My alter ego is a pair of Jeans. A Levi’s 501 that I think I was born in. Over the years, I have grown to fill it in and it too has warmed up to me, shredding its indigo hues for a naturally faded hue (in fact, it now comes in fifty shades of blue) and its coarse harshness has evolved into a soft caress that no man is capable of delivering with such unstated elegance eternally.
My “love affair” with the blue denim, some of my friends think is a bit on the wrong side of an obsession and even spread snide remarks about me being a nut-case behind my back. To all you friends, “philistines”, here’s the story you should read. Next time you slip into yours at least be a educated user.
Etymologically, the word Jeans can be traced back to its roots in Genoa, where it is originated and was used as sails in early ships because of their ruggedness and strength. How it morphed into the world’s favourite pair is a story worth recounting.
Legend has it that a trader, stuck with baleful of the material converted them to trousers aimed at the laborers of the day. Need I mention that innovations like this makes America?
In 1872, Jacob Davis a tailor, partnered with Levi Strauss a German immigrant to patent and sell clothing reinforced with rivets and your classic “indigo, riveted, five-pocket Levi’s was born”. The two horse brand leather patch was first used in 1886 to demonstrate the strength of the pant and to reinforce the message that the company was the originators of riveted branded clothing. Initially, there used to be a river around the crotch as well, which was later removed after people sitting too close to bonfires were reported to have been taken ill by the heating up of the rivet. How riveting! (though some sources say that the crotch rivet was removed along with the watch pocket in the 40’s to aid the war effort by conserving resources).
However, it was James Dean in the 1955 cult movie about teenage angst, “Rebel without a cause” that made jeans a symbol of protest, helping it propel towards popularity. Naturally, the establishment strike back happened and it was not “propah” to wear jeans in most of the hallowed precincts.
The rocking Sixties, flower children, rock legends and Woodstock made Jeans the runaway hit and symbol of youth power. The bush fire of fashion spread to the farthest corners of the world, making it the chosen apparel of the young as it quietly became the synonymous with “young, active, informal, American way of life”.
It may sound ridiculous today but in post war Europe, British teenagers were known to flock at the docks to collect their Jeans from docking American merchant ships. Why even my father confesses to have traded two HMT automatic watches (quiet a possession in those days of pre-plenty and rationing when India was still a so-called developing country south of the divide) for a pair of pre-used Levi’s. He handed it over to me, in one proud moment of father-daughter bonding, like a true legacy of love. But that is another story.
Suffice to say, when I slip into my father’s shoes (denim, you dodo’s) I am not merely slipping into a pair of well worn, comfortable garment. I am wearing history. I am making a statement. I am singing the song of youth, of achievement, of freedom.
- Princess Couture
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