Few articles of clothing are more important to a wardrobe than a favorite pair of jeans. They can be fitted or baggy, sandblasted or dark, detailed or classic, flared or tapered – the possibilities are endless. But jeans are more than just an item of clothing. Across the globe, jeans have become statements of personal style, status symbols and one of the few pieces of clothing worn and loved by all.
Women’s jeans have taken on a new role in the fashion arena in the past few years. What was once considered standard casual fare has evolved into the main component of most outfits. Women pair jeans with sneakers, flip-flops, stilettos and boots, creating different styles with each.
“Jeans really are the new black pants,” says Heather Fox, manager of the Savvy section at Nordstrom’s department store at the Pentagon City Mall, which sells the hottest styles, including Seven, Citizens for Humanity, Paper Denim and Cloth, Blue Cult, Bella Dahl and AG Jeans.
Fox says denim sales make up a significant percentage of Nordstrom’s sales and that “people are willing to pay for the label name on the butt. Jeans are in the news.”
Certain women’s brands cost anywhere from $100 to $150.
GW junior Becca Schwartz says her jeans are the center of her wardrobe and she has no problem spending more money for better quality.
“Jeans are an investment,” she says. “You wear them so much, they end up paying for themselves.”
In response to the onset of these pricey fashions, some cheaper brands have come out with knockoff styles, featuring similar pocket stitching to the high-end Sevens. Express stores sell a pair for about $60, and manufacturers such as Calvin Klein, Mudd, L.e.i. and Paris Blues have done the same. The Brass Plum junior’s department at Nordstrom created its own knockoff line called “Nines,” geared toward young girls whose babysitting money might not afford them designer luxury.
True style queens with keen shopping skills are privy to discount designer stores such as Loehmanns in Friendship Heights and Filene’s Basement, located throughout D.C., which sell slightly damaged or discontinued styles of Seven, Miss Sixty (a British import) and Paper Denim and Cloth for a fraction of the original price.
The expensive styles can be spotted anywhere from college campuses to the red carpet. Classic brands such as Mavi and Buffalo jeans enjoyed their 15 minutes of fashion fame in recent years, but their popularity has been replaced by newer brands.
“Jeans styles have changed so much over the years. I try to keep up with trends, but I like the classic look, too,” junior Erin Easterbrooks says.
One of the latest trends in denim is low-rise, made popular by celebrities such as Britney Spears and Pamela Anderson. Designers are now making jeans that sit low-slung on the waist, prompting lingerie companies to follow suit with appropriate low-rise underwear to match.
But women aren’t the only jeans fans.
Antonio Norman, 23, is the store denim specialist and trainer for the Gap at the Pentagon City Mall. He teaches classes for Gap employees who have been selected for their interest in denim, during which he lectures on fit, color, styling, folding, price comparison and availability. He says the current trend in male jeans is baggy and sandblasted.
“It’s all about the details – the snaps, the pockets, the stitching, the fray. And they have to fit over your shoes,” Norman says.
The Gap’s most recent ad campaign features slogans aimed directly at jean fans: “Broken in jeans, the best pants of all” and “Jeans that fit every kid.”
A typical pair of men’s jeans at the Gap costs anywhere from $40 to $60 – standard prices.
Men’s high-end brands, sold at specialty and department stores, tend to run much higher. Diesel jeans, recognizable by their thin, white label on the left pocket, sell for well over $100. Another popular male brand is Lucky jeans, complete with a label that reads “Lucky You” on the unzipped fly. Not as lucky for the wallet, though – these jeans will set spenders back anywhere from $70 to $80. Lucky jeans are sold in three varieties: slim, relaxed and loose, with differences in pant width, crotch length and where the jeans rest on the hips.
Ramsey Houget, a recent college graduate from Kenyon College in Ohio, owns only two pairs of jeans and says he sticks to a standard.
“I only buy blue Levis. I don’t even know how much jeans cost anymore,” Houget says. He adds that jeans were more important to his style when he was in college.
But not everyone is buying into the denim craze.
GW sophomore Brittany Baron says jeans choices are overwhelming. She says she goes for comfort above all else and will spend only $25 on her jeans, which she usually finds at Marshall’s.
Sophomore Sara Rosen says she is over the recent jeans craze.
“I think they played an important role in fashion in the early 90s, but now the focus is really on business casual,” she says.
Regardless of style preference and price, jeans have become an icon of American popular culture.
GW senior Ronnie Farzad perhaps says it best: “Jeans are the pasta of my wardrobe.”
Denim at a glance
The word “jeans” signifies the kind of material that was once made in Europe and worn by Italian sailors.
*Because of the demand from gold miners, a man named Leob Strauss left his home in New York and moved to San Francisco in 1953, where he started a wholesale business, supplying clothes to miners. Strauss later changed his name from Leob to Levi and named the original denim brand after himself. On May 20, 1873, Strauss received patent No. 139,121 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, making the day the official birthday of blue jeans.
*It wasn’t until the 1980s that jeans became high fashion clothing, when famous designers started creating their own styles of jeans with their own labels. Sales of jeans steadily increased and continue to boom today, with more people in more countries owning multiple pairs.
*Denim is defined as a 3:1 warp-faced twill fabric made from yarn dyed warp and un-dyed weft. In laymen’s terms, the fabric has a noticeable weave to it. While the majority of denim products are still 100 percent cotton, a relatively small volume of polyester/cotton denim is produced and traded worldwide.