The Iconography of Men’s Denim

Mens Jeans by verypurpleperson at, Creative Commons license.

Men’s Denim:  Looks from the past and how to pull them off now.

Denim has been used in America since the late 18th century, and has over time become a staple piece of clothing and an American icon. When you think of denim, what comes to mind? It could be any number of things, from your favourite pair, to double denim, to Britney and Justin’s infamous, ‘90s-tastic matching denim outfits. It represents the all-American man, whether associated with the working man, 60’s counterculture or the latest fashion.


18th century cowboys wore denim, so when the iconic John Wayne played the lone ranger characters in 1930’s westerns, denim became widely popular. At this time denim was worn by outdoor labour workers, and was associated with the lower classes, and films like Stagecoach brought denim to the forefront of fashion’s mind. For a retro feel, try Edwin Jeans at Oi Paloi and look for selvaged denim!  Style it with a checked shirt or, if you’re feeling brave, even some cowboy boots.

A Disenfranchised Youth

James Dean in a Rebel Without a Cause in the 1950s – wearing the iconic outfit of blue jeans, a white t-shirt and leather jacket – meant that denim had become associated with rebelling against the previous generations white-collar attitude. His representation of the alienated youth of the fifties, along with his becoming synonymous with Levi’s, made wearing denim a popular choice among young people. If you want to channel the 1950s look, go for a straight cut blue jean and team it with a tight-fitting t-shirt, perhaps with converse for a modern feel.

Sex Symbols

George Michael’s famous Faith video and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album cover made denim the item of choice for men in the limelight. The ‘80s male sex symbol was born, portraying the western ideal in male beauty – rich, relaxed, sexy and wearing denim.

The Skinny Jean

Today, the skinny jeans style is in vogue, and not just for women. Celebrities like Russell Brand are famous for wearing ridiculously tight jeans. These jeans do, however, connote femininity as they cling to your skin, showing off your legs. They therefore represent the modern man who takes pride and care in his appearance.

Eco Denim

Shopping for eco friendly denim?  WeSC Denim makes enviro- and socially- responsible jeans for guys that are not only cool, but affordable.  No sweat shops or hazardous chemicals are involved in the production of these jeans.  For a look at how they manage to do all of that, check out this video of their process.

Have some old jeans laying around that you don’t know what to do with?  Crafting a Green World shares ideas on reusing old denim.

[Image by verypurpleperson at, Creative Commons license.]

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