According to a Littlewoods poll out last week, us Brits now consider it appropriate to wear denim to an interview for an office-based job.
Would you wear denim to an interview for an educational/ legal/ financial/ managerial or political position? Or would you see it as sending out the ‘wrong’ signals?
But surely denim is just another blue material?
The name Denim derives from its French place of origin, Nîmes – ‘de Nîmes‘. The weave made it highly durable and was originally dyed with the only natural colourfast blue dye available – Indigo. In 1880 a synthetic version was invented. This synchronised with Gold Rush fever in America and an enterprising entrepreneur, a Mr Levi Strauss, started producing work clothes in denim adding the trademark rivet.
In the 1950s male screen idols, such as Brando and Dean, made wearing denim appear sexy and dangerous. Denim became a symbol of the counter-culture, a reaction against the clean-cut, the status quo. Jeans were banned in schools across the US and many establishments worldwide refused entry to anyone wearing the subversive fabric (some still do). But it was during the social upheaval of the ’60s that denim found its spiritual home, as the uniform of the hippy, the revolutionary, the rock star, the non-conformist.
It wasn’t just its durability that made denim so universally popular. It was also, curiously, its ability to fade*. Faded denim became a badge of allegiance, a testament of fidelity to a very particular sartorial statement.
A CERTAIN HUSBAND IN MOROCCO IN THE LATE ’70s WHEN HE WASN’T IN HIS JEANS HE WAS IN A DJELLABA Oh, so Hip …
As the 20th Century progressed virtually every sub-culture adopted denim as their uniform – the same fabric giving out very different messages. In the ’80s denim moved into the Designer world and onto the catwalk. Denim was no longer the province of the young or the rebellious. Suddenly everyone – irrespective of age, class or political persuasion – was wearing this singular fabric.
Today Vintage Levi jackets and jeans (meaning Levis from the 1980s – ‘Vintage’ to some, old clothes to such as me) are fetching thousands of pounds. And not to be displayed as art, but to be worn. Such is the continuing iconography of denim.
So my point is that denim is more than just a blue material. When you see someone in a pair of jeans you don’t just see them in a pair of blue trousers – witness the ghastly sight of Political Leaders (Bush, Blair …) wearing jeans in an attempt to be seen as down with the People. No, denim is never just a shade of blue. Denim is an icon of many hues and histories.
A question for any of my younger readers – Would you wear jeans to a job interview?
A question for my not quite so young readers – Would you wear denim to a funeral?
* The fading is a result of the surface warp being blue and the underside weft, white. As the denim is worn the blue fades and the white becomes increasingly visible.