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Cult item: denim jacket

By Kasia Hastings, 1 October 2016

Since its inception in the late 1870s, Levi Strauss’ original riveted denim jacket has become a permanent part of the menswear uniform. It transcends seasons, trends and style tribes and has been adopted by everyone from cowboys to couture houses. Here’s a look at how this versatile piece of kit has been dyed, decorated and deconstructed yet remained a priceless piece of Americana.

Cult Item Denim Jacket

Picture: XPosure AKM GSI

Workwear staple

Early incarnations of the denim jacket as we know it include the US Army’s ‘working blues’ and the US Navy’s ‘denim fatigues’, as well as Levi’s original ‘blouse’ design, worn largely by western workers (although the bleu de travail, or French worker jacket, is considered pretty much a precursor to Strauss’ outerwear innovations). Levi’s debuted its classic jacket, or ‘Lot #507’, in the 30s as part of its Western Wear line and went on to develop the design into the Type II in 1953 and the Type III – or the trucker denim jacket – in 1962.

Cult Item Denim Jacket

Picture: Splash

Cultural staple

The denim jacket first came into style prominence in the 50s, with famous faces like Elvis, James Dean and Marlon Brando establishing it as a culturally significant cut. It came to signify cool American style and was the unofficial uniform of the newly established teenage scene. By the 70s, it had become a part of the punk aesthetic as the rebels of London and New York badged, scribbled, and painted over the iconic style in the name of anarchy. In the 80s, things got oversized and even acid washed as the jacket became a fashionable streetwear staple.

Cult Item Denim Jacket

Picture: Wire

Couture staple

During the 90s, the denim jacket became a pivotal part of the collections of designers like Guess, Diesel and Calvin Klein as the streetwear aesthetic came into vogue. Fast forward to 2016, and couture houses Lanvin and Balmain are producing jewel-encrusted jean jackets coveted by Kanye West. Whether it’s coloured, graffiti-covered, or given a high fashion makeover, the denim jacket will always be a classic.