Denim in men is always a welcome sight and an essential part of our wardrobes. It is the wildcard of clothing, as it is super practical and combines with endless amounts of pieces and styles.
Even vintage denim, with its characteristic whiteish design, has the potential to look great. We will go into more details in our denim outfits for men.
In this article, we will tell you more about the role denim apparel (jackets, jeans, shorts) played during the past century; the history, the looks, and a brief overview of what works with vintage denim.
If you are looking for vintage apparel that will not draw a lot of attention today, denim is a great start so be sure to stick around until the end 😉
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Denim jackets in the first half of the XX Century
Denim jackets were the first denim apparel fabricated. American originals from the late XIX century, denim jackets were originally meant to be apparel for rural habitats such as cowboys or railroad workers, however, at the start of the XX century, the US military adopted them, and shortly after they started to spread through the cities.
To know more about denim (cotton) check out our clothing fabrics guide.
Rebel young men and teens were the first ones to acquire them, causing a similar impact on society as the leather jacket will have by mid-century; people who wore them were often troublemakers, bad boys, and men who overall portrayed a very masculine frame. This trend will survive until the 60s.
The first jackets were rough (compared to today’s standards), pale coloured, and loosely-fitted with a very simple design comprising 4 buttons and a breast pocket.
By the 30s and 40s, you started to see denim jackets with zippers (the 91 is a great example of this) slimmer fits, and multiple pockets. You could also find thinner jackets for warm environments and jackets with extra warm lining for cold environments.
1950s 91 Denim Jacket
Finally, shortly after mid-century, the perception towards denim jackets was shifting quickly; people realized how comfortable and practical these were, and the rebel aura they had slowly faded into a casual vibe. It was during the late 60s (the fact that jeans were skyrocketing in popularity during this period helped) that it became part of the mainstream culture.
Denim jackets in the second half of the XX Century
By the 1960s, denim jackets had suffered numerous changes in their design, with a range of styles were available.
Jackets commonly featured additional slanted hand pockets, bar tacks on the breast pockets (as opposed to rivets from previous designs) which also had curved/pointed flaps, waist straps, and snaps instead of buttons, although these were still widely used. Sewing patterns also greatly diversified.
60s Denim Jacket
Also by this time, denim comes in a wide range of blue tonalities were seen, and the characteristic colour retention and durability of denim pieces were common by then too, not to mention prices also went down. Slim fit jackets oversold loose ones at the markets, especially among young men.
In the next decades, that is 70s, 80s, and 90s, we saw denim jackets that matched the popular clothing trends of the time. For example, we had denim jackets combined with flared jeans and T-shirts in the 70s, then we had denim jackets used as part of the rock fashion of the 80s, and finally, during the 90s these were occasionally incorporated in the hip-hop trend.
Jeans in the first half of the XX Century
Without a doubt, jeans are the most popular denim apparel out there.
Jeans started out in a very similar way and almost parallel to denim jackets. These pants as we know them were produced in the 1920s by the same company (Levi Strauss) and were also only worn by railroad workers and such.
Later, during the 40s, US soldiers popularized them as these were their preferred pants when not uniform, mainly due to the comfort and durability these provided. Thanks to this, the general public caught an eye on them as leisure apparel and the transition to the mainstream began.
Jeans in the first half of the century were characterized by their straightness and almost perfect fit. They appeared very rectangular to the eye and the hem was usually turned up.
During the 1950s jeans incorporated zippers, the fit became less squared, and you started to see scratching as a part of the bad boy culture. By this time different tonalities of blue were already available.
Over the next decades, jeans would suffer rapid changes.
Jeans in the second half of the XX Century
The revolution started in the 60s when the jeans became a symbol of love, peace, and fraternity through their newest designs. We started to see bell-bottom jeans, traditional jeans started to be worn more fitted and high waisted thanks to them having slimmer waists.
Even decorating your jeans with embroidery, piercings, patches, or painted with extravagant colour combinations seemed like “the cool thing to do”, although this trend was more popular among women.
During this decade, lighter blue tonalities on the jeans were a more common sight.
This trend will continue onto the 70s but eventually cooled than in the second half of this decade. The 70s were characterized mainly by plain slim fit jeans with wide hems, worn most commonly beltless and high waisted. You could say that jeans fashion in the 70s was simple and monotonous.
70s Flared jeans
This, however, change very quickly during the 80s as it was during this decade that designer jeans hit the market. Thanks to this you could see, slim or baggy, ripped or straight, dark or light jeans among others. The most notable type of jeans introduced during this decade was skinny jeans, which by today’s standards could be considered extra skinny.
Skinny jeans became hugely popular and both women and men avidly looked to have a pair of their own. It is worth mentioning that a lot of men quickly separated from them as they were rather uncomfortable.
This was probably one of the reasons why in the following decade (the 90s) the bigger/baggier jeans took over people’s wardrobes. Also during the final decade of the century, ripped jeans and carpenter jeans (with lots of pockets and tabs) were a reflection of the popularity that fashion trends such as hip-hop had.
Nowadays it’s somewhat of a rare sight to see a man in denim shorts, as these have been overtaken in popularity by bermudas and other types of shorts. Back in the day, however, denim shorts were the primary choice and an essential part of every men’s wardrobe.
Denim shorts originated as a cooler alternative to jeans in the late 50s and early 60s. These were longer shorts reaching almost to the knee. This type of shorts will eventually make a comeback during the 90s and gain track up to this day, but only after being overshadowed (during the 70s and 80s) by shorter even shorter versions of them, where most of the leg is exposed.
Men in denim shorts in the 70s
Short fashion, in general, is really simple and ideal if you live in a hot environment and don’t like spending hours arranging your outfits. A basic combination of a T-shirt with sneakers does the trick for you, but if you wish to give it a more 70s/80s look you could go for high socks, a belt, and an open shirt. We will feature some denim short outfits in our upcoming denim outfits for men post.
Denim is here to stay!
So there you have it! If you are into denim, whether it’s for your upper or your lower body, you now have a general overview of the possibilities these open for you when you are trying to go vintage.
But not only that; denim apparel is so engrained in today’s culture that we can safely say that it will remain a part of our wardrobes for many many years to come, especially as part of most casual outfits due to the comfort and familiar look they provide.
If you are looking to purchase denim apparel online, be sure to check out our denim review for men where we provide you information on some of the best vintage, retro, and (occasionally) modern alternatives available for you.
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Until next time!