Probably more then any other item of clothing this American invention, by Levi Strauss, has come to be the most recognizable, most sought after, and the most worn item of body covering ever invented.
I have been wearing jeans or denim since I could walk. But jeans, or “dungarees” as they were called then, were considered work or play clothes. As the symbol they later became, has to also be credited to the likes of Marlon Brando, his wearing them in the “The Wild One” and James Dean, wearing them, in “Rebel Without a Cause”.
After the “Wild One” appeared in theaters in 1953, I was 8, every kid I knew then already had them, but here Brando turns them into a fashion statement and an ICON of Americana is born! Cuffs rolled up! In those days they came in one length or two and you didn’t cut the bottom. How you rolled them, how high or low you made that cuff, changed and signified different attitudes, styles and group acceptance or not.
When I first travelled abroad and hitchhiked around Europe in 1965 it was already apparent how much American clothing, especially vintage, was having its impact. Used American clothing had become a staple after WWII in England and the rest of Europe.
American fashion at this time would eclipse the French until they were back on their feet again and by the “swinging sixties” it was English fashion that set the trends. But American influence on fashion, from the street up to Couture, was still what fueled the industry. Soon the denim blue jean was a fashion statement being employed whether, used, patch worked or new with zigzag stitching. Still new faded trends exist today based on yesterdays style and look.
In 1970-71 I lived in Amsterdam, Holland with my beautiful wife Joanne and our Borzoi, Xenia. Joanne had just left her job as jewelry and accessory buyer for Henri Bendel in New York.
Soon after arriving there we were hunting the old flea markets, the one at Waterlooplein was our favorite, for trinkets, jewelry, and antiques. Every where we shopped old used American clothes, soon to be anointed as “vintage”, were pervasive. By the time we retuned to New York a year later, we were antique, vintage, and new old stock, clothing dealers. We continued with that with fervor for over twenty years and every once in a while still dabble
So all of my experiences made it abundantly and obviously clear that a great pair of painted jeans had to be created. Of course they were a pair of classic Levis 501s, button fly. Once again the spirit of Americana remained dominant. The red and white stripes trumpet it loud and clear along with the BLUE of the jeans, and are just as recognizable, as our flag.
Hanging from a belt loop is a key chain on which there a photo of sex icon of the first era of the “jeans”, Marilyn Monroe. This is her classic pose from the late 40s but used when she became a star, and appeared in the first copy of Playboy, in 1953. as the “centerfold”. I still wear it on a pair of my jeans.
Also on another belt loop is a pin which features the face of Elvis, from 1956. And of course two joints stick out of the pocket symbolizing the theme of, SEX, DRUGS & ROCK’N’ ROCK. This is what finally tore down “The Wall” in Berlin. Simply put, it was our dominant culture that tantalized all the peoples behind the Iron Curtain the wannabes of us. Hate us for who we are and love us for our stuff!
The frame is made from vintage jeans with the exception of the a pair of continuous fat-man jeans used across the bottom measuring 39 1/2″w (that’s only the back), from the1990’s.
“The British Invasion” too along with their hippie American allies, accomplished more with the love of our culture, then all the weapons that East and West had pointed at each other. Or to put it my way “How the East Was Won”!