How Have Jeans Changed Over the Decades?

The world of fashion has seen much change over the last century, with no area of clothing undergoing as much transformation as jeans. From the rise of skinny jeans to the invention of distressed denim and everything in between. With so many different cuts and styles available to choose from, it can often be hard to know which pair best suits you. To help you navigate this complex world of denim, we’ve put together a brief overview on how the style and fit of jeans has changed throughout the decades.

The History of Jeans

Jeans have been around for more than 100 years. The history of blue jeans can be traced back to the 1880s in the Southern United States, when denim was a fabric used for everyday clothing by cowboys and farmers. It wasn’t until the Great Depression of the 1930s that denim became popular as everyday casual wear.

In the 1920s and 1930s, people began to notice the popularity of denim and created their own unique styles of pants and dresses. By the time the 1950s rolled around and the economy was booming denim companies began to produce modern jeans and jeans-inspired clothing. That brings us to the present day, when jeans are one of the most popular pieces of clothing and come in a variety of styles and fits.

1900s: Men’s blue work denim pants

The first jeans were introduced in the early 20th century as blue work denim pants for men to wear while doing manual labor. The original jeans were made from sturdy material meant to withstand every day wear and tear, and so were very sturdy, stiff and uncomfortable.

1940s: Women’s jean shorts & men’s jeans

During the Second World War, American soldiers were given denim pants to wear as part of their military uniforms. These pants quickly became popular among the people who were living in the United States and were soon given the name “jeans”.

Jeans were primarily designed for men during this time, with women wearing jean shorts and men wearing blue jeans. However, the design of jeans began to change as the 1940s progressed, with the rise of flared-leg jeans for women and straight-leg jeans for men.

1950s: Men’s “Drape” Jeans & Women’s flared-leg jeans

The 1950s saw the rise of “Drape” jeans and flared-leg jeans for both men and women. “Drape” jeans were baggy jeans that were wider at the knee and tapered towards the ankle, giving them a loose and relaxed fit. Flared-leg jeans were loose-fitting pants that were wide at the bottom and tapered towards the knee.

1960s: Boyfriend & Flare Jeans

The 1960s saw the rise of boyfriend jeans for men and women’s flared-leg jeans. Boyfriend jeans were designed to be loose-fitting and roomy around the hips and thighs, with a smaller waist.

Flared jeans had the same loose and roomy fit as boyfriend jeans, with the difference being that they had wide legs that tapered towards the knee.

1970s: Stonewashed Denim and High Waisted Jeans

The 1970s brought many changes to the denim market, with one of the most notable being the invention of stonewashed denim. Stonewashed jeans were made using a mechanical process to gently rub and wash denim, creating lightly faded and softer jeans with more texture.

Jeans also began to rise towards the waist in the 1970s, with high-rise jeans rising above the belly button and becoming a common trend during this decade. Jeans designed for women also began to feature flared legs and wide cuffs, but were shorter than the ones worn in the 1960s.

1980s: Dark Denim and Baggy Jeans

The 1980s saw the rise of dark denim and baggy jeans. Dark denim is denim that is dyed black, resulting in jeans that are dark and rigid compared to other denim colors.

Baggy jeans also became popular in the 1980s with the trend being to wear jeans as low as possible on the hips. Jeans were often baggy and roomy around the entire leg.

1990-2000: Slim Fit & Low Rise Pants

The 1990s and 2000s saw the rise of slim-fit jeans and low-rise pants.

Slim-fit jeans were a response to baggy jeans becoming a bit too extreme, with designers creating jeans that were still loose-fitting but not as extreme as the baggy jeans of the 1980s. Low-rise pants were a specific style of jeans that were designed to sit below the waist, giving the wearer a low-riding look.

2010-Present Day: Skinny Jeans, Distressed Denim and More

The 2010s have seen the rise of many different styles of jeans, including skinny jeans, distressed denim, slim-fit jeans and more. Skinny jeans were the most notable fashion trend of the 2010s, with jeans designers creating pants that were extremely slim and tight throughout the leg.

Distressed denim also became popular in the 2010s, with designers creating jeans that had holes, tears, frayed edges and other visual alterations to give the fabric a worn-in look.