Decades and Denim Jeans: A Timeline of our Wardrobe Staples

person in blue denim jeans lying on brown wooden table

With the fashion industry constantly innovating the latest seasonal tastes and trends, it’s not easy to keep up with the next best thing all the time. However, one fashion staple that could never be replaced is jeans. Renowned for being the ultimate go-to provider of both comfort and style, we have seen jeans take many different shapes and designs throughout the years. So much so, the concept of jeans has even been combined with the ease of leggings in recent years too, and demand for jeggings has hit the fashion industry by storm.

Dating back to 1873, the fashion industry saw the introduction of jeans onto the market. Invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss, the name ‘jeans’ has significance. The city of Genoa, Italy, was renowned for manufacturing cotton corduroy that was referred to as either ‘jean’ or ‘jeane’. Since then, the label has stuck and jeans have now been a versatile wardrobe staple for more than 140 years. 

From flares to boyfriend cut and mom jeans, we explore how jeans have changed over the decades. We’ll also look at what styles have been trending based on search volume data. 

Ripped jeans 

photo of woman wearing denim jacket
Photo by Gabriela Cheloni on

The late 1970s saw the introduction of ripped jeans into the market. Driven by the cultural punk movement the ‘70s entailed, this decade was the initial catalyst behind the demand for intentionally torn jeans. Fast-forward to the ‘90s/early 2000s when the grunge era was in full swing, ripped jeans became a hit once again among the punk crowd. More recently, in 2010 these retro jeans were rebranded as ‘distressed’ denim. Inspired by the revival of the ‘70s fashion staple, these jeans continue to be a popular go-to for people across the globe. 

‘Ripped jeans’ aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Searches increased from 880 in October 2016 to 1000 in September 2020. From small rips and tears to being entirely knee-ripped, how distressed is too distressed for your jean preferences?  

Mom jeans 

woman in white long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans standing with bicycle on road
Photo by Davide De Giovanni on

Largely driven by Brooke Shields’ controversial “nothing gets between me and my Calvins” campaign back in the ‘80s, the surge of mom jeans took the fashion industry by storm. The high-rise and tapered leg-style jeans were present on the market well before the name was established, however. The term ‘mom jeans’ didn’t come into effect until 2003 when Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live) made a guide for the perfect Mother’s Day gift. 

It appears that these 9-inch zipper jeans continue to be a popular choice for many still. Searches for ‘mom jeans’ increased from 320 in October 2016 to 1600 in September 2020. In other news, it appears mom jeans are a hit within the male fashion industry too. Barack Obama was pictured sporting a pair of loose-fitting mom jeans back in 2010. 

High-waisted jeans

woman sitting near indoor plants
Photo by Asa Dugger on

High-waisted jeans have taken many different shapes and styles throughout the decades, from women’s worker jeans in the 1940s to skinny jeans more recently in 2015. Between then, high-waisted jeans faded in and out of fashion. When Marilyn Monroe sported a pair of high-waisted jeans paired with a tucked-in shirt in the 1961 movie Misfits, the style surged in popularity. This later sparked the iconic ‘70s trend for bell-bottom jeans. Multiple variants of different washes and styles followed in the ‘80s. 

It’s found that these figure-flattering jeans continue to be a popular wardrobe essential. The search volumes for ‘high-waisted jeans’ increased from 140 searches in October 2016 to 880 searches in September 2020. Whether you prefer boyfriend-cut, boot-leg, or skinny style, high-waisted jeans will forever remain a fashion garment. 

Boyfriend jeans

It’s thought that Marilyn Monroe was the catalyst behind more than just the high-waisted jeans trend in the 1960s movie classic Misfits, where the style of jeans she modelled were of a boyfriend cut too. Originating from the first true blue jeans made in 1873, the boyfriend jeans craze continues to prosper throughout the decades. Some of the earliest boyfriend jeans consisted of a loose and baggy fit. Modern-day variations tend to have a slimmer and more structured style to them.  

It appears that many have embraced the iconic Monroe look too, with searches for ‘boyfriend jeans’ increasing from 390 searches in October 2016 to 880 searches in September 2020. If you’re looking for something that incorporates both comfort and style to your look, these retro-inspired garments are ideal. 
In October 2016, Khloe Kardashian and Emma Grede launched Good American Jeans and discussed their personal problems when it comes to denim. Focusing on the goal of relieving some of the anxieties that women face when it comes to finding jeans they feel confident in, the fashion industry boasts a jean style to suit everyone’s tastes and preferences. 

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