A History of Denim in Pictures

From Marilyn Monroe to Britney and Justin.

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Before French actresses and supermodels glamorized the blue jean, laborers wore the sturdy twill fabric—which was developed in 1873 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss—to work. Almost immediately, other manufacturers followed suit, producing their own versions of the original Levi 501 jean. Overalls. Jean jackets. Jorts.... Each new iteration of denim has stood the test of time, all the while embracing new washes and era-defining embellishments, some of which have lived through the trend cycle more than once. From Audrey Hepburn to Britney and Justin, here we present you with a timeline of denim at its best.

Uniform, Outerwear, Illustration,
ullstein bild Dtl.
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Levi Strauss & Co. Advertisement, 1880s

In the very first known denim ad, Levi Stratuss shows customers the wares on offer.

Farmworker, Adaptation, Gardener, Soil, Farmer, Poster, Farm, Plant,
Fernand Fonssagrives
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Mademoiselle Cover, 1943

Jeans—durable enough for digging in the dirt, but while still looking très chic—grace the cover of Mademoiselle magazine in an adorable mommy-and-me moment.

Photograph, White, People, Black-and-white, Sitting, Snapshot, Standing, Monochrome, Photography, Fun,
BettmannGetty Images
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Marilyn Monroe and Keith Andes, 1952

Marilyn's perfectly cuffed jeans worn in the classic movie Clash by Night prove to be just as sexy as that famous subway dress. Jeans weren't everyday wear for women yet, though, and her on-screen wardrobe likely inspired fans to take their turn trying on a pair.

Leg, Leisure, Sun tanning, Summer, Sitting, Human leg, Fun, Vacation, Thigh, Human body,
Peter StackpoleGetty Images
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Sunning Stewardesses, 1958

Denim swimsuits? They exist, and here's the proof. In this Life magazine shoot, American Airlines stewardesses take a break from the sky to lay poolside in some very trendy swimwear.

Brigette Bardot Working on Film
BettmannGetty Images
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Bridget Bardot, 1960

Bardot sports a pair of now-retro skinny jeans on the set of La Verite. Would wear today.

Leg, Human body, Door, Machine, Cylinder,
Sunset BoulevardGetty Images
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James Dean and Natalie Wood, 1963

Mr. James Dean put blue jeans on the map for bad boys everywhere in Rebel Without a Cause. Swoon.

Artist, Visual arts, Art, Painting, Painter, Watercolor paint, Design, Illustration, Mural, Drawing,
Alfred EisenstaedtGetty Images
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Elaine de Kooning, 1964

Artist Elaine de Kooning trades in her artist smock for a denim button-down as she works on a portrait of President John F. Kennedy in her New York City studio. She paired them with black slacks so as to avoid the Canadian tuxedo look (more on that later).

People in nature, Waist, Abdomen, Gesture, Balance,
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Audrey Hepburn, 1967

Audrey swaps her red carpet couture for a pair of blue jeans in Two For The Road. Still looks chic as ever.

Monochrome, Standing, Photograph, Jewellery, White, Denim, Style, Monochrome photography, Street fashion, Black-and-white,
Ian Tyas
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Caroline Coon, 1970

Artist and political activist Caroline Coon styles her perfectly worn denim with a trendy boho scarf billowing through a belt loop. And that worn knee signals the start of designers taking liberty with their denim fabrics, including rips and fading.

Water transportation, Vehicle, Vacation, Boating, Boat, Leisure, Fun, Recreation, Speedboat, Watercraft,
Getty Images
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Jane Birkin, 1974

Just Jane looking effortless in jeans and a tee during the 28th Cannes International Film Festival.

Blue, Denim, Sitting, Cool, Human, Jeans, Textile, Photography, Rapper, Style,
Michael Putland
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Bob Marley, 1975

Could this be love? We feel very strongly about this top-to-bottom denim outfit with Marley's signature rastacap. Denim-on-denim was groovy in the '70s, a faux pas in the early aughts, and today...?There are no rules!

Blue, Red, Beauty, Jeans, Electric blue, Fun, Lip, Leg, Leisure, Footwear,
ABC Photo ArchivesGetty Images
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Farrah Fawcett, 1976

Farrah masters the skateboard in a pair of bell bottoms, THE must-have style of the decade.

Sitting, Clothing, Long hair, Leg, Photo shoot, Thigh, Abdomen, Formal wear, Black hair, Human body,
Michael Ochs ArchivesGetty Images
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Cher, 1977

Fur, fringe, and cowhide patches elevate these jeans to Cher-approved status.

