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What are Designer Jeans?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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People who remember a time before jeans had labels on the back pockets and were considered luxury items instead of play or work clothes, have to confess to dating themselves. For over 100 years, jeans were the informal sturdy pants worn primarily by workers or by kids playing. They weren’t considered dress wear, and they weren’t highly expensive. Stiff denim fabric was perfect for hard work or play, but definitely not a luxury item.

Jeans did begin to express fashion trends, and certain denim makers and jean makers capitalized on this in the 1950s and onward. They could be skinny pants, bell-bottoms or low rise pants depending on the fashion trends. Moreover, jeans began to be looked upon as excellent everyday wear, though they were still viewed by the public as less than formal, and they were still available at low prices. This changed, though, in the late 1970s, when the company Jordache®, and several others decided to produce jeans that carried their design label, and that were highly marketed, especially to women.

Many of these designer jeans styles were a departure from previous styles. They fit closer to the body, and labels on the back clearly suggested exactly who made them. Companies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising campaigns too, many of them somewhat racy, like the initial Jordache® commercial, which showed a topless woman riding a horse. Many television stations refused to air the ad, which only made the jeans more popular.

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Within a year or two of Jordache’s fame, there were many designers anxious to make jeans, and some of the best known of these included Calvin Klein®, Gloria Vanderbilt®, and Guess?®. Men began to wear designer jeans too, though initial marketing was primarily to women. As the 80s began, wearing such jeans was a status symbol. They openly expressed the adoration of conspicuous consumption that marked the decade

Like all trends, designer jeans have had crests and troughs. By the mid to late 1980s, they were not thought particularly popular, and some of the early brands that had been extremely desired were now sold in places like discount stores only, or they simply weren’t manufactured. However, interest in designer jeans rose again in the 1990s, and the 2000s, and many companies capitalized on their popularity again, including Jordache®, though styles were different than the high-waisted ones worn in the 80s.

Another change has been price. High-end designer jeans in the 2000s could cost over $500 US Dollars (USD), though other pairs were available for about $200 USD. Emphasis on fit often kept these jean styles most geared toward women, since popularity of men’s baggy pants continued. Yet even baggy pants styles for men could be highly expensive if made by a known designer.

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