1st May 2020

The History Of Jeans: 20 Defining Moments

When it comes to fashion, nothing has evolved quite like denim jeans. Before Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss created the first pair of blue jeans in 1873, denim trousers were typically worn by American male workers and referred to as ‘waist overalls’. Fast-forward 150 years and denim is an undeniable wardrobe staple with an array of style options: skinny jeans, bootcut, flared, cropped, wide leg – the list goes on.

Take a look at the history of jeans throughout the years, from Marilyn Monroe’s dark wash pair to modern-day muse Alexa Chung and her AG jean collection.

1961: MARILYN MONROE

Although The Misfits’ main bar sequence saw Marilyn wearing a dress, she filmed other key scenes in Lady Levi’s® jeans. Teamed with a crisp white shirt and flat boots, the figure-flattering denim highlighted her signature curves and prompted her admirers to buy their own.

1974: JANE BIRKIN

Long considered the queen of jeans, actress and French style icon Jane Birkin was often photographed throughout the 1960s and ‘70s in the same pair of washed jeans. The height of everyday glamour, Jane wore her denim with style essentials such as basic tees, ballet flats and striped shirts.

1978: DEBBIE HARRY

Even now, there aren’t many people who can pull of double denim as well as Blondie’s frontwoman Debbie Harry. Teaming high-waisted jeans with an unbuttoned denim jacket and smokey eye, Debbie defined the New York look and cemented her status as a fashion muse.

1979: FARRAH FAWCETT

For many, the mere mention of the 70s evokes this iconic image of Farrah Fawcett rocking flared jeans on a skateboard. Sporty yet playful, the shot of the actress filming in Griffith Park, Santa Monica, is one of TV’s most famous stills and made statement flares a must-have over the decade.

1979-85: CATHERINE BACH

Her name may not be instantly recognisable but Catherine Bach’s denim cut-offs caused one of fashion’s most long-term trends. The original Daisy Duke in TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard, Catherine was asked to bring an outfit for her character from home, deciding on a checked shirt and the now-legendary denim shorts.

1980: BROOKE SHIELDS

Wearing indigo jeans, model Brooke Shields – then only 15 years old – was shot and directed by legendary photographer Richard Avendon in this now-iconic campaign for the newly-launched CK Calvin Klein Jeans label. Shocking due to their sexually provocative nature, the ads and commercials catapulted the line “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing” to fame.

1983: MICHAEL JACKSON

As well as the iconic dance routine, Thriller – arguably the most influential pop video of all time – also features one of the most recognisable red outfits. The King of Pop wore coloured denim right up until his final tour, however his ankle-grazing red jeans and zipped leather jacket will undoubtedly remain the look Michael Jackson will be remembered for.

1984: BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Musician Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA album cover is one of the most enduring denim images in history. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz against a backdrop of the American flag, the rocker’s blue jeans became an iconic image of the era and, along with jersey basics, became part of his signature style.

1987: DIRTY DANCING

As Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman in Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey transformed from awkward teenager to Patrick Swayze’s dance partner in a range of different denim. Together with the unforgettable lake scene, where she wore slim white jeans, the actress filmed in classic denim cut-offs and short shorts.

1988: AMERICAN VOGUE

As the style bible’s covers had typically been full-on ‘high fashion’ Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover shocked the fashion world when it showcased Israeli model Michaela Bercu wearing jeans and a Christian Lacroix jacket in a street style photo. Even though you can barely seen the denim, the outfit choice spoke volumes about where fashion was headed.

1990: BEVERLY HILLS 90210

The best of ’90s denim comes courtesy of Beverly Hills 90210’s original cast. From Kelly’s polka dot cropped jeans to Brenda’s high-waisted pair, the cult teen show featured many classic denim moments in its 10-year run. It also contributed to the decade’s wave of unisex, loose-fit denim.

1991: CINDY CRAWFORD

One of the most iconic TV moments in US history, Pepsi’s 1991 commercial saw the biggest supermodel of the time, Cindy Crawford, pull up to a dusty roadside stop in a red Lamborghini to get a can of Pepsi. The most memorable part? Her blue denim shorts. Teamed with a classic white tank and bombshell hair, the look said ‘all American’.

1991: THELMA AND LOUISE

The classic 90s movie features one amazing denim moment after another. From Brad Pitt’s famous denim shirt to Louise’s mom jeans, the film is full of outfit goals. For future festival style inspiration, look no further than Thelma’s denim jacket/floral dress combination.

1992: MARKY MARK AND KATE MOSS

Perhaps the most iconic denim moment of the past few decades: Calvin Klein Underwear’s ads not only catapulted the careers of the campaign’s models – then-rapper Marky Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss – they went against the slim jeans that dominated at the time with looser boyfriend jeans.

1998: DESTINY’S CHILD

Attending a Tommy Hilfiger Jeans event at Macy’s in New York, girl group Destiny’s Child demonstrated the defining qualities of the decade’s must-wear jeans: dark denim with a baggy fit, low rise and large back pockets, placed lower than usual for a lifting illusion. The band’s line up may have changed throughout the years but their denim looks have remained a constant.

2000: MADONNA

Denim has taken a central role in Madonna’s style evolution: in the ’80s, she sported stone-washed styles – choosing waistcoats, jackets and high-waisted ripped jeans, often all at the same time. The early ‘00s saw her release of American Pie and a more relaxed take on the trend. For the single’s music video, she wore a pair of slouchy boyfriend jeans with a navy vest top and tiara no less.

2001: BRITNEY SPEARS + JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

Forever ingrained in jean history is the matching denim outfits Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake wore to the American Music Awards. The look – which Britney has admitted was her idea – is one of the most iconic pop culture style moments of all time and has since been channelled by other celebrities, including Katy Perry and Riff Raff at the 2014 MTV VMAs.

2005: KATE MOSS

Kate Moss’s denim influence was further proved in the early noughties, when she made skinny jeans the must-have denim style. Known for causing widespread trends, Kate’s love of grey skinnies and seventies-style coats convinced jean-lovers to ditch their bootcuts in favour of her skinny jean and ballerina pump look. The supermodel also revived mini denim shorts, making them a true festival staple.

2015: RIHANNA,KANYE WEST + PAUL MCCARTNEY

Proving denim on denim can work for anyone, regardless of age, gender or status, Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney all wore washed-out outfits for Rihanna’s FourFiveSeconds music video. In the making-of clip, the singer explained the choice of fabric was an artistic decision, “Kanye came up with the idea of doing some real street, American-type look. Denim never goes out of style. It’s classic, it’s iconic, just like the f*cking Beatles.”

2017: ALEXA CHUNG

The most recent denim moment comes courtesy of Alexa Chung and the launch of her collection with AG jeans. A major influence on how we style jeans today, the presenter and fashion icon knows exactly how to wear denim to her advantage: whether it’s pairing down blouses with a denim skirt, taking a denim dress from day to night or making a denim jumpsuit weather-weather-appropriate with wicker wedges.

Unlike previous decades, today there isn’t one particular style of jean to be seen in – it’s all about comfort and finding the perfect fit. From jeggings and wide leg jeans to classic slim and straight legs, no-one does tall jeans like we do. It’s true: with over 140,000 pairs sold each year and over 40 years of denim know-how, Long Tall Sally is the #1 destination for jeans for tall women.

Find your new favourite: Shop Long Tall Sally jeans