Why Denim Doesn’t Die – Marginal Identities in the Weave
The author made the case that modern masculinity is changing, which is true, but that denim was somehow incompatible with this change. And suggests that a man in denim doesnt care for his skincare or listen to Ariana Grande, which seemed like absurd correlations. Its challenging, from a modern perspective, to appreciate just how much the meanings and subtext of this legendary fabric have changed. The author draws a false equivalency between denim and manhood that only makes sense if you disregard the entire history of blue jeans.
The de facto uniform of Americas poor folks from the late-1800s until main-streamed post-WWII, blue jeans workwear status didnt mean that just white men wore the clothing. Brando and Dean might be burned into our collective unconscious, but it was other, marginalized peoples that made jeans cool, not them.
A Step Back
As Ive often remarked, there is a forest-for-the-trees problem with much of mens fashion, especially denim. Denim jeans have become so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable and their position in fashions mainstream can make wearing them seem less a statement and more of a safe choice. But before denim was a safe choice, worn predominately by white, male, middle class men, it was a anything but. A risky fabric, associated with criminality, deviance, and marginal identities. For many, many years after riveted blue jeans were first invented, they werent considered appropriate clothing for polite society (in other words, white society). Major U.S. magazines, even fashion ones, didnt contain pictures of people wearing blue jeans or advertisements for denim brands until the mid to late-1960s. Denim simply wasnt worn unless you were working or incarcerated.