A History of Denim in Pictures

Jeans have never not been in style.

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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 Lisa Turtle, here we present you with a timeline of denim at its best.

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Levi Strauss & Co. Advertisement, 1880s

Every garment is guaranteed in the very first known denim ad showing customers the wares on offer from denim entrepreneur Levi Strauss.

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Fernand Fonssagrives
Mademoiselle Cover, 1943

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

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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.

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Peter StackpoleGetty Images
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.

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Brigette Bardot Working on Film
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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.

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Sunset BoulevardGetty Images
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.

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Alfred EisenstaedtGetty Images
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).

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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.

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Ian Tyas
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.

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Jane Birkin, 1974

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

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Michael Putland
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!

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ABC Photo ArchivesGetty Images
Farrah Fawcett, 1976

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

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Michael Ochs ArchivesGetty Images
Cher, 1977

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Catherine Bach
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.

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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.

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

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

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Time & Life Pictures
Lauren Hutton, 1989

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

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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.

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NBCGetty Images
Seinfeld, 1990

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

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Ron Galella, Ltd.Getty Images
Winona Wyder, 1991

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

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Mark Wahlberg
Tim RoneyGetty Images
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.

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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.

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

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Vinnie Zuffante
Leonardo Di Caprio, 1993

The young heart throb (then 19) embraces '90s fashion with an ultra-cool wallet chain.

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Steven D StarrGetty Images
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.

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Jim SmealGetty Images
Kate Moss, 1994

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

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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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