For hundreds of years, men’s pants have tightened and loosened more times than Grandpa’s trousers at Thanksgiving dinner. One century, men would let it all hang free in baggy bottoms. The next century, their lower halves would be cinched up to an absolutely sperm-killing degree.
With names like pantaloons, hosen and breeches, the men who wore them were gangsta in their day. Shakespeare, no doubt, could have pulled off the baggy jeans look with his Tudor ruff. (A “ruff” is that weird packing material he wears around his neck. Not a good look for him.)
THEN ALONG COMES LEVI
In the 1860’s, a Bavarian dude named Levi Strauss started making work pants out of denim for the men who hoped to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush.
The pants he constructed were flared at the bottom, so they could fit over work boots. They were loose jeans, but not what we think of today as baggy jeans. Eventually, he added rivets to the pockets to prevent them from being torn by gold nuggets. He also added rivets to reinforce the button fly because no man wants their junk hanging out while they’re panning for gold.
What started out as practical work pants eventually became a garment which best symbolizes America.
“Levis” became so popular among miners, farmers, factory workers, cowboys and every other group of workers who were digging, sawing, hammering, pounding and roping, a man named H. D. Lee decided to join in the manufacturing fun.
Eventually, Wrangler climbed on board to form a Denim Trinity. Little did they know, their rugged designs for the working masses would, one day, morph into “Mom Jeans.”
WHAT ARE YOU REBELLING AGAINST? WHAT’VE YOU GOT?
In the 1950’s, jeans became a fashion statement. Suddenly, kids, dads and teenage girls were wearing denim for picnicking and playing tag rather than mucking stalls or smelting ore.
But, it wasn’t until Hollywood bad boy Marlon Brando paired his jeans with a leather jacket– while seated on a motorcycle and oozing angst all over the screen– that denim became a symbol of in-your-face rebellion.
Brando, in “The Wild Ones,” wore his jeans rolled up at the bottom. This style was better for riding motorcycles. Baggy jeans would get caught in the rear axle sending the rider to the hospital and the bike to the mechanic.
THE AGE OF AQUARIUS
The term “counter-culture” was coined in the 1960’s to define behavior that was different from what was considered mainstream. In other words, it was everything your dad hated.
Scholarly types disagree over who came up with the catchy description. Some say it was John Milton Yinger. Others cite Theodore Roszak. Most likely, people were doing too many drugs back then to remember who said what.
If a hipster and a beatnik had a baby (and often they did) they would give birth to a hippie.
Hippies loved jeans. But since they also loved the Sexual Revolution, their dungarees were off more than they were on.
The ‘60’s were a time of significant cultural change in America to the point where the counter-culture almost became the mainstream culture.
As the decade progressed, pants, in general, became more and more flared, a precursor to baggy jeans. But the wider they became at the bottom, the tighter they were up top. With barely enough space for underwear, late ‘60’s jeans introduced the world to the camel toe.
Everything was terrible in the 1970’s…even jeans. NFL players dressed like pimps in their platform shoes, fur coats and bell-bottoms.
In the ‘70’s, rock ‘n’ roll had been hip-checked out of the way by disco and middle-aged men having a mid-life crisis were cramming themselves into “designer jeans.”
Sergio Valente, Jordache, Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein all doubled the price of jeans for customers seeking a certain status.
NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS
Punk was the counter-culture movement of the late ‘70’s to early 1980’s. Ridiculously tight black jeans (often with a safety pin or a strategic tear or two) was the uniform of choice for many in the scene. Their look was the polar opposite of the baggy jeans craze.
As the years went by, mainstream America began to stone wash and distress their jeans. Eventually, some idiot thought it would be a good idea to add pleats to jeans, which some fashion illiterate folks still wear to this day. The decade ended with everybody looking like a hip grandma in Bugle Boys.
SKATERS AND HIP-HOP
In many ways, the ‘90’s are the denim decade.
With beloved celebrity-endorsed brands such as Bongo, Todd Oldham, Monumental, Gitano, Mudd, Pepe, Cross Colours and Silvertab, jeans became the “it” garment.
(image source: Paxarcana)
But it was the skaters and the hip-hop world that really defined the era with their low-rise, super-wide legged, baggy jeans.
JNCO jeans became the iconic symbol of that period. If you had to make a time capsule for the 1990’s, JNCO jeans would be the first item included.
As with every fashion trend, baggy jeans went out of style as the new millennium approached. But, now we’re back and, once again, JNCO is the master of baggy jeans.
While JNCO baggy jeans may not be the ideal work pants for gold mining, we believe Levi Strauss would be amused by the fashionable transformation of his original creation.