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.
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.
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.
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.
Bardot sports a pair of now-retro skinny jeans on the set of La Verite. Would wear today.
Mr. James Dean put blue jeans on the map for bad boys everywhere in Rebel Without a Cause. Swoon.
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).
Audrey swaps her red carpet couture for a pair of blue jeans in Two For The Road. Still looks chic as ever.
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.
Just Jane looking effortless in jeans and a tee during the 28th Cannes International Film Festival.
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!
Farrah masters the skateboard in a pair of bell bottoms, THE must-have style of the decade.
Fur, fringe, and cowhide patches elevate these jeans to Cher-approved status.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nobody puts Baby—or her rolled jean shorts—in the corner. Still summer outfit goals.
Hutton masters the perfect cuff roll as she roots for the home team.
Twenty-seven-year-old Brad Pitt in straight-leg jeans and a henley is as American as apple pie.
Unbeknownst to him, Jerry's uniform of dad jeans (and sneakers) were ahead of their time.
A baby-faced Winona wears the perfect pair of Levis 501s out and about in Hollywood.
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.
Pair your embellished jeans (all of the rage in the '90s) with a little fringe for a western take, à la Lisa Turtle.
The young heartthrob, then 19, embraces '90s fashion with an ultra-cool wallet chain.
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.
Kate's airport attire is the epitome of the supermodel's effortless style. White tank + jeans + patterned bag = perfection.
The bleached denim trend favorited by Monica Geller two decades ago has come full circle. Invest in a pair this fall.