Is your latest morceau a dig at my jeans? (the short history of denim, as you know it)



Ellie, a muse of yours, emailed the above question because she thought you were making fun of her ‘Mom jeans’ in your post, “No Country for Old Hens.’  This led you to recall all the different types of denim that you and Ellie had clad yourselves with over the years.
The short history of jeans as you know it:
1. Hogwashers. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, young girls wore real-live farmer’s bib overalls.   Problem was, my mother announced one night at dinner that your sister had started this whole fad that was sweeping the nation.   You thought your sister simply wore them because they were, well, sweepin’ the south, anyway.  (But then, Mama also claimed that your brother invented the word ‘googolplex’…  and you are still waiting patiently for her to announce what exactly you have invented.)
2. DRESS CODE:  JUNIOR HIGH, 1969-1971.  Charlotte, North Carolina.
You, Ellie and your other cronies had to wear dresses and skirts to Junior High School.   YOU WERE NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR PANTS–MUCH LESS DENIM.  And, there was no such thing, as jeans. No one had even HEARD of jeans, except farmers.  Far be it from them to want to lead some fad.  They were far too busy tilling the soil in their hogwashers and growing ‘denim crops’ and such–bless their lil hearts.
3. The times, how they so quickly change.  1972.  Suddenly everyone is swathed in denim. We’re talkin’ bell-bottoms. worn. on. the hip.  There was no,  “Do you want mid-rise, low-rise, slim, boot, wide, fitted or flared?”  And  shuffling through piles of Citizen of Humanity, Joe’s, Hudsons and Sevens. These bell-bottom jeans were the denim of choice worn on the smokin’ porch of Myers Park High School in 1972. Not smokin’ in terms of hot, but a true, serious, smoking porch.  North Carolina, land of tobacco.  Both Winstons and Salems, were smoked.  Not an excuse, merely an explanation.  OK, moving on.
4. Start-jump to the 80’s. Actually contrary to popular belief–the 80’s started off kind of cool, it’s usually the end of each decade that gets surreal.  There were some Levis and Lees along the way; the acid-washed thing was kinda cool and different, but the high-waisted, peg-leg–such a fashion taboo. But who knew–it worked at the time.
5. Since then, you’ve enjoyed a combo of Cambio, Gianni Fabrizio, Theory and Joe’s. Ellie found a great pair of Not Your Daughter’s jeans.  Margaret introduced you to the comfy Christopher Blues, and you found some nice black Lauren ones at Macy’s the other day.  But your favorite pair are the Stella McCartney ones from a consignment shop, tags. still. on.
But still missin’ that smokin’ porch scene…Ellie–these bell-bottoms blues are just for you.



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About reelingintheyears.wordpress.com

A freelance writer who revels in the 1970's...and today. Thoughts on being a baby baby boomer and empty nester. Welcome to the Saturday evening porch.
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20 Responses to Is your latest morceau a dig at my jeans? (the short history of denim, as you know it)

  1. The “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans” brand rocks.
    (In the photo, does that actually say “No spit cups?” Yuck.)

  2. Tori Nelson says:

    Absolutely, Positively No Spit Cups… Haha! That’s a southern store if I’ve ever seen one!

  3. ryoko861 says:

    Jeans are all I wear. I was a product of that “no jeans only dress pants” era back in the 70’s. Then when the school board relented, moms were appalled and still wouldn’t let the girls wear jeans, so they were sneaking them in and changing in the bathroom. My mom finally relented and I haven’t stopped wearing them since.

    I loved my overalls. I still have a pair. I don’t wear them but they remind of me of better days.

    Today all I wear are jeans. I’m having a hard time finding them in long lengths to wear with heals though.

    • What on earth did we wear before jeans? I hated dresses when I was a girl–I was a real tomboy. Now I’m very girly, but I do love my jeans. What brands do you like? The Joe’s jeans that I bought, you can wear with heels.
      Thanks, Ryoko!

  4. Leah says:

    This is great. My favorite jeans have always been – and will always be – Eddie Bauer boot-cut loose fit jeans. They’re the only jeans I can find that fit and are flattering since I’m not a “skinny ginny.”

  5. ashleyolsonrosen says:

    My father, who was raised in farm country, refused to let me wear overalls, so while all the other girls were sneaking into the bathroom to take OFF their overalls and expose their body suits (remember those — bubbly shirts that snapped in the crotch and made you walk funny?) … I was going into the bathroom to put ON my overalls. No wonder I didn’t have dates.
    We also had a spittoon on the hearth. Ye Gods.

    • OMG–forgot about body suits! I had the cutest one–bright pink, v-neck and so-un-comfy! I’m long-waisted so maybe that was the issue…
      A spittoon–hilarious! Although I do remember some sort of spit cup in my house… a spittoon sounds absolutely royal compared to that!

  6. Thanks for the memories, Reeling! When I was in elementary school in the late 60’s in Ohio, girls were only allowed to wear pants under a skirt or a dress…there were no such rules in Canada when we moved there in 1969…yay! I don’t think I wore a skirt again after that, unless it was a special occasion!

    Wendy

  7. Denny Crane says:

    Overall, dunarees, blue jeans starting leaving the working class and
    became a teen fad starting in the 1950’s. Most school systems in the
    1950’s and 60’s did have dress codes. Pants and blue jeans were not
    allowed in some systems especially not for girls.
    The later sixties saw changes in dress codes everywhere and jeans
    became accepted as casual attire in short time. Flare, bell bottom and
    elephant ears were some of the names given to the pants leg of jeans
    during this time. Hip-huggers and then high waisted became styles
    for women during that time. The weight of the denim dropped from
    as much as 14oz. to as low as 8oz. making them softer along with
    pre-washing.
    Sometime in the sixties girls started wearing “bib-overalls” that where
    designed as men’s work clothes. They cut the legs off above the knee
    and rolled up the remaining leg to the height they desired.
    Girls having grown up on farms tagged them as “Hogwashers”, because
    they wore their fathers and brothers old bib-overalls to wash
    (hogs) and other animals before showing them at county fairs, 4-H
    shows etc… Even on the farm back then that was the only time it was
    acceptable for a girl or woman to wear such clothes.
    The brand of choice for girl’s wishing to make “hogwashers” around
    here was “Pointer Brand” seemed those were the softest off the shelf.
    Now you know.

  8. What a fun post! I liked hearing the history of jeans from your perspective. (They should have you do a short on it for the History Channel!) 🙂 And really? Are there really jeans called “Not Your Daughter’s?” I’ll definitely have to check that out. Since I’ve had kids, I only have two pairs of jeans that “fit.” One has a hole in the knee because I wore it out, not because it’s cool. And the other only fits for half the day. Until I eat lunch.

  9. Val Erde says:

    I wish I could still wear jeans. Haven’t been able to fit into a pair for years. Either I’m too fat, or too think, or my bum’s the wrong shape or I can’t get them past my… well, let’s leave it at that shall we?
    😉

  10. I would live in jeans if allowed. Except for when I retire to the Caribbean (one of my delusional dreams), when bathing suit cover ups and flip flops will be the preferred fashion. Am I imagining there was a time in the early 80s when jeans had pleated fronts? Ewww! (And I owned a pair!) I had a Sassoon and Gloria Vanderbilt flashback, too. I haven’t had much luck finding a comfy pair at this stage in my life. A friend said LLBean has a jean that fits that bill.

    Spit vessels – never thought people actually used them. Or maybe I’ve been in denial. Yup, denial. 😉

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