When you think of iconic American fashion what comes to mind? Jeans certainly. They are possibly the single most omnipresent item of clothing that we all think of when we think of American style. Jeans, which are identified by an indigo dye in a twill weave, have been around since 1871 and were originally only worn by cowboys, miners, farmers and the occasional bank robbers. But that changed when bad boy James Dean wore them in the 50s in Rebel Without a Cause. Suddenly jeans were the very depiction of cool and that hasn’t changed.
Modern images of denim are seen in splashy ads with brands clamoring for a piece of the action when it comes to jean sales. Low-slung, skinny, bell bottom, high-waisted, embroidered, slashed, and embellished, these styles have all had their heyday. Denim never seems to go out of style. It is merely refashioned. Today its the boyfriend cut or high-waisted flared and cropped jeans that are considered cool.
Tee shirts are another popular item of clothing that are iconic. Tees date back to anywhere between 1898 and 1913 and were originally worn as undergarments. That was until another bad boy, Marlon Brando, wore one in the 1950s in A Streetcar Named Desire. Until then tee shirts were worn mostly by blue collar workers like mechanics, farm hands and other laborers. The importance of tee shirts in street style has become prominent from your basic tees to the graffiti and logo-ed ones. Tee shirts are not only walking billboards for brands but since the 80s have also become the canvas for artistic expression.
Another important garment which is part of our culture is the black motorcycle jacket. Up until the late 20s leather jackets were worn solely by either military personnel or Harley Davidson riders. That was until Marlon Brando wore this iconic piece of clothing in the film The Wild One in 1953. In fact he wore the exact motorcycle jacket that was first designed for Harley Davidson. This was only the beginning of this bad boy fashion trend. James Dean wore it in 1955 in Rebel Without a Cause then super bad boy Steve cQueen wore the A7 waxed motorcycle jacket in the 60s. It was not leather but it certainly fit in with bad boy culture. In the 70s and 80s the Ramones wore the leather motorcycle jacket and bad girls like Blondie, Joan Jett, and Madonna began wearing them too.
Jeans, tee shirts and black leather jackets are ingrained in our culture and are inclusive. They are worn by all faiths, political parties and genders. Isn’t nice when we can agree on something?