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Denim, s’il vous plait!

How’s your French? Did you know that the word “denim” comes from the French “serge de Nimes”? Serge is a tough double woven fabric originally made in Nimes, a port town in France. This tough indigo-dyed fabric was used to make pants for sailors long before it became the current rage. Levi Strauss added rivets for miner’s pocket and the rest, as they say, is history. Is there anything now that isn’t made of denim? Car upholstery, jackets, coats, suits, bags, shoes, wallets, placemats, furniture, trousers, dresses, skirts – you name it. Nowadays we shred it, sand it, distress it, over dye it, wax it, tie dye it, acid wash it and bleach it.

Levi Strauss … a sartorial legend

I remember my first pair, bought with money saved from babysitting at 50 cents/hour. Plotting against my mother who would not buy me a pair, I crept to K-Mart in secret and bought my first pair of Wranglers. In the 70’s there were plenty of bell bottoms to choose from, but mine were more of a straight leg and a size too big. When my mother discovered them, she of course freaked out and swore which was most uncharacteristic of her. “Those are for shovelling sh*t”, she said.  Jeans in her day were worn by work men to do farming and field work. “No lady would be caught wearing them in this house”.

Well, times have changed, and my mom has denim capris with a matching denim jacket,  and embellished jeans that look great on her. From designer to grocery store jeans there are all kinds of brands, washes,  colours and styles  - jeggings, skinnies, boyfriend, “mom”, bootcut, overalls, hip huggers, skinny kicks, flares and so on …  They make jeans for babies, kids, your dog and your grandpa.

Is there anything that isn’t made of denim?

How much denim to wear at one time is a frequent question. Canada leads the way for denim overkill with our infamous Canadian Tuxedo – the jean jacket worn with jeans. Fashionistas commonly agreed that if you do choose to wear head- to- toe denim, you should change your colours up a bit – mixing light with dark, or mixing fabric weights – chambray with a heavier jean. Colour blocking and denim patchwork are all over the stores for fall. It is hard to say that denim is “NEW”, but it is constantly being re-invented. With the addition of spandex denim has become more comfortable. Talented tailors can re-attach original hems preserving details and novelty stitching. There pretty much is a style for every body shape.

Some denim purists say you should not wash your denim … but I’m not really a member of that school of thought. I do turn my jeans inside out and take care which ones I put in the dryer. Usually I fluff them in the dryer first for a few minutes and then hang to fully dry.

I occasionally miss those days of my youth, sitting in the bathtub with a new pair of Levi’s trying to get the stiffness out, fade them somewhat and have them mould to my body while the water turned dark, dark blue…


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