The denim jacket may be both a universal and enduring favourite, but this beloved style – in all its varying shades of azure, indigo, cerulean and lapis denim – didn’t just earn its staple status like a bolt from the blue. We take a trip back in time to find out exactly how it came to be, and the historic moments that helped it get there.
The humble roots of the denim jacket can be traced back to Japan, where indigo-dyed fabric was used to create chore coats for firemen known as hanten. The material was woven with a naturally flame-resistant wool, but this later changed after safer and more fire-resistant materials became available.
According to official records, the first denim jacket was created in the United States during the 1880s by Levi Strauss, ten years after he had debuted jeans as work apparel for miners, cowboys and railroad workers during the California Gold Rush. This jacket was named the Triple Pleat Blouse, and featured removable horizontal seams holding down the pleats.
1920s - 1940s
Known as ‘working blues’, the United States Army adopted denim as its standard uniform, swapping out old brown twill and canvas materials that had been used for decades. Featuring two large front pockets towards the bottom, the denim jacket was typically worn buttoned up to the collar, and paired with matching jeans and a denim hat.
By the '50s, wearing denim had become the nonconformist choice of fabric, and a symbol of rebellion. So much so, in fact, that it was even banned in many schools. At the same time, it enjoyed a surge in popularity, coveted by the likes of movie stars and musical legends — iconic cameos included James Dean’s denim jacket in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and the denim coat worn by Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock (1957).
1980s - 1990s
It should come as no surprise that this subcultural sartorial star was eventually embraced by luxury and contemporary designers. The jacket style began cropping up on the runways of Calvin Klein, Diesel and Guess, often in boxy shapes and acid-wash treatments that defined denim trends of the time.
These days, the denim jacket is easily one of the most versatile wardrobe pieces around. The fabric, cut and finish of the garment have all been reimagined a million times over by emerging designers and luxury fashion houses alike. From wild, frayed denim to structured patchwork styles and everything in between, shop Lane Crawford’s edit of denim jackets below.
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