (and despite Strauss always crediting him as the creator) his name has all but disappeared from the annals of fashion history, while Levis has become synonymous with denim jeans. 

Today, the popularity of denim shows no sign of abating, and for autumn/winter 2017, both Calvin Klein and Christian Dior wheeled out collections that paid homage to the sturdy, no-nonsense material. 


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