Jeans, Clothing, Denim, Fashion, Leg, Blond, Lip, Footwear, Trousers, Textile,
Ed Caraeff/Morgan MediaGetty Images
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Dolly Parton, 1977

Dolly poses for a portrait during the cover session for her album "Here You Come Again." Even with a rare turned up hem and a sky-high heel, Dolly can do no wrong.

Jeans, Beauty, Leg, Thigh, Footwear, Album cover, Fashion model, Photography, Photo shoot, Trousers,
Getty Images
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Brooke Shields, 1980

A midriff-baring 15-year-old Brooke Shields poses in a Calvin Klein jeans ad, shot by photographer Richard Avedon. The campaign put Brooke on the map.

Black-and-white, Sitting, Photography, Reading, Leg, Monochrome, Monochrome photography, Room, Photo shoot, Style,
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Goldie Hawn, 1981

Goldie sits pretty in a chambray shirt and light-washed jeans. Consider chambray a cousin of denim—they look similar and share a lot of the same qualities, but chambray is less rough to the touch.

Catherine Bach
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Daisy Duke, 1982

Actress Catherine Bach from The Dukes of Hazzard wears the eponymous daisy dukes, which in a great exchange made both her and the super short cut-off jean short wildly famous.

Purple, Child, Fun, Tights, Textile, Magenta, Costume, Child model, Smile, Fawn,
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Madonna, 1984

If anyone can rock a denim jacket backwards, it's the Queen of Pop. Traditionally a utility jacket for cowboys, the jean jacket's popularity as fashionable outerwear skyrockets in the '80s.

DIRTY DANCING, Jennifer Grey, 1987. (c) Artisan Entertainment/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.
©Artisan Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection
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Dirty Dancing, 1987

Nobody puts Baby—or her rolled jean shorts—in the corner. Still summer outfit goals.

Blue, Denim, Jeans, Fashion, Hat, Textile, Headgear, Fun, Cool, Event,
Time & Life Pictures
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Lauren Hutton, 1989

Hutton masters the perfect cuff roll as she roots for the home team.

Jeans, Denim, Fun, Trousers, Photography, Photo shoot, Landscape, Happy, Vacation,
PhotoshotGetty Images
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Brad Pitt, 1990

Twenty-seven-year-old Brad Pitt in straight-leg jeans and a henley is as American as apple pie.

Standing, Jumping, Footwear, Jeans, Photography, Leg, Dance, Photo shoot, Sitting, Stock photography,
NBCGetty Images
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Seinfeld, 1990

Unbeknownst to him, Jerry's uniform of dad jeans (and sneakers) were ahead of their time.

Clothing, Jeans, Denim, Jacket, Fashion, Leather, Outerwear, Leather jacket, Footwear, Leg,
Ron Galella, Ltd.Getty Images
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Winona Wyder, 1991

A baby-faced Winona wears the perfect pair of Levis 501s out and about in Hollywood.

Mark Wahlberg
Tim RoneyGetty Images
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Mark Wahlberg, 1991

It's hard to forget this iconic '90s Marky Mark photoshoot, taken back when the singer-slash-actor preferred to wear his jean shorts around his knees.

Action figure, Fictional character,
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Saved By The Bell, 1992

Pair your embellished jeans (all of the rage in the '90s) with a little fringe for a western take, à la Lisa Turtle.

Cindy Crawford rolls back the years in Pepsi's 2018 Super Bowl commercial
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Cindy Crawford, 1992

The supermodel strikes a pose in hip-hugging high-waisted denim over a white bodysuit during this iconic Pepsi Super Bowl commercial.

Sleeve, Denim, Trousers, Jeans, Shoulder, Textile, Standing, Street fashion, Pocket, Jewellery,
Vinnie Zuffante
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Leonardo Di Caprio, 1993

The young heartthrob, then 19, embraces '90s fashion with an ultra-cool wallet chain.

White, Photograph, Clothing, Shorts, Blue, Jeans, Denim, Street fashion, Fashion, Beauty,
Steven D StarrGetty Images
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Pamela Anderson, 1993

Pamela reps her hometown of Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada, with her version of the Canadian tuxedo. Her ripped pockets were a grunge-inspired '90s phenomenon.

Jeans, Clothing, Denim, Leg, Footwear, Fashion, Long hair, Blond, Outerwear, Shoulder,
Jim SmealGetty Images
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Kate Moss, 1994

Kate's airport attire is the epitome of the supermodel's effortless style. White tank + jeans + patterned bag = perfection.

Leg, Fashion, Sitting, Event, Photography, Thigh, Tattoo, Fashion accessory, Flesh,
Getty Images
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Courteney Cox, 1995

The bleached denim trend favorited by Monica Geller two decades ago has come full circle. Invest in a pair this fall.

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