LOOKCITY: A Very Short History Of The Denim That You’re Probably Wearing Today

by Robyn Yager | Denim, if you’ll pause to consider it, is a kind of cotton-twill textile where the horizontal threads of the fabric (also known as the weft) pass underneath two or more vertical threads (known as the warp). This creates the characteristic diagonal pattern in the fabric.

“Denim” gets its name from the French “de Nimes” meaning “of Nimes” in Southern France. Originally referred to as “Serge de Nimes”, the name was eventually shortened to “denim’. Alright, so if it comes from France, where does the word “jeans” originate? From Genoa, of course, or as the French call it, Genes. It’s where the first denim trousers were made, because Italians are awesome like that.

The popularity of cotton denim trousers came about in the 18th century with the increase of trade, slave labour, and New World plantations. They were worn for working because of their durability. In the beginning, denim was particularly difficult to dye, a fact that restricted the material to the indigo “blue” colour that we know so well today.

Denim was woven into pop culture throughout the 20th century, most notably in the 1930’s with the rise of the Hollywood Western. Cowboys often donned denim pants and jackets (what is farcically called “the Canadian tuxedo” today). The 1940’s ushered in the age of Levi Strauss, Wrangler, and Lee; and then in the 1950’s “blue jeans” became a popular item for youth in the 1950’s with James Dean and Marlon Brando rocking them in films like Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, denim was worn by hippies. These were often of the high-waisted, bell bottom variety. The 1980’s introduced the concept of “designer jeans” and acid wash (Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein anyone), while the 1990’s – discounting the baggy jeans worn by hip hop artists and professional skateboarders – saw the material’s traditional expressions in decline (presumably because kids didn’t want to be caught dead in anything their parents wore). Today, however, just about anything denim goes.

Thinking about trying some this Spring? Opt for a jean jacket to replace your parka or try a denim shirt with the sleeves rolled up (coloured denim is also a fun way to mix things up). If you’re feeling the slightest bit fascinated, hunt down a copy Denim – From Cowboys to Catwalks and learn everything you possibly could about the world’s most legendary fabric. To find out where to get good denim in Vancouver, click after the jump…

Where to get quality denim in Vancouver

Dutil (303 W Cordova Street)
Mavi Canada (333 Helmcken Street)
Lynn Steven (225 Carrall Street)
Twist Fashions (2952 W 4th Avenue)
Today You Are Special (158 Powell Street)
The Block (350 W Cordova Street)



Robyn Yager is the style reporter for Scout Magazine. She is enthused by anything out of the ordinary, loving art, striped shirts, macchiatos, classic literature and picking through thrift stores for unique treasures. Her mission is to inspire Vancouverites in their sartorial choices and to see beauty and style everywhere.

There is 1 comment

  1. I love me some good denim. And although Vancouver’s denim boutiques offer some great variety. I prefer true vintage, not just vintage inspired (unless it’s LVC) a great source for quality vintage denim at reasonable prices is F AS IN FRANK on main st at broadway. Check em out! They can source you those hard to find gems.